This cake has been on my mind for months. I hadn't heard of sukeli till one of the staff brought us some from his village in the Vasai region of north Mumbai. As it is I don't eat fruits and am unfamiliar with most things fruit - but this was way, way out of my ambit!
Sukeli is a kind of preserved banana, peeled and sun dried, then wrapped in banana leaves. The fruit gets dehydrated and takes on a golden hue with a toffee-like sticky texture thanks to the natural sugars getting concentrated.
What I liked about sukeli is that it doesn't have that strong banana smell (something I dislike very strongly). The hubby munched on one packet of sukeli just as they were and I asked him to leave the second one for me to play with. Life got in the way and it took me a couple of months till I found the time and the mental bandwidth to get back to the sukeli.
I had decided I would make some sort of upside down cake using the sukeli. I only had to work out what else I would put in that cake. On my last trip to Kolkata I picked up nolen or jhola gur, the liquid jaggery that's a winter specialty and it occurred to me that sukeli and jhola gur would work really well together.
As I thought about the adjustments to a straightforward pound cake recipe that would be my starting point I wondered if I would have a cake or a disaster. I experiment very confidently when I cook but not so much when I bake. I like to have the support of a recipe even if it is something I have baked a zillion times already. But this time I felt I must be confident and just go for it. The 40 minutes that this experiment sat in the oven were the longest in my life! And then the interminable wait for the cake to cool, the hubby to wake up from his post-lunch nap and give his final report on the cake - that was an exercise in patience for me. The story had a happy ending after all which is how you get the recipe for a delicious Sukeli and Jhola Gur Upside Down Cake.
Sukeli and Jhola Gur Upside Down Cake
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup jhola gur
1 tsp vanilla essesnce
1 packet sukeli (there will 3-4 in the packet)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
Set your oven to preheat at 180C.
Separate the sukeli carefully and then slice them into 1/2 cm discs. Keep aside.Combine the 1 tbsp butter with the 2 tbsp brown sugar in a bowl and zap in the microwave for a minute in 30 second bursts. Whisk together with a fork and pour into your baking tin.I used an 8 inch round tin. Spread the mixture all over the base covering as well as you can. Place the sliced sukeli pieces to cover the entire surface. Don't worry if there are gaps. Keep this aside.
In a clean mixing bowl sift the flour and baking powder together.
In another clean bowl cream the butter with the 1/2 cup brown sugar. Use a stand mixer or a hand held electric mixer and mix for at least two to three minutes till the sugar is smoothly blended and not grainy.
Add the eggs one by one along with the vanilla.
Now add the sifted flour and the jhola gur in alternates till you have a smooth thick batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan over the layer of sukeli. Tap the tin to remove any bubbles and then put it into the preheated oven to bake for 35-40 minutes. Test the cake for doneness with a long tooth pick and remove from the oven when done.Let the cake cool completely before you take it out of the tin. Be patient and let it cool or the caramelized sukeli will remain stuck to the tin. If you look closely at my cake you will see evidence of my impatience!
The cake itself will have a pale coffee colour and a slightly dense crumb. Don't worry about the nearly black colour of the sukeli on the cake, it's perfectly caramelised and not burned at all.
You can try this recipe with kankvi or any other variant of liquid jaggery too. I think it will work quite well.