One of my staple – and most popular – cakes for cycling club events is Nigella Lawson’s banana bread taken from her book How to be a Domestic Goddess. It’s moist, freezes well and slices easily. So when one of my professional cycling friends asked me to bring cake for him and his teammates a couple of years ago at the Vuelta a Espana, I immediately thought of banana bread but had to discard said recipe on account of the high fat content and rum-soaked raisins.
Seeking inspiration, I had a forage in my large storage cupboards and unearthed some coconut sugar and desiccated coconut. I wondered, “would these combine well with bananas?” Working the coconut theme, I used coconut cream rather than butter and here’s the end result.
Now, you might be wondering how my friend and his team fared after eating my cake. Well, suffice to say they recorded their best result of the entire race. Of course, it may have had nothing to do with my cakes but then again you never know!
- 60g (1 cup) unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 100g (1 cup) coconut sugar
- 135g (1 1/3 cups) wholemeal flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 small, very ripe bananas, mashed, about 200g (7oz) without skins
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 250ml (1 cup) coconut cream
- 1 large organic egg beaten, approx 45g (1 2/3oz) without its shell
1. Preheat oven to 170ºC/150ºC fan/gas mark 3 (325ºF/300ºF fan).
2. Grease a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil loaf tin 13cm x 23cm x 7cm (5” x 9” x 3”). They’re easier for storing the cakes in the freezer, which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake.
3. Sift and combine flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and salt into a bowl, add the coconut sugar and desiccated coconut. Stir with a fork to combine well.
4. In another bowl, mix the beaten egg with the mashed bananas and teaspoon of lemon juice, then add the coconut cream. Don’t forget to shake the coconut cream well before opening.
5. Add wet ingredients to dry, fold gently with a spatula to combine, ensuring there are no remaining pockets of flour. The mixture should have a stiff dropping consistency.
6. Spoon mixture into the baking pan, put it into the middle of the oven on a baking tray and cook for 60-70 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on the dimensions of your baking tin and your oven, so check regularly. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and eating, or freezing for no longer than two months. The bread will keep for a week in an airtight container providing I hide it from my husband.
8. It’s also nice sliced and buttered according to my chief taster!
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.
2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than the cake should take to cook and then check regularly.
3. If you think the cake is browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover it with an aluminium foil tent.
4. When I have surplus ripe bananas I unpeel them, wrap them in greaseproof paper and freeze for later. If you’re making smoothies in a blender, you can add them whole and still frozen. But allow them to defrost before using them in this recipe.
5. If you don’t have any truly ripe bananas, roast them in the oven, still in their skins, to bring out their innate sweetness.
6. You can, of course, replace the coconut sugar with caster sugar, or indeed soft brown sugar, but I did find it imparted a nice caramel flavour and colour to the cake.
7. I use quite large flakes of desiccated coconut to give texture to the cake but equally I have used the typically small-flaked desiccated coconut.
8. I haven’t tried it but I suspect that you could easily substitute coconut milk for the coconut cream.
(All images courtesy of my in-house photographer and chief taste-tester Richard Whatley.)