• Heaven on a spatula. (Beatrix Bakes/Instagram)Source: Beatrix Bakes/Instagram
It's simply impossible to say no to this English American banana-and-toffee union.
Lisa Marie Corso

4 May 2020 - 1:28 PM  UPDATED 8 Jun 2021 - 9:25 PM

I'm trying a new thing where I eat a slice of cake with the same mentality as a marathon runner. I pace myself. I pierce the outer cake layer with my fork until it reaches the base and pull away a small dainty bite-sized piece. 

This is not an exercise in decorum, it's about longevity. I've hoovered pieces of cake quicker than a vacuum sucking up lint, and when my plate is empty, I always feel the same thing: regret. 

Why didn't I pace myself? When will I learn that slow and steady wins the (cake) race? Why did I forget to pack my heartburn medication again? 

Banoffee custard pie

This here is a banoffee pie as it should be – where the caramel infuses a baked custard filling and is then topped with bananas.

I was inspired to take things slow after finishing a slice of banoffee pie from North Melbourne cake shop Beatrix in record time. This whirlwind experience inhibited me from truly appreciating the many textures and layers of the banoffee. 

The base, caramel, banana and cream were all smooshed together similarly to how a cute, small child disregards the rules of playdough and mixes all the colours into one clumpy, ball. 

I knew the banoffee deserved better and so on my next visit I ordered another slice. This time I ate slowly, I stared at every mouthful like a wistful lover. Patience has never come naturally to me, but for banoffee pie, I was willing to change because no other dessert compares. 

The banoffee pie was invented in 1971 in Britain by cafe-owner Nigel Mackenzie and cook Ian Dowding at The Hungry Monk Restaurant. The pair developed the now-famous pie after tweaking a recipe for the US Blum's coffee toffee pie and introducing banana. The pie was temporarily named banoffi or banoffee, a hybrid for banana and toffee, and like the sticky latter, it stuck. 

Patience has never come naturally to me but for banoffee pie I was willing to change because no other dessert compares. 

Since the banoffee pie's original debut, it has spread across the world and been adapted and embraced by bakers who can't get enough of this toffee and banana union. 

One of these bakers is Natalie Paull of Beatrix, who serves my favourite local banoffee slice. She too is a fan of this not-so-humble pie. 

"I will never say no to a slice of banoffee pie on a dessert table anywhere," she says. 

The hallmarks of a banoffee are a biscuit crumb or pastry base filled with dulce de leche, sliced bananas and topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. 

Paull is all about honouring tradition but has made some of her own modifications to achieve her daily mantra "to get people to eat a big slice of cake". 

Baked salted caramel banoffee tarts

Crisp pretzels and a salted caramel filling take this classic English dessert to new heights. Serve these banoffee tarts either chilled or at room temperature but never forget the vanilla cream and bitter chocolate shavings.

For Paull, this means reigning in banoffee's epic sweetness with caramel custard instead of the dulce de leche. 

"Dulce de leche is the stallion of sweetness and can be overpowering in big quantities, so we use a caramel custard instead which means you can handle a bigger slice," she says. 

In any version of banoffee, the inclusion of bananas is non-negotiable.

"You have to catch them at their perfect ripeness and always look for that black speckle on the banana's skin," she explains. 

Easy banoffee pie

This classic American dessert combines banana, caramel, cream and chocolate in an easy make-ahead dessert. Make sure you it's chilled properly so the caramel filling can set.

"We put a bit of passionfruit over our bananas too because if the pie is sitting out before being served the banana will go brown, it's quite unappealing and we find the passionfruit prevents this from happening."

For the base, you're either team biscuit crumb or team pastry. "I'm team pastry but I won't pull out my ticket book if you use biscuit."

But she might give you a ticket if you don't top your pie with full-fat whipped cream and milk chocolate shavings. "Just like banana and toffee, you don't mess with a whipped cream and milk chocolate union."

Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull is published by Hardie Grant Books and retails for $45.00. It's available where all good books are sold.

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