Most people I know like to make banana bread when they have an excess of ripe bananas. Not our family. We make a Vietnamese banana cake which I believe is a hidden gem. The cake is somewhat similar to a British bread pudding but has the consistency of a baked cheesecake with caramelised banana chunks on the top. The recipe for this cake is amazingly simple and is perfect for using up bananas and stale white bread.
I am the first person to admit that I am not a natural baker. I have never particularly had an interest in it until recently where I made a Vietnamese honeycomb cake. This cake was challenging since it was riddled with booby traps. So for my next baking project, I decided to make something much simpler. My mother suggested this banana cake recipe because according to her it is impossible to stuff up. Immediately, I am thinking to myself that this is a trap. I know my mum is a God-fearing Catholic but she undoubtedly gets her kicks outta seeing me make an absolute dog’s breakfast out of an easy recipe.
So, not wanting to look like a weakling in front of my one-year old daughter I took on the recipe. Admittedly, the cake was very easy to make. It was also very easy to burn! There is a lot of natural sugar from the bananas that just wants to get lit up like a bonfire. Fortunately, after a few tweaks here and there, I am now confident that the methodology is pretty much bullet proof.
Our family recipe for this banana cake is noticeably different from many other versions you may find on the internet. My mother assures me that this recipe is authentic since it has been handed down through the generations. The main differences you will see with our recipe is that:
- It is a very moist cake with a cheesecake-like texture. This will also cause the cake to sink slightly in the middle. Other versions tend to have more flour and/or bread which makes the cake more even on top but is also a lot firmer and drier.
- It is not layered like a bread and butter pudding. The bread slices are mashed into a thick paste and the banana slices are suspended in the mixture. We find that the cake holds better this way.
- We only serve this cake chilled.
- Our recipe is egg free and dairy free, making it a vegan-friendly cake.
My Tips for Success
- There is a decent amount of sugar in the mixture so it does have a tendency to burn a little. If it looks like it is burning at any time, loosely cover with a piece of aluminium foil.
- Just-ripe bananas are ideal for this recipe since you want it to be sweet but still hold its shape. Over-ripe will still work but will blend into the cake mixture and it may look completely uniform when the cake is cross-sectioned.
- Do not cut the banana pieces too small since you want them to be visible.
- Bread that is 3 + days old is ideal, but if you only have fresh bread then you may consider putting in a little more flour to help the cake hold its shape.
- Do not use baking paper to line your cake tin since it has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the cake. It can be very painful having to manually remove bits of paper from each piece of cake.
- It is important to leave the cake to cool in the oven for 15 minutes before taking it out. You may find that the cake will severely collapse on itself if this step is missed.
- Do not cover the cake when it is cooling in the fridge. This is to prevent condensation turning your caramelised cake top into mush.
Next time you find yourself thinking of making banana bread, why don’t you change it up and try this recipe instead. I promise you will not regret it!
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Vietnamese Banana Cake - Banh Chuoi
This Vietnamese cake is somewhat similar to a British bread pudding but has the consistency of a baked cheesecake with caramelised banana chunks on the top. The recipe is amazingly simple and is perfect for using up ripe bananas and stale white bread. A great alternative to the traditional banana bread!
- 200 gm stale white bread slices ( 3+ days old ) ( Note 1 )
- 400 ml coconut cream (a concentrated version of coconut milk)
- 900 gm ripe Cavendish bananas, peeled and sliced ( approx. weight is equal to 5 medium - large bananas with skin on )
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp canola oil ( or any neutral oil )
Add 1 tsp of oil to a non stick 20 cm / 8 inch cake tin and leave it in a preheated oven at 180 C / 356 F.
In a mixing bowl, tear the bread slices into small pieces.
Add the coconut cream and let it sit for a few minutes. With a wooden spoon, mash the bread and coconut mixture into a thick paste.
Add the brown sugar, salt, vanilla extract, flour to the mixing bowl and combine well
Cut 4 bananas up into thickish slices ( 1 cm / 1/3 in ) and add it to the mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, gently combine without mashing the banana slices.
Cut the remaining banana into thin slices to decorate the top of the cake.
Take the cake tin out of the oven and pour the mixture in. Arrange the slice bananas on the top.
Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the cake and cook in the oven for 60 minutes on fan force.
At 30 & 45 minutes, check the cake top is not burning. If it looks like it is going to burn, loosely cover the cake tin with a piece of aluminium foil. Do not seal the cake.
After 60 minutes, turn off the oven ,and leave the cake in the oven for a further 15 minutes. (Remove aluminium foil if used)
After 15 minutes take out of the oven and allow to cool on a bench top for another 30 minutes before putting it into the fridge overnight. Serve chilled.
- If your white bread is still fresh, consider putting in an extra 1/2 tbsp of flour.