There are some things that everyone has an opinion about. Who should win American Idol, Mac or PC, how I should plan my wedding (that’s a whole other story), and of course, bananas. For starters, do they taste better unripe, just ripe or going black, and can it really be called bread, when it’s obviously a cake? Oh, and then there’s what should go into the bread/cake. Raisins? How awful. There’s no chocolate in this? Scandalous. No cinnamon? What were you thinking? Margarine?!?! Now you’re really pulling my leg!
I’ve tried them all sorts of variations over the years, even one from BBC Good Food that was studded with chewy toffee sweets. It was delicious- one of those cakes where you find yourself picking the best bits out and saving the plain parts for last. I’ve gobbled and enjoyed most of the though- and then I went to stay at my lovely Auntie Nicky’s house and she presented me with a very plain looking cake in a large tin saying: “you must try this”. I stared at it from all angles, prodded it with a kitchen knife, took a sip of tea and thought, oh what the heck, don’t judge the poor mite just because it looks so plain. And it was plain- plainly delicious. So simple- you could actually taste the banana in all its unadulturated glory. No spices or nuts or chocolate were getting in its way. And it was so moist! Even the outer crumb was squidgy and soft, not dry or cumbly. Of course I had to ask for the recipe and when she presented me with the Orchard cookery school book, lo and behold there it was again- margarine. And I thought things only tasted good with butter.
I forgot at the time to jot the recipe down, perhaps I was too horrified by the second occurrence of margarine in so many weeks. I can’t remember. But I did remember how good it tasted and when I came home I tried to replicate it, in some form. I based the quantities on Nigella’s banana loaf recipe and the one in the Art & Soul of Baking– taking elements from each that I liked, but mostly just for guidance on quantities. You could view this like a blank canvas recipe to work from- but I would highly recommend opting for the plain version first.
But before you get started lets just get one thing straight – there’s nothing bready about this mix, it’s pure cake. Got it?
Banana loaf cake
It does not get more basic than this. If you want to add nuts, raisins, chocolate or whatever else fold through right after you add the flour. This freezes beautifully, so there are no excuses for black bananas going to waste.
Makes 1 large loaf
Diet Facts: This is comfort food, diets not allowed.
3 medium-sized bananas (about 300g when peeled)
60ml/1/4 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
175g/ 1 cup + a scant 1/3 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
125g/4 1/2 oz margarine (or butter)
125g/ 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/ Heat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Grease and line the bottom of a 9×5 inch (900g) loaf tin. Have the parchment come up over the top of the short sides by about a centimeter to make it easier to remove the cake once cool.
2/ Puree the banana in a mini food processor until smooth. Mix together with the buttermilk and set aside.
3/ Whisk together the flour, salt and raising agents. Set aside
4/ Beat the margarine and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated. Add the banana/buttermilk puree and the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Fold in the flour a 1/3 at a time until incorporated.
5/ Pour batter into your prepared tin and spread evenly. Bake for 3o minutes before checking. If it is beginning to brown turn the oven down to 325F/170C/Gas 3 and cook for a further 25 minutes. The cake should be lightly golden and spring back when you gently touch it with the tip of your finger. A toothpick should come out mostly clean.
6/ Let cool on a wire rack before removing from the tin.
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