Last weekend, I found myself in one of those seriously annoying and unsatisfying “I want… something. I’ll know when I see it” kind of moods. A mood for something sweet… maybe? While I was digging through the contents of my kitchen, I couldn’t find anything even remotely interesting to the “Gimme!” Monster throwing a hissy fit in my head, but at one point, it’s radar actually gave off a small beep when I picked up a couple of leftover bananas.
Hm! Usually bananas aren’t my first choice when it comes to satisfying unspecified sweets-cravings with fruity alternatives, but there could be something hidden beneath those bright yellow skins. Since all I knew was that eating them raw just wouldn’t work, I decided to snoop around my cooking station in Lion’s Arch for an inspirational jump start and, as usual, it didn’t take longer than a few blinks to turn the radar’s blip to a full blown high alert. There’s not much to see in the “Banana” Section of the recipe list, but right beneath one of the few banana recipes, a classic Banana Cream Pie, I spotted a Cherry Pie – and that’s when all those pesky chips fell right into place.
To me, there’s no better dancing partner for a banana than a bunch of cherries~! And since baking a pie wasn’t an option on such short notice, I took the banana & cherry idea down the no-bake cake road. Cherries in one hand, bananas in the other… Clap~! Here’s my Tyrian-way-of-the-day to shove a rampaging Gimme Monster back into its cage!
The Cashew & Butter Cookie Base
100g Digestive Biscuits or Low-Sugar Butter Cookies – I highly recommend the low-sugar cookies if your bananas are on the ripe side of things, otherwise the whole deal might end up a tad too sweet
50g Cashews, roasted and lightly salted
50g unsalted Butter
1 Banana, peeled and sliced into thin half-moons
A few drops of Lemon Juice
1) Work the cookies and the cashews into a fine cookie-dust with the help of a pestle & mortar, food processor or zip-lock-baggie & rolling pin combo. I usually go with the pestle & mortar for this base since a) the butter cookies don’t put up much of a fight and b) I like the cashew-bits to be noticeably bigger than the cookie-dust. It’s a texture-thing on my part, if you’re in a hurry, the base is just as delicious if you whizz both the cookies and the cashews up together.
2) Place the cookie dust in a mixing bowl large enough to hold them in while you’re stirring in the butter.
3) Melt the butter in a small pot set on low heat. Leave it to cool down for a couple of mins after it has liquefied.
4) Pour the butter into the cookie dust and stir the lot until it comes together in a “dough” with a consistency resembling (evenly) wet sand.
5) Line a 18cm DIA springform with baking parchment. If you, like me, aren’t that experienced with all things cake and therefore like to play it safe, I suggest using a cake ring in case you have one – lock it at 18cm DIA and set it onto a parchment-lined tray or plate. Unless the cake has a bit of a journey ahead of it or it’s going to be one with a crusty rim all around, I really prefer a cake ring to a springform for no-bakes since it’s easier to get the cake out of it unharmed and in one piece. Plus, if by some sort of miraculously convenient coincident you just happened to pick the plate you would also use to serve the cake on for this step, you’re just one little tug at the baking parchment away from a ready-to-serve treat~! If the available space in your fridge agrees with your choice of serving dish, going down this road will save you the time and nerves you’d need to carefully lift the whole thing out of a springform and onto a plate without the base crumbling up and away.
6) Whichever cake’y tool you’re using, tip the cookie crumbles into it. Use the back of a spoon or your pestle to press the crumbs into a firm and even layer on the base of your form. Make sure to flatten and compress the outer edges as well, I tend to forget about that when im taptapping my way around the ring with my pestle.
7) Place the result of your work in the fridge for 25-30 mins.
8) Spread the banana slices out on a plate and dab their surface with lemon juice to keep them from browning and help them to stay in place during the next phase.
9) Moving ahead one half-moon at a time, arrange the banana slices around the edges of your cake base in a fence-style kind of way, flat side of the half-circle firmly sitting on the base and round side pointing up. Work your way around the rim and lightly mold them into the curve of your springform/ring. Beware of fingernails and the marks they might leave in the soft fruit… they’ll show.
