Flambé Banana Bread with Caramelized Pecans Recipe

Cake à la Banane Flambée et Noix de Pécan Caramélisées

[Flambé Banana Bread with Caramelized Pecans]

One of the things I love the most about kitchen activities is that they come in all shapes and sizes to fit your mood, and how much time you have on your hands. Whether you’re looking for instant gratification or a way to spend some quality moments with your pans and spatulas, there is a project out there that’s perfect for you. And even for one given dish, there are always plenty of options, high-road or low-road, super quick or more involved.

Take banana pecan bread for instance, a.k.a. the most rewarding way to salvage bananas for those of us who always buy far too many at a time. If you’re expecting friends for brunch and you woke up a little late, you can whip one up in under 20 minutes, and it will bake as you shower and set the table. But say you have a lazy Sunday afternoon ahead of you, no obligation of any kind, and a simple desire for something homemade and sweet by tea-time. Perhaps then you will choose to kick things up a notch, caramelize the pecans, and flambé the bananas in a little rum.

A little more time happily spent at the stove, a tad more cleanup — but really, what’s a saucepan and a skillet in the grand scheme of things –, and the reward is this: a warm, moist-crumbed loaf with a top that has developed the shadow of a crisp, crunchy morsels of pecans to encounter in every bite, and a concerto of rich, aromatic flavors brought to you by the bananas, the muscovado sugar, and the rum.

Cake à la Banane Flambée et Noix de Pécan Caramélisées

For the pecans:
2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
A good pinch of salt
20 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter, diced
100 grams (1 cup) pecan halves

For the bananas:
20 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter
A good pinch of salt
2 ripe bananas (about 20 cm or 8 inches long), peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons good-quality dark rum

For the batter:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
50 grams (1/4 cup) butter, diced
150 grams (1 cup, loosely packed) muscovado sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup light (15% fat) cream

Caramelize the pecans. Set a sheet of parchment paper or a silpat on the counter. Combine the 2 tablespoons sugar with 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. When the mixture starts to simmer, let it caramelize for a minute, add the salt and butter, and let melt. When the mixture simmers again, cook for one more minute, add the pecans, and cook for an additional minute, stirring continuously to coat. Dump onto the prepared sheet of paper and spread the nuts out in a single layer. Let cool completely and unclump the nuts when dry.

Flambé the bananas. Combine the butter and salt in a large skillet and melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to smell nutty, add the bananas, sprinkle with sugar, and cook for two minutes, stirring from time to time. Ask anyone who may be in the kitchen with you (kids especially) to take a few steps back. Add the rum to the skillet, light up a match, and, with great caution and a quick hand, get the flame close to the surface of the bananas to set the rum aflame. Let all the alcohol burn out (it will take about 10 seconds), stir, and remove the skillet from heat.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Prepare the batter. Combine the flour and baking powder in a small mixing bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a food processor. (Alternatively, you can prepare the batter by hand in a large mixing bowl, using a sturdy rubber spatula.) Add the egg and process until combined. Add the bananas and mix again. Add the cream and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture (sift it in if you’re doing this by hand) and process until just combined. Don’t overmix.

Fold in the pecans by hand using a spatula, pour the batter into the prepared pan, level the surface, and bake for about 50 minutes, until the top is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes, remove the loaf from the pan, and let cool on the rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The loaf will keep for a few days on the counter, tightly wrapped in foil.

  • Sooo yummy ! I may finally convert my Bernard l’Arno to banana bread…

  • Excuse my ignorance but what is muscovado sugar? I have 3 bananas way past their prime sitting on my counter just waiting to be converted into something delicious like this.

  • Pecans…INSPIRED! I’m usually a walnut type of guy ;)

  • Jenny – Muscovado sugar is a brown unrefined sugar made from cane juice. It is a little moist, with a deep flavor that hints at molasses. You can find it at natural and specialty foods stores, or substitute another kind of raw sugar such as turbinado or demerara.

  • I have a banana issue. 2 ripe bananas are a bit relative… big or small. Would your 2 bananas be about 1 cup worth? And no need to mash ’em like the usual banana cake? or just dice them up into smaller pieces?

    i think muscovado sugar is a type of brown sugar that is less processed. and usually available organic. at least, where i come from. regular brown sugar is a good substitute.

