Normally when I want to use using bananas in a baking project, I have to plan ahead. Our Whole Foods tends to stock only very underripe bananas, so I usually have to buy them a week in advance of using them to bake anything. The other day I was at the store and I was so excited that they had ripe bananas available that I bought a large bunch -- only to be faced with the problem of having to use them up almost immediately (so I guess that's the store doesn't usually sell ripe bananas!). I found the perfect recipe to solve my problem -- a "Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Banana Upside-Down Cake" that calls for four bananas.
This dessert includes chocolate cake and peanut butter cake marbled together, topped with caramelized bananas. The chocolate and peanut butter cake batters are made from the same base that includes butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, and milk. You divide the base batter and mix melted bittersweet chocolate into one part, and chunky peanut butter into the other. You drop dollops of the two batters over bananas that have been halved lengthwise and arranged in a glass baking pan on top of a mixture of softened butter and dark brown sugar, and swirl the batters together.
There is a note in the recipe (far too easy to miss, in my opinion) that you should place a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven before baking this cake on a rack in the center of the oven. I am so glad I happened to notice this instruction and actually followed it. During baking, the butter-brown sugar mixture on the bottom of the pan bubbled furiously around the sides of the cake (the advantage of using a glass pan is that you can actually see this happening!) and over the edge of the cake pan, falling onto the baking sheet a rack below. Without that pan to catch the drips, I would have had a horrible charred mess on the bottom of my oven.
I tried the cake warm and thought it was incredible. I especially loved the peanut butter cake, which was moist and had very large chunks of peanuts that added quite a bit in terms of both texture and flavor. (I have noticed recently that some jars of Skippy Super Chunk -- the only brand I use for baking -- contain huge chunks of peanuts instead of the normal small bits of chopped nuts. I don't know if this is a quality control problem at the Skippy factory, but I don't really care, because I think these enormous peanut pieces are fantastic.) The caramelized bananas were heavenly. The chocolate cake part was fine, but the chocolate flavor was not that prominent and I think this dessert would be equally delicious if it didn't include any chocolate cake at all.
All of my tasters received room temperature cake the following day, and it still got good reviews -- but if you make this cake, I really think it should be served warm. Even if you only have underripe bananas on hand, it's worth the wait!
Recipe: "Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Banana Upside-Down Cake" from Food and Wine.