Monday, March 30, 2015
Martha & Me - March
This month, with Martha's help, I baked something a little unusual: a delicious mango upside-down cake, made with bananas, rum and caramel. I chose this recipe because I love pineapple upside-down cake and often make it the lazy way, using canned pineapple rings and a box of yellow cake mix. It isn't difficult to make from scratch, though, and the mango cake recipe in the March issue of Martha Stewart Living was quite simple, even though the cake itself seems rather exotic. You can also find it here on Martha's website.
For me, mango has been an acquired taste. I personally did not taste mango until I was eighteen years old, and even then, it was dried mango that I ate. I think it was a few more years before I ate any fresh mango and it had to grow on me. I think this recipe would have seemed very extravagant when I first started cooking, but mangoes are much more widely available today and not as expensive as they once were. I bought two large mangoes, as per the recipe's suggestion, but I could have gotten away with just one of them (and should have tried to do so, since one of my mangoes was much riper than the other, even though I'd bought them together and both had been sitting on the counter for nearly a week by the time I baked this cake!).
Mangoes can be a little difficult to work with. I peeled the skin off with a veggie peeler, working downward from the stem end of the fruit. Then I stuck a corn-on-the-cob holder into that same end to give myself a little handle for slicing the fruit off the pit. That's the hardest part of working with mangoes, I think. The corn-holder works pretty well, though. I picked up that trick from some cooking show of yore; I'm thinking maybe it was Rachael Ray? I don't remember. But it works, if you want to give it a try sometime.
Two mangoes was too much. No matter, the small Bears loved having mango slices with their breakfasts and lunches for a few days afterward. The small bowl in the above photo contains mashed banana; I ended up mashing two small, very ripe bananas; I'd been letting them ripen just for this recipe and one of them went a little too far, so I had to remove part of it. An extra one gave me just enough for the recipe.
Making the caramel was my favorite part. I'd only done this once or twice before and was a little fearful. It was fine, though, and once poured into the cake pan, it hardened almost immediately and looked really pretty too, glassy and dark-amber colored.
I enjoyed arranging the mango on top of the hardened caramel. I tried to make it look like Martha's, of course. Meh...this might take some practice.
The batter was simple to make, done in muffin style with the wet ingredients added to dry and lightly stirred to combine. The wet ingredients included eggs, oil (I used canola oil instead of the recommended safflower), the mashed banana, buttermilk (I use the reconstituted powdered type), vanilla and a little rum. Martha suggests golden rum, such as Bacardi Gold. Not being big rum drinkers, we tend to keep a less luxurious version on hand. Ours is light rum in a big plastic jug labeled PRESTIGE RUM (ooh-la-la, fancy), but I don't think it matters much when you're baking with it. The batter was sort of thin and I wondered if I'd done it right, but I poured it over the layered mango and caramel and popped the pan in the oven. The baking time was perfect for my oven, for a change.
Once cooled, the cake is inverted onto a platter. This was sort of problematic for me. First, I don't own a totally flat platter, only the kind with slightly raised sides, good for serving meats with their juices. This, combined with the fact that I used a baking pan with side handles, made it difficult to turn the cake out of the pan neatly. One section of the edge broke as it descended, as you can see above. But it came out okay otherwise, and it looked really pretty with the caramel and cooked mango on top. The caramel hardened a little as the cake cooled, becoming thicker and slightly chewy, a nice contrast to the mango which was very soft.
I really liked it. The cake itself was like very moist banana bread. You could taste the rum a little, but I thought the vanilla came through more. The mango was delicious. I think the caramel complimented the mango really well; it was sweet but there was still that sharpness, almost astringency, of mango. I could definitely taste the difference between the riper mango and the less-ripe one, so I'd recommend using the ripest mango possible in this recipe to maximize the flavors. I'll remember to use a different cake pan next time for a nicer presentation, but given that the cake was gone in a couple of days, I don't think anyone around here was inspecting it closely! We all liked this cake very much and I enjoyed baking it too.