What can I say about dessert that hasn’t already been said? It is sweet, it is satisfying, and there is always room. How many times have you leaned back in your chair at the dinner table, belly full of what you are calling “the best meal” of your life, and patting your overly full stomach while uttering, “I couldn’t eat another bite.”? And then, emerging from the kitchen, another plate enters the room: dessert! Suddenly, you can “make” a little room.
Many people, myself included, are gluttons for dessert. I am not a picky dessert person. I will try anything once, and probably will like it if it is dessert. I love chocolate, that is definitely my list topper, but I also have a place in my heart for cheesecakes, cobblers, fruit-based desserts, pies, custards, cookies, brownies….the list is endless.
Now, I understand that a dessert recipe seems out of place on a blog about a girl learning to hunt and fish, but as part of my journey of developing into a better outdoorswoman, I am embracing the entire experience. One of the best parts, maybe the best part, of hunting and fishing in my opinion is camping! And a key ingredient to a successful camping trip is excellent camping food! I have shared a dutch oven dinner and a breakfast, but no meal, even in the outdoors, is complete without a little treat. So, the next time you are out enjoying some solitude and peace in the mountain or at the lake, I would suggest throwing this simple, but thoroughly delicious, banana cake into your dutch oven.
The first time I made this cake, we were out shed hunting in the desert. My five year old niece and I hiked around for a couple of hours, searching for antlers, and when we got back to camp she asked for a treat. I asked if she would like to help make a cake, and she was thrilled. This recipe is very simple, doesn’t take much time, and is great for little helpers.
Whenever I am making a dessert in the dutch oven, I premeasure out any dry ingredients I need. I do this for two reasons. One, I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep things like flour, baking powder, and baking soda or measuring cups and spoons in my camping supplies. Two, I don’t have any desire to bring along an entire bag of flour either. I can see the flour spilling over everything right now! Doesn’t it just sound like a mess waiting to happen? So, in order to avoid this potential flour fiasco, I premeasure my dry ingredients into zip lock bags.
As with all the dutch oven recipes, remember to start the coals first. I use a coal starter, which I picked up at Sportsmans Warehouse. You can pick one up for fairly cheap, and they are a great tool when dutch oven cooking. I usually start up about thirty coals, just so I have extras if need be. This recipe calls for about 12-14 coals for the bottom and 10-12 on the top, but when you are baking it is nice to have extra coals so you can adjust the temperature if things aren’t working right.
Once the coals are started, it is time to get baking! Now, usually when I cook in the dutch oven, I don’t line the inside of the oven with anything. I don’t line the inside mostly because I usually serve right out of the oven itself. Desserts are different. They usually need to cool outside of the pan so they can finish setting, like with a cheese cake or brownies, or they need flipped, like with this upside-down banana cake or pineapple upside-down cake. Or they just need to be pretty in presentation! Half of dessert is using your eyes to eat how gorgeous the dessert looks! That moment, while usually short lived, is half the reason dessert is so great! Anyway, what I am so long-windedly saying is that I line the dutch oven with aluminum foil so flipping the cake and admiring my handy-work is much easier.
Once the oven is ready, I drop in a cup of brown sugar and 6 tablespoons of melted butter. I melted the butter on the fire, which was actually easy and quick. Stir the butter and brown sugar until it makes a paste and then call your little helper. While I cut the bananas into slices, which were about a quarter inch thick, my niece arranged each slice down into the butter-brown sugar paste. You want to line the entire bottom of the oven with the bananas.
Next, you want to mix up all your dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. I did not have to do this step, because I mixed all my dry ingredients at home and then put them in a zip lock bag. This saves a step, needing those measuring devices, eliminates the necessity for an extra bowl, and cuts down on the mess. Something very important in baking, that is different from cooking, is to make sure your measurements are exact. You can’t eyeball your ingredients like you can in cooking. So, in the zip lock bag, I had a cup and half of flour, 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda, a 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In two other separate bags, I measured out my cup of brown sugar and one and a quarter cups of white sugar.