  • Kayenne – I’ve added the size of the bananas: about 20 centimeters long. And no, no need to mash the bananas, they’re already softened by the cooking and will get further smushed as you mix them into the batter.

  • I always make banana bread so I can use up those bananas that I know are not going to be eaten.

  • yummy yummy, I love bananas bread and banana muffins, and pecans are a great alternative to walnuts!

  • yummy yummy, I love banana bread and banana muffins, and pecans are a great alternative to walnuts! thanks for this new post

  • lisa

    How wonderful and inspiring!
    And I was already planning to make banana bread today… now I’ve adjusted my plans to include pecans, rum, muscovado sugar. Yum!

  • Oh my God, that looks delicious.

  • debbie

    Completely decadent! One word of caution (well, two) on flambe-ing. First, I’m not 100% sure about this, but I’d say don’t use a teflon-coated pan (not an issue in France? pretty common in the US though). Second, don’t chat with anyone while doing this–if you wait much more than one second to light the hot rum you’ll have flames shooting up several feet high–the alcohol fumes spread that quickly. A friend who made dinner for us last year was talking with my husband while attempting to flambe bananas, got distracted, and it was a very exciting dessert! Amazing they both still had eyebrows. Me, I’d chicken out and just add the rum to the cake batter and still be very happy…

  • Very true about the time spent on preparing a meal. I was just thinking about this last night when I was making homemade mexican hot chocolate. It took a while, grating the hunk of chocolate, blending the spices and being careful not to burn the cream. It was so much work! I could have easily heated up some water and poured in the powdery stuff, but I didn’t want to! I wanted to spend my time stirring and grating and making it unique. It was such a good cup of hot chocolate too!

    Thank you for your viewpoint, Clotilde!

  • Kath

    That looks and sounds fantastic… now if only bananas weren’t still so stupidly expensive here.
    Hmmm… it might be worth it, though.

  • I don’t know what I like best the recipe or that beautifully vintage looking loaf pan!

  • Bobbie

    Jenny in the United States Muscovado sugar is called “Brown Sugar”

  • Ooo you just reminded me that it has been an awfully long time since I last baked bread… and that Cake à la Banane Flambée et Noix de Pécan Caramélisées of yours sounds delicious! Yummmmm….

  • Something I’ve recently discovered is that you can freeze bananas that are starting to blacken. In Australia, banana lovers are suffering from the effects of last year’s terrible cyclone in North Queensland, which swept right through the major banana-growing areas of Australia, obliterating banana plantations. Bananas have been hugely expensive here since then, but thankfully, before the cyclone, someone had told me you could freeze surplus bananas sitting in a fruit bowl and which were past their prime, so I still have a stash in the freezer and I’ll be making your beautiful-looking cake very soon using them!

  • I’m not such a banana-lover but hey this cake relly looks delicious! Beautifull picter too, but, most of all… would you tell me where you’ve got that faboulous cake-tin?? (I’ll soon be in paris, staying a month, so I’ll have plenty of time to do some food related shopping :-))

  • Debbie – Thanks for the security warnings. I’ll have to investigate about that teflon-coating thing.

    Bobbie – Muscovado is indeed a brown sugar, but not all sugar labelled as “brown sugar” in the US is Muscovado: “brown sugar” is often just refined white sugar with molasses added, but this one is 100% unrefined.

    Stephanie – Thanks for the freezing tip, I’ll keep it in mind.

    Sigrid – Alas, that cake tin was a hand-me-down from Maxence’s grandmother. But you can try your luck at brocantes and thrift shops!

  • Priscilla

    hi clotilde! i love your site, this is the first comment i’m leaving, though i’ve been reading for quite some time :) i want to make this for friends but one of them is allergic to nuts. i feel like leaving the nuts out would work, but then it might seem to lack something in terms of texture…any suggestions for a non-nut substitute for the pecans?

  • Priscilla – Is your friend allergic to all types of nut? If there is one that (s)he can eat, you can substitute it for the pecans. You could also replace them by chocolate chips or diced candied ginger, but banana bread is also very good without any sort of filling.

