Whenever I’m in charity shops or second-hand bookstores, I always take a look at the cooking section. The usual selection goes something like this: The Low GI Cookbook, The South Beach Diet, 101 Ways with Mince, Microwave Chinese Cooking. It’s these appliance-specific cookbooks that I find really entertaining. Ever wanted to try roasting a suckling pig in the microwave? Me neither. Read more →
Archive for category: cake
A few years ago, my mother inherited my grandmother’s 9-inch sandwich cake tins. My grandmother had in-turn inherited the tins from her mother-in-law. These cake pans have been making family birthday cakes for probably close to 100 years. They’re thin steel, not fancy, but there is something very special about them. In fact, the banana sponge that I invented yesterday turned out so amazingly well that I suspect that four generations of baking experience must have mystically infused the metal. I’ll be intrigued to know if this recipe turns out equally beautiful cakes without the Hudson cake tins.
The recipe was something of an accident – which I suspect is often the case with many banana cake recipes. My dad – the prime banana eater in my parent’s house – was flying to a conference in New Zealand. On heading out the door he called: “You’ll have to bake a banana bread as I won’t be around to eat all these.” With morning and then afternoon tea visitors expected and only a scraping of thick cream in the fridge, we had every excuse to take his advice. The recipe is mostly Joy of Cooking – but uses different flour, sugar, yogurt and filling – which I say makes this a different cake.
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana
- a scraping of vanilla pod
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup extra thick double cream (or whipped cream)
- 1 ripe banana sliced
- icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line the base with baking paper and grease two 9-inch round cake pans.
Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside. Cream the butter and slowly add the caster sugar, followed by the brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at at time and beat to combine. In a separate bowl, mix the banana, vanilla and yogurt Gently fold the flour into the butter mixture in about three parts, alternating with the banana mixture. Divide the mix between the two pans and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cool, turn the base cake upside down and spread the facing side with thick cream, followed by the sliced banana. Invert the second cake and place this on top of the banana. Dust the top with icing sugar.
There is a sign in our local green grocer that reads: ‘Please do not press our peaches and nectarines’. We need a sign like this on our fruit bowl, as Ila’s favourite activity of the moment is squishing bananas or pushing straws and crayons into soft stone-fruit. Yesterday she did a number on two bananas. They were so black by the evening that the only solution was to make banana loaf.
I was cleaning a mountain of dishes, and didn’t want to make much mess, so managed to make this entire cake using only one saucepan, a teaspoon and the kitchen scales. Clearly, I’m still inspired by last weeks gâteau au yaourt.
The cake disappeared in 5 minutes when I cut into it at my office this morning. However, that’s not exactly praise as my colleagues aren’t at all discerning when it comes to cake. This one is very moist at least, but I’m pretty sure that there is a better banana bread lurking out there waiting for me, so I expect to be coming back to amend this recipe in the near future.
Meanwhile, if you don’t like the sound of the cake, check out The Banana Song. We’re addicted to this in our house at the moment. It’s silly and a bit annoying, but Ila thinks it’s pretty funny and I’ll take it over The Wiggles any day.
Banana Loaf Cake
- 125 g butter
- 150 g soft brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 very ripe bananas
- 180 g plain flour
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 cup milk
- handful of sliver almonds
Mash the bananas. Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly before stirring in the mashed banana, the vanilla and the beaten egg.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and nutmeg. Fold this into the saucepan mixture, alternating with the milk. Pour the mix into a greased loaf tin, lined with a wide strip of baking paper (across the long edges) for easy removal. Scatter the top with slivered almonds and bake in a 180°C oven for 30-35 minutes.
My mother sent me a book for my birthday called French Children Don’t Throw Food. Its author, Pamella Drukerman, believes that French children adapt more quickly to adult social norms than English children. This is possible, Drukerman attests, because French parents expect children to exhibit patience and independence far earlier than their English counterparts. Apparently, French parents make clear their expectations by ignoring their children for much of the day.
Having lived in France as an exchange student and an au pair, I know for certain that French children do throw food on occasion and that they aren’t possessed of infinite patience. However, there is a certain structure to eating and sleeping that seems to be a common experience for French children. French children eat at 8am, noon, 4pm and 8pm, after which they go to bed and sleep for 12 hours. I haven’t witnessed anything like this rigour, which is calming rather than militant, among my friends with children in the UK. I certainly haven’t managed to introduce it into my own house.
Drukerman advises that one of the earliest lessons in patience that French mothers teach their children is through baking. At least here I can equal the Parisian supermamans of Druckerman’s acquaintance! She mentions the gâteau au yaourt as the first cake that French children learn how to bake. Having baked this cake innumerable times in 1998 with my Breton host-sisters, I decide that a wet Sunday afternoon is perfect for Ila’s first lesson in patience.
My host sisters loved this recipe because it didn’t require any measuring apparatus other than the individual-portion-size tub of yogurt and a teaspoon. As well as teaching patience, this cake is very good for learning about ratios. I notice that my recipe is almost exactly the same as Drukerman’s, and that of my favourite Parisian food blogger Clothide Dusoulier. This clearly is a French classic – at least for as long as yogurt has been sold in 125ml tubs.
Even though she is only 18 months old, Ila is delighted to be able to pour and mix and slosh. Her enthusiasm results in the addition of rather more rum than I’d usually add, but it only seems to improve the final product.
Gâteau au yaourt
- 2 eggs
- 2 tubs (or 1 cup) plain full-fat yogurt
- 1 tub (or 1/2 cup) plain sugar – increase this to two tubs or a whole cup if you have a sweet tooth
- 3/4 tub (90 mls) canola/rapeseed oil
- 4 tubs plain flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 teaspoon rum
- a pinch of salt
Beat the eggs. Add the yogurt, oil, sugar, vanilla and rum. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold the dry ingredients gently into the wet mixture. Pour into a lined and floured tin and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool briefly in the pan before turning onto a wire rack.
This cake can be adapted by adding a tubful of chocolate chips, two tubs of mixed frozen berries, or two tubs of chopped apple and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon just before baking.