10) Once the banana fence is firmly set into place, pop the springform/ring into the fridge for another 15 mins.
Time to get Layer 1 of 2 going~!
The Banana & Maple Syrup Filling
2 Gelatine Leaves
125g regular Cream Cheese, at room temperature
25g Fine Caster Sugar
70g Low Fat Cream
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 Banana, 8 thin slices clingfilm-wrapped and set aside, the rest of it finely diced – Taking the ripeness of the banana in front of you into consideration, make sure you don’t chop the banana too finely – the bits need to survive an encounter with a rubber spatula without turning into purée in the process.
1 Pinch of Cinnamon
A few drops of lemon juice
1) Place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl.
2) Add the lemon juice and the sugar and use a handheld electric whisk set to medium speed to beat them into a smooth and creamy mixture.
3) To check your progress, dot the tip of your index with a drop of the mixture after about 3 mins of whirring action and rub it between index and thumb – if you can’t detect any traces of sugary grains, you’re golden. Continue to whisk for another 1-2 mins if the creamy drop still has a slightly grainy feel to it.
4) Set the handheld aside for the time being and pick up a rubber spatula. Add the chopped banana to the mix and gently fold the fruity bits into the cream cheese. Like I’ve mentioned before, you don’t want the banana to turn into mush, so slow and steady wins the race at this point. Not only would banana-goo in this layered cake put a dampener on the whole texture experience, it would also keep the banana layer from setting properly and could thereby cause the whole cake to slide apart as soon as the ring comes off.
5) Once that’s done, whip the cream up until semi-firm peaks form and remain standing when you pull out the whisks. Place the container holding the cream in the fridge for a couple of mins.
6) Gently fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture. Once more, slow and steady wins the race – stirring too vigorously at this point would just destroy the fluffy texture you’ve just created, so take your time and fold the two into each other until they’re well combined. Set the bowl aside – preferably into the fridge – for the time being.
7) Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl and cover them with cold water.
8) Set a small pot onto low heat and add the maple syrup along with a few drops of lemon juice.
9) Pick up the gelatine leaves after 3-4 mins and give them a good squeeze to loose as much of the excess water as possible.
10) Add the leaves to the syrup in your pot and gently stir the lot until the gelatine has dissolved completely.
11) Set the pot aside and allow the syrup to cool off for 3-4 mins.
12) Once the liquid has cooled down to just slightly above room temperature, retrieve the bowl holding your creamy banana mixture and pour in the syrup along the rim of the bowl.
13) Pick up the spatula again and, once more, gently fold the new addition into the mix until the filling is evenly combined, smooth and creamy.
14) Grab your springform/ring and place it on a flat and stable surface. Give the banana fence a once over to make sure everything’s still in place.
15) Pour the cream cheese mixture onto the cookie base – make sure to aim for the center of the cookie disk and use a palette knife or the back of a spoon to slowly spread the filling outwards towards the banana fence. Have an eye on the fence once the filling reaches the banana slices and use a teaspoon or the tip of a palette knife to smooth the filling into the curve of the fence and around the rims of the half-circles to minimize the chances of air-bubbles.
16) As with the cookie base, have an extra eye on he rims of the filling – if it’s not tightly packed around the edges, especially with the banana slices offering a couple of hiding places for hazardous air pockets, it might not set properly.
17) Once all of the filling has gone into the tin, gently jiggle the form or ring/plate-combo and lightly tap it onto your work surface to convince even the last stubborn air bubble to pop out.
18) Use the back of a spoon to smooth over the current surface of the cake, then wrap the tip of your a finger with a strip of paper towel and wipe the edges of the springform clean of any stray droplets.
19) Place the cake in the fridge and allow the first layer to chill through for 30-45 mins.