  • thanks for the banana size. 2-8 inch bananas should be about 1 cup worth, or 250-300gms as i normally would use in a batch. my usual recipe uses mashed ripe bananas. i should try yours one time soon! i can almost taste the flamed bananas.

    priscilla, try adding 1 cup grated carrots or drained crushed pineapple. it’s great! adds moistness and a little something extra.

  • Leave it to you to take something wonderful like banana bread and find a way to make it really spectacular. I love Bananas Foster, so folding it right into a moist quickbread sounds like a brilliant idea. It’s sort of banana bread for adults…

  • Don

    Excellent recipe! You’re right, a saucepan and a skillet = not THAT much cleanup. The time and effort put into this was well worth it. Thank you for this recipe. I’m glad that I have awesome cookware to assist me.

  • OOooh- this sounds yummy.

    Just a few days ago, I made banana bread with chocolate chunks, and about two minutes after I stuck it in the oven, I realised I forgot to add the lemon juice. So I whipped it out and quickly stirred the juice in… only thing is, the chocolate chunks had already started to melt, so I ended up mixing the chocolate into the batter. Well!! Was this ever a delicious mistake! I ended up with a chocolate banana bread with chocolate chips. Mmmm!! The recipe is from Epicurious, found here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/102982

  • Clotilde
    I am a fan og your blog qnd I hqve one in Venezuela.. I am in Paris for 3 weeks and would like to meet up with you and if you have a recommended must for culinary visits

  • This looks truly delish, but I was so surprised to see anything called “cake” when I was in Paris. And in the windows of very French patisseries?! Even Pierre Hermé has a “cake” in his shop. Corey says, yes, it’s a cake if it’s in a loaf pan in France. I’m sure this is a British term not Americano..but can you perchance fill us in on the word origins here Clotilde?

  • Wow,
    I have most of the required ingredients in my cupboard. It’s a cold and rainy day, I think my house must smell of this. Thank you!

  • Sarah

    What a coincidence! I just whipped up a banana bread this weekend with a very forlorn-looking, blackened banana. To save myself from wolfing the whole thing (it being so delicious) I froze the other half for a winter teatime treat in a couple of weeks’ time. And next time I make it, I’ll throw in some pecans!

  • Raquel

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I just discovered this site, and it’s the first recipe I tried. I made it over the weekend, and it was a huge hit!! Since several members of my family are allergic to wheat and dairy, I did make some substitutions. I used Spelt flour instead of regular flour, and I used coconut cream in place of the light cream. It turned out to be the best banana nut bread we’ve ever had! I can’t wait to try your other recipes!

  • Kara

    Bonjour Clotilde,

    I had two bananas just waiting to be made into this lovely cake. My house smelled so good and my family enjoyed this taste treat. I didn’t have any rum so I used Grand Marnier and it seemed fine. The results were beautiful! Thank you.

  • Hillary

    SOOO good. I also had two perfectly smushy bananas waiting for their mission in life. I have to admit, I was too terrified to attempt flambe, so I just cooked the bananas and brown sugar in a bit of amaretto. It somehow gave the bread the taste of walnuts, even though I didn’t actually put any nuts inside. I glazed the top with almonds carmelized in butter and brown sugar, because that was what I had. Scrumptious and not too sickeningly sweet! It was probably good that I didn’t try the flambe, as I accidentally set a dish towel on fire somewhere during the process.

  • Gloriana Fernandez

    This is a winner! Made it yesterday and it truly is a special banana bread. I love your website Clotilde, and I can’t wait until your book comes out!

  • rykie

    Clotilde, I’ve been reading your site for a while and yesterday I finally tried a recipe, namely this bread – fabulous!Here in South Africa summer is in full swing and the bananas just do not make it. I used fresh cream from my dad’s diary – lovely. On the down side – I ate too much of it…

  • jess

    Hello! I was wondering, is there a specific loaf pan size to use? I haven’t tried baking bread before and this sounds really good.

  • Jess – This recipe uses a standard loaf pan: about 9 by 5 inches or 24x11cm.

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