In the same way that you can never have too many pairs of shoes, you can never have too many recipes for banana cakes. I find that they’re consistently everyone’s favourite. And when I say everyone, I mean every cyclist. I constantly trawl the internet, magazines and my vast collection of cookery books for new ideas.
Now I usually stress the need to use really ripe bananas in most of my banana muffin and cake recipes but what if you don’t have any? Then this is most definitely the recipe for you. You can either bake these as individual cakes – easier for sharing – or in a loaf-sized tin. The recipe which I’ve played around with comes from that excellent book Short & Sweet: The Best of Home Baking by Dan Lepard – required reading for any budding baker.
Ingredients (makes 13 medium muffin sized cakes)
For the caramel bananas:
- 150g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 50ml (3 tbsp) warm water
- 250g (9oz) or approximately four medium-sized skinned bananas, chopped into small chunks
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
For the cake:
- 100g (1 cup) raw cane sugar
- 175ml (¾ cup) buttermilk
- 3 large organic eggs, approx 45g (1⅔oz) in weight without the shell
- 50g (1¾oz) plain yogurt
- 250g (2 cups + 1tbsp) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ½ tsp of fine sea salt
- 3 tbsp of fleur de sel caramel chips (optional)
1. Start by caramelising the bananas. Put the sugar and water into a stainless steel saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved – after that, do NOT stir again. Bring to the boil then cook over a high heat until the sugar turns to a dark reddish caramel. DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE SAUCEPAN. Carefully add the banana pieces, butter, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest – caramel can spit – and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bananas break up in the caramel and the mixture is thick and gooey, about ten minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl and leave to cool.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).
3. Take a pastry brush, dip it in sunflower oil and gently paint it all over the muffin tin. This will stop the muffins sticking to the tin if you’re not using muffin cases. If you are, place the cases in the tin(s). I make my own muffin cases from squares of greaseproof paper. (I explain how in my ‘handy hints’ section here.)
3. Put the sugar and eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine until air bubbles appear on the surface of the mixture.
4. Add the buttermilk and yoghurt, and whisk again.
5. Sift and mix together in another bowl the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and lightly combine. I find using a rubber spatula in a figure-of-eight movement works best. Ensure that no pockets of flour remain.
7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins or cases to about ⅔rds full, sprinkle on the shards of caramel and bake in the centre of the oven for about 15-25 minutes – it’ll depend on the size of your tin – or until golden, risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!
8. The small cakes will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days providing I hide them from my beloved. But wrapped in cling-film (plastic wrap), they’ll keep happily in the freezer for two months.
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 cakes in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.
3. You can slightly under-bake small cakes as they’ll continue cooking for a few minutes after they come out of the oven.
4. You can substitute sunflower (canola) oil for the buttermilk, or full-fat milk with a tsp of white wine vinegar.
5. The other day I found a jar of Dulce de Leche in the cupboard close to its sell-by date prompting the question as to whether I could use that as a substitute both for the caramel in the caramelised bananas and the sugar in the cake. The answer is “Yes, you can!” Though I should probably call the end result ‘Banoffee Cake’. I gently heated the bananas in the Dulce de Leche and then crushed them with a potato masher. I then proceeded as per the recipe above but whisked the eggs without the sugar. I baked it in the middle of the oven, on the same temperature, in a greased disposable tin-foil loaf tin 13cm x 23cm x 7cm (5” x 9” x 3”), which I lined with a couple of strips of greaseproof (parchment) paper, for 40-45 minutes. Remember 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. Allow to cool for ten 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 cake will keep for a week in an airtight container providing I hide it from you know who!