20) After that first round of quality-fridge time has passed, the surface should have set enough for the banana slices you’ve set aside earlier not to sink into the filling – use the clasp of your springform or cake ring as a “North” marker for your future knife-work and arrange the 8 banana disks left and right of that imaginary vertical line so each of your 8 slices of cake will have a disk of banana hidden in its center. Now that I’m actually writing this down… I suppose this is a bit of an optional, gimmicky step, so feel free to just eat the slices instead~
21) Pop the cake back into the fridge to chill and set for 2 hours, then roll up your sleeves again for round two~
The Black Cherry Cream Filling
2 ½ Gelatine Leaves
125g regular Cream Cheese, at room temperature
25g Fine Caster Sugar
70g Light Cream, whipped to soft peaks
2 Tbsp of Organic Cherry Nectar
75g Black Cherries, pitted and finely diced
1 Cardamom Pod, bashed open
A few Drops of Vanilla Extract
Basically, Round Two is a repeat of Round One… with the gloves off~
1) Again, place the cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl, add the vanilla extract and whisk the lot into a smooth mixture – go through the sugar-rub test to double-check on the progress.
2) Fold the finely chopped cherry bits into the mix once the sugar has disappeared into the cream cheese without a trace.
3) Whip the cream into soft peaks and gently fold it into the cherry & cream cheese mixture – of course while retaining as much of the fluff as possible – until both components are well combined.
4) Place the bowl in the fridge for now and pop the second batch of gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water to soak.
5) Place the cardamom pod in a small pot and set it onto medium-low heat. Give the pod about 3-4 mins to heat up and start to release its aroma – once the gentle aroma of the cardamom starts wafting up to you, turn the heat down to low and add pour the cherry nectar into the pot.
6) Allow the pod to infuse the juice for 5 mins, then remove it.
7) Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatine leaves and stir them into the warm juice until they’re completely dissolved.
8) Take the pot off the heat and allow the mix to cool off to just above room temperature.
9) Drizzle the juice into the cheese mix along the rims of your mixing bowl and put your spatula to work again until the liquid is very well incorporated into the creamy mixture.
10) Slowly and carefully pour this second filling onto the banana layer waiting in your springform or cake ring.
11) Again, use a palette knife or spoon to smooth the filling into the tin as you go, to minimize the chance of trapping air bubbles. Jiggle and tap the tin again before cleaning up the sides and popping it back into the fridge~
12) Give the creamy fillings another round of R&R in the fridge for 2 hours, then get ready to put the cherry on top. Literally.
The Spiced Black Cherry-On-Top
150g fresh Black Cherries, pitted
1 Gelatine Leaf
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Pinch of Salt
½ Lemon, Juice only
1 Pinch of Allspice
1 Pinch of Cinnamon
1 small Pinch of ground Cloves or Ginger
1) Place the cherries in a small pot set on medium-low heat and sprinkle them with the salt and sugar. Gently stir the lot with a wooden spoon from time to time.
2) Once the cherries start to soften up in the heat, add the spices, give them a good stir and allow the cherries to soak up their aromas for 7-8 mins at a gentle simmer.
3) In the meantime, add the gelatine leaf to a bowl of cold water.
4) Stir the lemon juice into the cherry mixture and have a very careful taste-test to judge whether the sort-of compote needs some adjustments.
5) Once you’re happy with the balance of spices and fruit, transfer the mixture into a stick-blender friendly container and whizz the cherries into a smooth purée. Move the purée back into the pot and turn the heat down to low.
6) Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatine leaf and stir it into the cherry purée.
7) Once the gelatine has dissolved into the purée, take the pot off the heat and allow the fruity mix to cool down a little – 4-5 mins should do the trick.
8) Retrieve the cake from its chilly resting place and slowly pour the cherry topping into the center of its surface. Gently tilt the tin to evenly distribute the cherry-on-top across the surface.
9) Aaaand back into the fridge it goes~! Another 2 hours to give everything enough time to set properly and ta~daaah! It’s Cake’o’Clock~! Finally! But hey, a good cake worth its calories can’t be rushed, right?