So, after the dry ingredients are all together, it is time to mix up the wet ingredients. For this part, you will need to a bowl. So, when packing for this camping trip, put two medium sized bowls on your trip list. Also, you might want to add an extra zip lock bag, as I have a little trick you can use it for in this next step. To start off your wet ingredients, you need a cup of mashed banana, which is roughly two medium sized bananas. You could mash the bananas at home, but they will probably be pretty brown when you go to use them. You could also bring a potato masher along with you, but again you are reaching a point where you are taking everything but the kitchen sink camping. I drop my bananas into the zip lock bag and mash them with my hands. After the banana is good and gooey, add them to a bowl with a 1/2 cup of buttermilk and the teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix everything together and set aside.
Now you need to get your second bowl out and cream together your white sugar and a 1/3 cup of butter. Same as with the bananas, I drop my butter and the sugar into a zip lock and use my hands to do the mixing. It works really well! Drop your creamed butter and sugar mixture into a bowl and add the eggs, fully incorporating the first egg before adding the second.
Alright, so there should be three mixes at this point: the dry ingredients, the buttermilk and banana mixtures, and the butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Starting with the dry ingredients, add half the dry mixture to the butter, sugar, and eggs. Next, drop in half the banana and buttermilk. Once fully incorporate, stir in the rest of the dry ingredients and then the last portion of the banana mixture. Once everything is mixed together and lump free, drop the entire bowl in the aluminum foil lined oven. You are ready to start baking!
The oven needs to be 350 degrees, and the cake takes about 40 minutes to bake. I put 14 coals on the bottom and 12 to 14 coals on the top to start. Let the oven go for a few minutes, and then do a hand test to see if you have the oven hot enough. For the hand test, you want to place your hand about 6 to 8 inches above the oven and count how long you can comfortably keep it there. For 350 degrees, you should only be able to keep it there for about 5 seconds. Any shorter and you are too hot and need to remove some coals. Any longer and you are too cool and need to add a few coals, preferably to the bottom of the oven.
I have mentioned before how you can tell if your dutch oven meal is ready is the “sniff test.” The sniff test is most effective with desserts! You want to time your cake, and check its progress as you start getting closer to the 40 minute mark, but the sniff test will also let you know that the cake is ready. It is so weird. You will smell nothing, and then all of a sudden once the cake is ready, the sweet scent of caramelized sugar and bananas will hit you! It will smell amazing, and you will know your cake is done. You also can test if your cake is done by sticking a toothpick in the center and seeing if it comes out clean. The top of the cake should be lightly springy and bounce back after lightly touching it. The top of this cake is a beautiful brown when ready!
Once the cake is done, pull the oven from the coals and let it cool down for a few minutes before you try moving anything. Dutch ovens are heavy and very hot! They are also a bit awkward to handle, so you might grab a friend when removing this cake. Pull the cake out of the dutch oven by the aluminum foil, and then let the it cool a bit longer, about 15 minutes. When you are ready, flip your banana upside down cake right-side up and enjoy!
This cake is sweet and gooey on the top and very delicate and fluffy on the inside. If you are a fan of bananas, this is the cake for you. It would also be wonderful with some melted chocolate drizzled over the top, if you are chocolate and bananas kind of person. It is a crazy good dessert, and it is almost hard to believe, as you are sitting by the fire after a day of playing in the wild, that you can make this outside!
*2 bananas sliced in 1/2 thick slices
*6 Tablespooons melted butter
*1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Combine brown sugar and melted butter in bottom of aluminum foil lined dutch oven. Arrange banana slices in sugar and butter mixture.
*1 and 1/2 cups flour
*3/4 teaspoon baking soda
*1/2 teaspoon baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1 cup mashed bananas
*1/2 cup buttermilk
*1 teaspoon vanilla
*1 and 1/4 cup white sugar
*1/3 cup butter
*2 large eggs
Combine your dry ingredients and set aside. Mix mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla in a medium bowl. Cream together butter and white sugar, until fluffy, and then add the eggs, incorporating thoroughly before adding the second egg. Add dry ingredients alternatively with buttermilk mixture, mixing until just combined, but removing any lumps. Pour batter over bananas in dutch oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan or toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool, flip , and enjoy!