Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Banana and Walnut Cake
I never ate banana cake as a child - it wasn't part of my family's baking repertoire. Rather unusually, I had my first unforgettable taste of it at university. Unusual because baking didn't really feature much in my time at university although my friends and I did eat well - we cooked 'real' food and enjoyed long, civilised dinners most nights. However, apart from the home made goodies my mum occasionally sent to me, freshly baked cakes were rare, with the exception of my friend's banana bread. She mostly made this when she was in a particularly fragile state after a heavy night out. I never got the recipe from her but it involved using a yoghurt pot as a measuring tool, the yoghurt being one of the ingredients. Effort was minimal, no machinery required (we didn't have any anyway) but the result was fantastic - moist, tangy and extremely comforting. The kitchen was filled with a delicious aroma and a thick slice of banana bread, warm from the oven with a strong black coffee was the perfect accompaniment to a laughter-filled review of the previous evening's antics.
When I bought Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess book, banana cake was the first thing I made. Reassuringly, the kitchen was filled with the same delicious nostalgic smell, and the end result, while different from the one I remembered from my university years, was wonderful. I have made it many times since but have tweaked Nigella's original recipe (which can be found here). I omit the sultanas and alcohol, up the quantity of walnuts and bananas and bake it in a shallow, rectangular tray so it is more a banana cake than a banana bread. Although I first did this because I couldn't find my loaf tin, I discovered that I actually preferred it. It takes less time to bake and seems to cook more evenly. It is wonderful - moist, nutty and full of flavour. Even people who aren't keen on bananas enjoy it and it keeps really well, staying moist for a good few days. Like the original university banana bread it is incredibly easy to make, requiring no more than a spoon and a mixing bowl. A cream cheese icing goes well with the flavour of the bananas but to be honest, the cake is so sweet it doesn't actually need anything else - I even regretted dusting the top with icing sugar for the photo. It is perfect in its simplicity.
As you can see from the logo, the February One Ingredient challenge is Bananas so my post is on its way over to this month's host Nazima at the gorgeous new-look Franglais Kitchen, co-hosted by the ever-prolific Laura from How to Cook Good Food.
February's Forever Nigella theme is Nostalgia so I'm also sending this over to this month's host, Urvashi at Botanical Baker and linking it to Sarah from Maison Cupcake who organises this fabulous challenge.
175g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
125g butter (melted)
150g white sugar
2 large eggs
5 small, v ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
75g walnuts (chopped)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A baking tin, 17 x 26cm approx, greased and lined with greaseproof paper
Preheat the oven to 170ºC.
Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a medium-sized bowl and mix well.
In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each addition.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 mins. When it's ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish.
Leave in the tin to cool for about 15 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.
Eat still warm, while reminiscing with friends.