The idea for this layered decadence came when I read about a cake version of a banoffee pie. But it quickly got out of hand when I thought to put a south-east asian twist to it. So in came the spices, gula melaka and peanuts. Can too much of a good thing really be a bad thing?
Yes. Too much of cake, sweet frosting, caramel can make you sick. I was never one for layers of psychedelic-coloured saccharine frosting. Once, I only took two bites from a Plain Vanilla cupcake as it was extremely sweet with no other flavour. So rest assured that this cake isn’t very,very sweet. The amount for the frosting is enough to have a good coat of frosting on the outside. I only used about three-quarters of the icing amount in the recipe for the cake in the photos. It’s really up to you to add extra bananas between layers with thick frosting as well.
The natural sweetness of bananas and the earthy sweetness of gula melaka, a south-east asian coconut palm sugar, together with the spices help balance the refined sugar’s sweetness. Gula Melaka can be replaced with any other palm sugar – gula jawa, jaggery, thai palm sugar or piloncillo. Adjust the amount of water added to make the salted caramel syrup as each palm sugar varies. I find that the nuttiness of peanuts goes very well with palm sugar. If you’ve had jaggery peanut balls or peanut chikki (indian peanut caramel sice) then you’ll know that the earthy sweetness pairs so well with the nutty roasted peanuts.
The addition of caramel popcorn and the chocolate ganache is optional. I used store bought caramel popcorn and a very watered down dark chocolate ganache to contrast against the white frosting and to hold the popcorn in place. All parts of the cake can be made in advance and assembled on the day you need it. For that, the sponge layers should be tightly wrapped in clingfilm and kept in the refrigerator for no more than 2-3 days. The salted caramel sauce and the frosting can be kept for longer.
This is definitely a celebration or birthday cake. The caramel popcorn topper adds to the drama of the tall layer cake with caramel dripping down its sides. I love how light and moist the sponge layer is but it’s still firm enough to be stacked.
Gula Melaka is one of my absolute favourite ingredients as when I was younger, I used to pinch off bits of the sugar cylinders when my mum wasn’t looking. You should definitely try making this cake if you love palm sugar as it makes this cake special.
Salted Gula Melaka Caramel Sauce
- 50g gula melaka, chopped
- 2-4 tbsp water
- 200g sugar
- 200g unsalted butter, small cubes, room temperature
- 200 ml thick cream, room temperature
- 1-2 tsp flaky sea salt
- Melt the gula melaka in a pot over low flame and add about 2 tbsp of water first. As the gula melaka melt, keep stirring until it completely melts. If mixture is too thick add a tablespoon of water. The mixture should be thick but still slightly runny. Once all the gula melaka has melted, remove from heat, strain to remove impurities and set aside to cool slightly.
- In another pot, melt the sugar over medium heat. Swirl the pan around to prevent the sugar forming a crust on the surface. Reduce flame to low heat. The sugar will melt completely and start turning golden and then amber colour. Remove from heat immediately once it turns amber. If it burns, start all over again.
- Pour cream slowly. The mixture will splutter so be careful. Add cubed butter one at a time and sea salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until it becomes smooth. Pour in melted gula melaka. If the melted gula melaka mixture has hardened, heat it over a low flame until it loosens and then add to caramel. If the caramel seizes, warm gently over low heat and stir until gula melaka- caramel mixture comes together.
- Set aside in sauna to cool. Pour into glass jars to completely cool before using.
- If the caramel is too stiff to pour over cake, place caramel in glass jars into a pot of hot water to loosen and become more pourable.
Spiced Banana Cake with Gula with Salted Gula Melaka Frosting and Caramel Peanut Popcorn
For the banana sponge cake
- 2 bananas (about 270g) , mashed
- 4 tbsp sour cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 350g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 350g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
For the frosting
- 125g cold butter
- 375g icing sugar, sifted
- 8-10 tbsp salted gula melaka caramel sauce (recipe above)
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (without fan) and grease and line three 8inch cake pans.
- Mix mashed bananas , sour cream and vanilla. Set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, mix the self-raising flour with the ground cardamom and garam masala. Set aside.
- In your mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar till pale and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well after each addition. With a spatula, fold through the banana mixture and flour mixture alternately.
- Divide the batter evenly between the three pans and bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
- Cool cake tins on a wire rack and once the cakes have completely cool, removed from cake tins.
- For the frosting, beat the cold butter and sifted icing sugar until smooth. Then add enough salted gula melaka sauce until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. If the frosting is too thick, add 1-2 tbsp of milk. Cover and leave in fridge to let it set.
- To assemble the cake, spread less than 1/4 of the frosting on each layer and then layer thinly sliced bananas over each cake piece and the last 1/4 on the sides of the cake. You will have leftover frosting as the frosting is enough to have thick frosting layers and to completely cover the cake. For a less sweet ‘naked’ cake look, I only used a thin layer of frosting with the bananas in between and used a bench scraper to remove any excess frosting .
- Decorate the top with chocolate ganache (for colour contrast), caramel popcorn, banana chips and toasted peanuts. Pour over a few more spoonfuls of salted gula melaka caramel down the sides of the cake.
Don’t you want a slice of that? 😉