Sonya is quiet, and unassuming. She has a fabulous laugh and the brightest of smiles, one of the most excellent senses of humor, and always an upbeat attitude. She is easy going, and polite – light on her feet, deliberate, and calm in all of her undertakings. She is humble, and spectacular and I think she’s the cats pajamas. She always takes the day off for her birthday, and so we just had to hold off the celebration until she returned.
She wouldn’t tell me if she has a favorite treat, and so I had to whip something up. Something that fit her. But what? It just so happened that this unassuming cake came together in a stroke of serendipity – humble, sweet, unexpected and fabulous. And perfect ( I hoped) for Sonya.
I went hunting for inspiration not long ago and found the most delicious chunks of gianduja (which I really haven’t seen in earnest since living in Torino.) This, and, winter’s sparce fruit stands have brought a bumper crop of bananas. More than I can possibly eat in my oatmeal. And so these things all came together with a bit of quiet intention and the end product was a cake was well worth the wait for Sonya. And hearing, quietly, and with a blush, just how much she enjoyed it was too. I suppose choosing to go with the flow was fitting for both Sonya, and the cake.
The best parts here: the way the cake seems to toast in its pan, rendering an almost cake donut like crust. Amazing. The hazelnuts, bananas and giandujia are a happy menage a trois, and you couldn’t find a more multipurpose or easy recipe. (Baked in a loaf pan, with icing omitted, slices of this bad boy could be “breakfast” tucked into a carry on for your next flight.) Even though I will always think of this as “Sonya’s Cake,” I’m thinking of whipping up another of these for my own birthday this week so that I can eat it once for breakfast, and another time in the evening with a scoop of caramel icing – I’m going to need plenty of calories for this thirty-first trip round the sun!
*Callabaut makes a delicious bar of gianduja and The Pasta Shop in Berkeley and Oakland sell bars in their shelves. If you cannot find gianduja, hazelnut chocolate bars will work just fine.
- 1 cup / 125g all-purpose flour
- 1 cup /140g spelt flour
- 3/4 cup /125 g dark brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup / 115 g coarsely chopped gianduja*
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml hazelnut oil
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups / 340 g mashed, VERY ripe bananas (~3 bananas)
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml plain greek yougurt
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated meyer lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup cream
- Preheat the oven to 350° F, and place a rack in the center. Grease a bundt pan (or loaf pan) with coconut oil, and lightly flour. Set the pan aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the gianduja pieces and combine well.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the hazelnut oil, eggs, mashed banana, yogurt, zest, and vanilla. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. The minute that you can insert a wooden skewer into the cake and pull it out clean, remove the cake. You want to have that delicious donut like crust, but don't want to risk drying out the cake so err on the side of under-baking versus over.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out of the pan to cool completely.
- While the cake is cooling, prepare the brown butter icing. In a small saucepan, brown the butter over medium heat. Once the butter grows fragrant whisk in the sugar, vanilla and cream. Mix until smooth. When the cake is completely cool, drizzle the glaze on top of the cake.