my bananas finally ripened enough for me to make a banana cake. it's so cold and gray these days (all that talk of spring weather turned out to be sadly premature. it has snowed for the past 2 days) that they take forever to get to the perfect stage of banana-cake ripeness.
after much searching, i've decided that stepahnie alexander's banana cake recipe (from the cook's companion) is the best one i've yet encountered. for such a simple thing, it's amazing how many bad banana cake recipes there are out there! the crumb is deliciously moist and firm, it toasts beautifully and it keeps very well in an air-tight container for quite a few days (if it lasts that long). i've made this recipe with various size and shaped tins (round, square, loaf, big and small muffin tins) and it has always worked perfectly (with a slight adjustment in cooking time for the muffins - only cook for 15 - 20 mins or so). often i bake two and put one in the freezer for a later time as it freezes excellently. it's a staple in our kitchen, requiring only the most basic of ingredients, with the exception of buttermilk, which can be made by souring milk with lemon juice anyway.
usually i don't bother to ice the cake, but last night we had bruno's parents around for dinner so i wanted to tart it up a little. i used nigella's delectable cream cheese icing from 'domestic goddess'. worked a treat. tasted delicious (yes, that was me licking out the bowl, i have a weakness for cream cheese-y things). otherwise, i'm happy to leave it naked in all it's brown banana glory.
so, without further ado, here is the recipe:
stephanie alexander's banana cake recipe (from the cook's companion)
125g softened unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar (note: stephanie specifies 1.5 cups of sugar but i find that too sweet. i 1 cup if enough for us as the bananas are usually quite sweet anyway. a less-sweet cake is better for toasting, i find. use white or, if you are lucky enough to have it, brown sugar)
1 cup of mashed ripe banana - i reckon on 4 medium size bananas
few drops of pure vanilla
2 cups of plain flour
1 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice (i don't have this so i usally use either ginger or cardamom)
1/2 cup of buttermilk or 1/2 cup of milk plus 1 tsp lemon juice
- preheat oven to 180c and line your chosen baking tin. i use a 25cm loaf tin. if you want a round or square cake, use a 20cm appropriately shaped tin. you can also make spectacular muffins, probably about 24 of them with this recipe.
- cream butter and sugar until fluffy and pale, then beat in banana, vanilla and eggs.
- sift dry ingredients and add to mixture alternately with buttermilk. mix until thick, smooth and creamy.
- pour into whatever tin/s you are using and bake for 45 minutes or until cake tests clean when skewered. for muffins, cook for only 15 - 20 mins. the cake should be nicely browned on the top, and will probably be cracked. this crevasse is a good thing.
- cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. cool completely before storing in a hermetically sealed container. you will find that the crust will soften and moisten after a day or so in the container. i love it this way. it is perfect for toasting and eating with marscapone drizzled with honey. or just fresh unsalted butter, for breakfast ; ) ooh so delicious!!!!
- if you want to ice the cake using the cream cheese icing:
cream cheese icing, from nigella lawson's how to be a domestic goddess:
125g cream cheese
200g sifted icing sugar
few teaspoons lemon or lime juice
- beat the cream cheese until softened slightly. sift the icing sugar into the same bowl and mix in as much as you can. add the juice 1 tsp at a time - go slow and make sure you mix it in well before adding another. too much juice and you will get runny icing, like mine in the pictures above : ) no matter, it still tasted great. if it becomes too runny, just add some more icing sugar (unfortunately i ran out). it should be voluptuously smooth, thick, and the colour of double cream.
- ice the cake using a palette knife if you have one. otherwise, just use a plain old knife.
- i zested a lemon onto the top to make it look pretty.
- we enjoyed it with after-dinner espressos. but why wait until after dinner to indulge, i say. breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack...