My friend Cate and I have a recurring food theme. Anyone who knows us would probably guess it's noodles. We have eaten our fair share of noodles together. I don’t know if that’s because Cate loves them as much as I do or she’s just dear enough to eat them with me whenever I beg. (Which is often.) When she and I travelled back to China after a trip to the beach in Thailand, sweet Cate agreed to go directly from the airport to my favorite Beijing noodle shop - before even popping home for a quick refresh. We ran straight from plane to cab, with all of our heavy luggage in tow, and zipped to this tiny hole-in-the-wall spot all because I was craving a noodle fix. (Thank goodness noodles are my only addiction.) I still can’t really believe she agreed to do that. Dear friend. I still can’t really believe I asked her to.
Despite our mutual love of noodles, I think our theme has more to do with the combination of bananas, chocolate, and peanuts. Some of my favorites times with Cate have happened around those flavors...
Including that trip to Ko Tao, Thailand which we now refer to as “Pure Pleasure 2006”. (There was actually a friendly puppy that kept us company every day while we drank coconut shakes in a beach cabana overlooking the bluest water I’ve ever encountered. Dream. Life.) We thought it couldn't get any better. That is, until we found this wonderful roti cart while traipsing around the island one day. The man there made outstanding thin, chewy-crisp pancakes on a griddle that were then folded up around glorious, gooey fillings. Guess what our favorites roti accoutrements were? Chocolate. Banana. Peanuts. Heaven. The man would cut the roti into neat squares that we daintily plucked off of our paper plates with toothpicks and jammed into our greedy little maws, day after delicious day. Pure gluttonous pleasure. Truly.
In more recent years, we’ve spent many a lovely evening skipping dinner and sharing enormous slices of peanut butter chocolate cake and pots of earl grey crème tea at Teany on the Lower East Side. The cake there is so giant, rich, fudgy and extravagant that it can hold up to our many-hour-long gab sessions. We are talkers with appetites after all.
And a year ago this week, when Hurricane Sandy swept my borough into darkness, I knew exactly where to go. I hopped a cab and scurried right over to Brooklyn, where Cate kept we warm and well-lit for an entire week. I was happy to stay safe and cozy, snuggling Kitten the cat and drinking tea while Cate whipped up batches of delicious chocolate banana cupcakes. I think they might have even had peanut butter frosting. Mm. Well fed and well kept with a special friend and our favorite treats. Lucky storm troupers.
So in honor of our friendship food motif, this week I baked a multi-tiered banana cake, complete with peanut butter frosting, chocolate ganache, and plenty of roasted, salted peanuts. Maybe more importantly, in honor of Cate herself, I decided to make this cake vegan. Cate doesn’t eat, wear, or use any animal products and I respect her immensely for it. Between Cate and Peter Singer I’ve done a lot of thinking about the way that I eat. While I don't always make perfect choices, I’m grateful to have friends that help me consider my actions and think about how I can be a good person. Since I value Cate, and I value her values, I’m trying to expand my baking skills and occasionally make treats without any animal products. It’s tougher than it looks. Well, it is especially tough when you factor in my dear gluten-intolerant husband. When Gus is lurking around the kitchen asking me what I’m baking, it’s pretty hard to look him in the eyes and tell him he can’t partake. So vegan and gluten free peanut butter banana chocolate torte it is.
Today everyone I love eats cake! But really the pleasure is all mine. Pure pleasure 2013.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Torte (Cate's Cake)
Don’t be fooled by the size of this cake. It’s rich and decadent. A small square goes a very long way.
For the cake:
1/3 cup melted coconut oil, plus more for the pan
3 cups almond flour
½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ cups mashed banana (from about 4 overripe bananas)
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the peanut butter frosting:
1/3 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature (solid)
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
For the chocolate ganache:
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (many brands are naturally vegan)
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Oil a 18-inch-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet, line with parchment, and lightly oil parchment. Make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together banana, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla extract, coconut oil, and 2 tablespoons water. Fold almond flour mixture into banana mixture.
2. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and bake until golden brown and set, about 30 minutes. Transfer cake to a cooling rack and let cool in pan 10 minutes. Carefully flip cake out onto a cooling rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely. Cut into 4 even rectangles.
3. Make the peanut butter frosting: In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, beat together peanut butter, coconut oil, and confectioners sugar. If the mixture is too runny, pop it in the fridge to firm up a bit. It needs to be spreadable. Transfer 1 cake layer to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and spread 1/3 of the frosting top. Repeat with two more cake layers and frosting. Top with remaining cake layer.
4. Make the chocolate ganache: In a heatproof bowl, over barley simmering water, heat chocolate and coconut milk, stirring occasionally until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Spread evenly over the top and sides of cake. Transfer cake to a serving plate. Press peanuts onto each side of cake. Chill cake for at least 20 minutes -that will make for pretty, neat slices.