I’m not a big material gift-giver. Probably because I’m a pretty awkward gift-receiver. Sure, it’s always great to rip open some packaging and discover something extremely thoughtful, something you’ve always wanted, or something you never knew you would want but would end up using on a regular basis. It might also stem from the fact that my parents always insist that we not buy them anything for birthdays, Hanukkah, Mother’s or Father’s Day. Maybe we just need to be more savvy (note: parents do NOT want massage gift certificates), but what that has meant is that my gift to my family, my friends, my loved ones, is very often the gift of food. Putting love into a cake, brownies, penne or gnocchi; and the sacred ritual of gathering and filling our souls with that love. It becomes more than a meal, more than a gift: it is an experience, shared, together.
And sometimes, I go into overdrive. This is what happened this past weekend, when my fella celebrated his 33rd. We had blueberry pancakes with actual real bacon, his favorite kickin’ grilled chicken and blue cheese calzones (twice), and this Chocolate Nutella Banana Insanity Cake.
What the what? I see your one eyebrow rising to meet your scalp. What this was supposed to be: a one-bowl/skillet sort of cookie cake, inspired by Joy the Baker. What this became: a decadent, gooey mess that I am unabashedly proud of.
In the past, I’ve made straight-up cookie cakes (or, as we like to say, with a Cookie Monster-like voice: cookie pies), that are cuttable and just generally taste like a giant, thicker cookie. The very intention of this cake, I surmise, is quite different. In part because of the banana and in part because Joy suggests underbaking these kinds of skillet creations, the result is something lighter somehow. And yet — not at all. It’s scooped out with a giant spoon. It melts in your mouth.
I’ll admit: I probably shouldn’t have directly translated the ½ cup of walnuts in the original recipe to ½ cup of Nutella. That may have been a little over the top, especially with the dark chocolate chunks already mixed in. I realized it when I started spooning it out over the top, but by then it was too late. But who am I kidding? Who am I to say no to too much Nutella?
I’d like to think that, like fried Mars bars, it’s what the French wish they had come up with but were too busy making visually stunning things to get down and dirty with too many gobs of Nutella. It’s not pretty. It’s not elegant. Yet it’s sort of what hopes and dreams are made of.
And really, if I am translating heart and soul into food, this is it. This glorious insanity? That’s what love is.
Chocolate Nutella Banana Insanity Cake
adapted from Joy the Baker
This beauty is made in one bowl — or, if you have it, one oven-proof skillet. Yep, everything is mixed together in a skillet. The very same one that goes in the oven, and comes out as a serving dish. I used my 10-inch cast-iron skillet, but you can use an 8-inch or a 9-inch. You can even use a baking dish or a cake pan, but you might want to melt your butter elsewhere and mix your ingredients in a separate bowl first. If you’d prefer it a little less gooey, reduce the Nutella down to ⅓ or ¼ cup. But who are you, someone who hates Nutella??
½ cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
¾ cup (5 ¼ ounces) packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large, ripe banana, mashed
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
½ cup Nutella
Place a rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat to 350.
In an oven-proof skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add brown sugar and vanilla extract and whisk well. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes to cool.
Add egg and whisk until smooth. Add banana and whisk thoroughly. Add flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir together with a rubber spatula. Fold in chocolate chips. Smooth the top just so that the cake is even, and place dollops of Nutella over the top. Use a knife to swirl the Nutella throughout.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the cake is set but still slightly soft in the center. It will be gooey and a little underbaked. Let cool for 15 minutes before digging in.