Yesterday, in a state of hanger (that’s hunger + anger, or, what happens when I forget to eat lunch), I took a bag of sausages from the freezer and fast thawed them in a bowl of hot water. Not the best of kitchen practices, I know, but hanger makes you do stuff like that.
They turned out to be peeled bananas. Once we’d blown our budget on burgers and chips down the road, I returned to the bananas and saw their true boon: cake!
I actually need little excuse to make banana cake (or bread- I think the terms are interchangeable). And I particularly like this recipe, from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Home Baking. With not much in the way of leavening (eggs are abandoned in favour of copious amounts of banana puree), the cake is denser, and has a more velvety crumb than most banana cakes. It’s totally delicious and healthy tasting at once.
This cake has appeared in another guise once before on this blog. Again, I’ve made quite a few variations to the original recipe. Using a bundt tin instead of two bread tins makes two loaves into one big cake, and gives the base of the cake a real crunch. The only draw back with the bundt is that you can’t add a brown sugar coating to the top of the cake. But I think it would be lovely with a simple icing, maybe cream cheese, or butterscotch. Wholemeal quinoa flour and walnuts are a dusky, nutty counter to the sweetness of the bananas. I’d actually like to try the recipe with more quinoa flour in the stead of plain flour (I only replaced 1 cup this time). I’ve also substituted in some browner sugars and kosher salt to emphasise the darker edge of this cake. Oh! and I didn’t have quite enough banana puree so I used a cup of yoghurt as well. This worked perfectly. See how adaptable bananas can be?
I’ll keep playing to see what happens when this recipe is pushed in various directions, and I hope you do, too.
Banana, Walnut and Quinoa Cake
- 3 cups plain unbleached flour
- 1 cup wholemeal quinoa flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tsp kosher salt (or slightly less sea salt)
- 250g unsalted butter, slightly softened at room temperature (but nowhere near greasy)
- 1 cup raw castor sugar
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 cups pureed overripe cavendish bananas (around 8 good sized bananas)*
- 1 cup organic creamy yoghurt
- [element]45ml rum or other spirit of choice
- 1 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped.**
Butter a large bundt (round with a hole in the centre) and preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
Sift the flours, salt, nutmeg and baking soda together (making sure there are no lumps of baking soda by crushing it through your fingers first, or putting it through a small, very fine sieve) into a medium size bowl. Any leftover floury bits stir into the bowl with a whisk or fork.
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer (or do it by hand, if you’re looking for a bit of exercise), until it is lightened and creamy (around 8 minutes by mixer on medium high speed, and I’ve got no idea how strong you are so who knows how long it would take by hand).
Now, turning the mixer onto its lowest setting, stir in the alcohol, and then about a cup of banana puree and a cup of flour, alternating, until the whole lot is just combined. Don’t over stir it or take too much time between additions.
Fold the walnuts into the batter with a spatula. The motion to use is a stroke around the edge of the bowl with the spatula, and then one along the bottom and up through the middle. That sounds confusing, I know, but check out this video if you’ve never folded anything before.
Now pour and spoon the batter evenly into the bundt tin and smooth the surface with the back of your spoon a little (just so that the batter is all the same depth the length of the pan, not so that you have a perfectly smooth surface). Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes and then turn the tin 180degrees before baking for another 30minutes. At this time, check for readiness by quickly pulling the tin from the oven and sticking a knife blade into the deepest part. If the knife blade comes out without any batter sticking to it, it’s ready.
Sit the tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes or so, then turn it out. Cool completely (or just about- cutting them early will ruin their structure and release their moisture as steam) before slicing.
*the more overripe the cavendish bananas are, the better. I generally stockpile overripe bananas until I have enough for this recipe, by peeling them and then putting them in a plastic bag in the freezer. This is also the perfect starter to a banana smoothie, or any smoothie you want to add some sweetness to. Freeze them in small quantities so that it’s easy to take out one or two for a smoothie if you’re sick of waiting for the banana cake quantity to eventuate! You can puree the bananas in a food processor, or just mash them thoroughly with a potato masher or fork. Use cavendish rather than ladyfingers, because lady fingers can take on floury tones when cooked. I’m not sure what sugar bananas would be like.
**spread the walnuts on a baking tray and bake in a 180C oven for around 10, or until you just smell them roasting. They don’t need to be fully toasted, you just want their oils fragrant. Pick out the walnuts for any dodgy looking ones, and then chop the rest roughly.