Providence is not the first place I would think to visit, but given the opportunity to travel, I'll go pretty much anywhere - and a week ago, I found myself on board a train heading north. I brought an extensive picnic to accompany my journey (and as a result, ended up lugging a tote full of glass tupperware around New England with me) - Moroccan carrot salad (note: while long ribbons of carrot are attractive, grating works much better to soak up the sauce in this recipe), Reinhardt's whole-wheat pita, roasted beets, radishes, and a small, crunchy Persian cucumber. The glass containers slid around the tray, and crumbs went all over my lap, but I am certain that my seat-mate was looking on in Great Envy.
Providence is red brick and walkways along the canal and a thousand churches and wood-paneled houses turned into Moroccan tea houses and "snuggeries." It also has a one-way street called Friendship and is apparently run by the mob, but I didn't find either of these things. I did, however, find a human in a bear suit playing a keytar:
Providence was quiet. The streets seemed empty, in a way that made me think that there was some big event somewhere, and if I just went around the right corner, I'd find it. I didn't, but I found a lot of over things, and upon my return, I found myself with three very ripe bananas.
I suppose I could have made banana bread, but I was looking for something new, and I spent much of the afternoon wandering through various banana-y scenarios. I decided to make something sweet and soft, with caramel and nuts for color and depth, and a bundt pan to dress it all up. It would make a lovely tea-cake, and the leftover caramel would be amazing over ice-cream.
Banana Walnut Caramel Cake:
For the Cake: (adapted from Orangette)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup + 2 Tbl packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3 large ripe bananes, purées
3/8 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup walnuts, divided
zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy. While you're waiting, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Also, chop 1 cup of the walnuts very fine, and chop the remaining 1/2 cup into attractively small pieces (these will top the cake. Butter and flour your favorite bundt pan, and scatter the coarser walnuts at the bottom.
Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mix, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the bananas, beat thoroughly, and finally add the sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest, and beat until combined. Add the flour, mixing slowly until almost combined, then add the finely-chopped walnuts and finish mixing by folding with a rubber scraper.
Pour some batter into the bundt pan, then pour some caramel (recipe below) on top. Cover with more batter, then more caramel, then finish with batter. (To be honest, I only managed one layer of caramel.)
Bake 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, but with a few crumbs still clinging to it. Let the cake cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Serve with more caramel sauce.
For the Orange-Caramel Sauce (adapted from this recipe):
1 cup turbinado
2 Tbs strained, fresh-squeezed orange juice (from the orange you just zested)
4 Tbs unsalted butter (use the good stuff)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp sea salt
In a large saucepan, mix the juice and the sugar. On the very lowest of heats, melt the sugar, stirring as little as you can possibly manage with a rubber scraper. (Restrain yourself! And read this.)
When the sugar has melted, bring it to a boil, and let boil for 3 minutes, or until it is a gorgeous golden brown. Add the butter to stop the cooking, and stir continuously until the butter is melted and incorporated. Remove from heat, and add the sour cream and sea salt. Stir to combine. Pour into a clean pint jar.