The cynical part of me - which, FYI, is about about 99.9% of me - hates this day with a passion (the irony). When I was single, I was convinced Valentine's Day was designed purely to make every unattached person in the world feel lonely and crummy about themselves. Now that I'm married, I still think it was designed to make singles feel sh*t about themselves, but evidently also to make people in relationships fork out a whole load of money to prove something their partner should already know: that they are special to them.
And yet as a married person, I have succumbed. Succumbed to the expectation that at the very least I should get a card from Dr D, telling me something that he tells me every single day, multiple times a day; and succumbed to the pressure that I too should make an effort to demonstrate three little words that I unequivocally express on a regular basis. I've bought into the commercialisation to such an extent that I even send flowers to my mumma and twinny, just in case they might be in doubt, on this particular day, as to whether I love them.
Sigh. What can I say? I am weak. Weak in the face of the big corporates who tell me I must spend my hard-earned money to prove my affections. More fool me, eh? And yet, if it brings a smile to the face of someone I love, maybe it's not such a bad thing after all. At least that's what the 0.1% part of me that's not cynical would like to believe...
So whilst we're talking about love, let's talk about this cake, because I am definitely in love with it! This in spite of the fact that there's no chocolate in it, which I believe pretty much everything banana-related should contain. But it's okay, because in this instance there's salted caramel to complement the banana. Oh, and some double cream. OMG, it's good. In fact, if you're still scrabbling around for a Valentine's gift, just make this. Trust me, it beats red roses!
For the cake:
- 2 large eggs
- 220g caster sugar
- 20g light brown soft sugar
- 120ml olive oil
- 4 very ripe, mashed bananas (300-320g)
- 90ml double cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 210g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp mixed spice or ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp sea salt
For the filling/frosting
- 250g mascarpone cheese
- 300ml double cream
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 200g of salted caramel
Preheat the oven to 160C (fan) and grease and line the base of 2 x 8" cake tins with baking paper.
Beat the eggs and the two sugars together on a high speed until pale and thick, for about 5 minutes. You can do this either with a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, or with a handheld electric whisk.
Now reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and slowly pour in the olive oil until it is all incorporated.
The rest of the mixing needs to be done either using a large metal spoon or a spatula, so you can remove the bowl from the mixer/put your handheld whisk aside.
Tip the bananas, 90ml cream and vanilla into the bowl and fold them into the beaten egg, sugar and oil mixture.
Place a sieve over the bowl and sift in the flour, baking powder, mixed spice or cinnamon (whichever you are using) and sea salt and, again, fold in.
Pour the mixture equally into the two tins and pop on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes or until the cakes are golden on top and a sharp knife or skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool for 10-15 minutes before turning them out of the tins onto a wire rack. Once they are completely cool, if you have the time, place them in the fridge until you are ready to assemble, as they will firm up, making them less liable to break.
To make the cream filling/frosting, place the mascarpone, double cream and sugar in a large bowl and whisk with a handheld electric whisk until thick but soft (you don't want the cream to go so hard you can't spread it).
When you are ready to assemble your cake, place one of the sponger on your serving plate, upside down. Using a palette knife or offset spatula, spread about 2/3 of the salted caramel over the top of the sponge, right to the edges.
Next spread about half the cream on top, this time not quite to the edges as otherwise it may ooze out when the top layer is placed on it.
Place the second sponge on top, again upside down (this ensures the cake looks nice and flat rather than domed).
Top with the remaining cream, spreading it out to the edges and undulating the knife to create nice swirls in the cream.
To finish, dot ¾ tsp blobs of the remaining salted caramel randomly on top of the cream, then gently swirl them through the cream with a palette knife to create a nice pattern.
Ideally place the cake in the fridge for a few hours before serving to let it set, as the top sponge is liable to slide around until the cream and caramel in the middle have firmed up a bit. Keep refrigerated.