Thursday, September 19, 2013

Little Pockets of Joy

Sometimes I get an idea in my head and let it fester for a few days.  Sometimes I get a thought in my head and let it fester for a few days.  The thoughts can bring on a whole lot of anxiety and tension.  The ideas usually lead me into the kitchen and baking.   I don't have to tell you that I'd much rather have ideas running through my head than the latter.

It was those ideas (and honestly, an overripe banana or two) that led me to this cake.  Cake wasn't the first thing I thought of baking.  I considered a pie, but I'm not really a pie girl.  Maybe it's because I haven't made a whole lot of them, but pie just doesn't excite me.  I don't wake up in the middle of the night and think, 'all will be right in the world if only I had pie.'  I don't really wake up in the middle of the night craving cake either, but I do have a hard time resisting cake when I know it's around.  And if there's buttercream frosting involved...well...all hell could conceivably break loose.

Somehow I also got to thinking about a banana cake my mom used to make when I was growing up.  I know it was from a box.  Betty Crocker.  Duncan Hines.  I don't remember which one.  I don't even know if they still make it.  But I used to love it.  I loved how light the texture was.  That texture is why I went for a cake instead of the usual banana bread.  I have nothing against banana bread...but it's not cake.

I also couldn't leave well enough alone and make just a plain banana cake.  While, no doubt, it would be great on its own, I had to add something.  The obvious answer would be chocolate chips.  The not so obvious answer was cinnamon chips.  YES.  Cinnamon chips.  These little beauties are fantastic.  You can find them at King Arthur Flour.  I'm sure there are other companies that make them.  Look for them.

The most amazing part about these chips is what happens when you bake them into a cake.  I like to imagine them exploding like little fireworks in the oven.  They burst (or melt) and create these little pockets of air in the cake, completely coated in cinnamon.  I like to call them 'little pockets of joy.'  You end up biting into this airy, light cake riddled with cinnamon and laced with banana.

Now keep in mind that I am a huge fan of both bananas and cinnamon.  I consider this to be pretty close to heaven on a plate.  I am the girl who eats a banana every day and loads her French toast with cinnamon in both the batter and sprinkled on top.  That said...there is cinnamon in triplicate in this cake.  Cinnamon chips, an additional 1/2 teaspoon in the mix, and a dusting of cinnamon and confectioners' sugar.  There are different cinnamons out in the world.  Currently, I'm loving Saigon cinnamon.

Banana Cinnamon Chip Cake
Makes 1 9-inch layer

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
2 bananas, mashed
2 tbsp milk
Cinnamon and confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment or grease and flour the pan.  In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, beating to combine.   

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the mashed bananas to the creamed butter.  Fold in cinnamon chips.  Add milk and stir well to combine.  Pour batter into lined cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or  until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before plating, or leave in cake pan.  Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar or a combination of confectioners' sugar and cinnamon.