THE Banana Cake
Something strange has been happening in my house lately. I’ve taken to buying hands of deliciously ripe bananas and guarding them like a hawk. If one of my kids asks if they can eat a banana, they get a resounding “No, they’re not for eating… yet” The large bowl of yellow bananas sits tauntingly on the kitchen bench, teasing and tempting all that pass it by, but they know these bananas aren’t for eating… yet. What could be so special as to halt the consumption of perfectly ripe bananas. Well, BANANA CAKE of course.
First I bought you “Banana and coconut bread”, then I introduced its brother “Banana and Chocolate bread” followed by their good looking sister “guilt free banana bread” Now I would like to introduce you to the Granddaddy of all banana cakes and bread. Plain and simply put, THE Banana Cake. This banana cake has caused me to reevaluate our fresh fruit eating options, opting now for snacks of pineapple, passionfruit and kiwifruit in place of what would normally be a bite of creamy banana.
This banana cake is responsible for a long running feud between myself and my good friend Tina back home in New Zealand who reckons that her version of banana cake is superior to mine. A verbal game of badminton has been playing out between us via facebook for some time now which has promoted me to up my game. I’ve taken banana cake making to a scientific level. The why, the which and of course the important how.
The first banana cake I ever made was from the Edmond’s Cookbook, an iconic and popular cookbook found in almost every kitchen in New Zealand. But I’m sorry Edmond’s Sure to Rise, this cake is far superior to your scantily written recipe. I’ve sought the consultation of some of the worlds thought leaders on molecular gastronomy, Herve This and Harold McGee on the matter attaining to chemical reactions within baked goods in order to better understand the transformations that are taking place when the banana cake is being prepared and cooking ~ also known as getting my food geek-on.
I came to realize a very important point whilst researching the maillard reaction and other wonderful scientific observations and how it releates to banana cake baking and that was the all important banana element itself. How important is it to leave your banana’s to go brown naturally as opposed to assisting the process by squishing and stuffing bananas into the fridge or freezer to speed up the browning process?
Firstly refrigeration under normal circumstances eg 2-4C actually slows down the browning process of the banana flesh. The banana skin will most certainly go brown but the ripening process of the banana will slow significantly. Freezing the banana will certainly turn it mushy, but will not result in the banana ripening with the major noticeable difference in the banana being the loss in quality in flesh of the banana.
The reason you want your banana to ripen, as opposed to going brown is that as the banana ripens, starch within the banana naturally breaks down into the sugars glucose, fructose and sucrose ~ making them sweeter! So leave your bananas well enough alone as they need the time left on the bench to convert their starch into the much more appealing sugar and assist you to Banana cake baking glory!
How long should you leave your bananas? Dependant on how ripe you buy them, a good week or so in a warm kitchen should about do the trick. If your kitchen is cooler, leave them longer.
All has been done in the attempt to perfect the humble banana cake recipe as there is a grand canyon of difference between a good banana cake and a great moist banana cake. You be the judge, follow this easy recipe for yourself taking into account the notes and tips that will lead you to ambrosia like success. What might seem trivial to you, may actually be the difference between a parade in your honor or a half nibbled slice left on the plate.
THE Banana Cake
Makes 1 20-22 cm round cake
190g unsalted butter ~ cut into cubes and softened at room temperature
200g dark brown sugar
60g caster sugar
3 large eggs
4 very ripe mashed banana’s
3 Tbsp milk ~ brought to the boil
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
330g self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to Fan bake on 165 C/ 320 F. Ready the shelf in the middle of the oven.
Into a large bowl, or cake mixer bowl place the softened butter, dark brown sugar and caster sugar and cream well with a wooden spoon or cake mixer paddle until light and fluffy and the sugar begins to dissolve. This should take about 3 minutes of steady mixing.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. At this stage of the cake making process, mixing well is essential to fully incorporate the ingredients and it also helps to incorporate air into the mix which will assist the cake in rising upon baking.
Peel and mash the bananas well with a fork and mix them through the batter mixture. Bring to the boil the milk and stir into it the baking powder. You will notice the mixture becomes frothy, which is the bicarb soda reacting with the hot milk. This will help to get good rise out of the cake as it cooks. Add this mixture to the butter, sugar and eggs.
Sift the flour and add to the mixing bowl along with the salt. Fold gently and evenly until combined, making sure not to over mix at this stage as over mixing could result in a tough rubbery cake.
Spray a 20-22cm non stick springform cake-tin with nonstick cooking spray and pour the batter into the tin. Tap gently to even out the mixture and place on a shelf in the middle of a pre heat oven.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and serve The banana cake in big slices with butter or whipped cream.