Ah, banana cake. In New Zealand we have a thing called the Edmond's Cookery Book, first issued by a local baking goods manufacturer in 1907 and in print ever since. Virtually every cooking household in the country hosts at least one batter-splattered, butter-greased edition and while it does support a threadbare standard of nonlethal culinary practice, in many ways it is the font of all comestible evil and the bane of every bring-a-plate occasion. It is poorly edited and detectably a product of both colonial stinginess and the eras of economic austerity it has navigated; thus the modern reader is confronted with a puzzling complex of quirks and deficits that can sabotage the naive adventurer.
The veteran is better-equipped to wrest success from its confounding pages. After a mere ten or so years of crap banana cake, we discovered quite by accident that the problem was a dearth of bananas, if not soft fruit of any description, as well as an absence of any flavoring agent whatsoever. We have acted remedially.
THE BLACKTHORN BANANA BLUEBERRY SPECTACULAR CAKE
The trick to this baby is the exotic or opposing fruit; the yin to the banana yang. We like fresh or frozen blueberries but have used raspberries and tinned fruit such as apricots and peaches, really well drained and chopped. Guava or feijoa would probably be delicious too. To avoid turning the cake blue when using frozen berries, we tip a little into the tin, pour over some batter, add more berries and so on to ensure an even distribution. If you're using frozen fruit, cook it 5-10 mins longer than usual but do keep an eye on it. In reality you can add as much fruit as you think the batter will bear, especially if it is a drier variety. As far as sugar goes, you can use all white, but we like the caramelizing effect of a half-brown mix; you could use demerara sugar but I would cut it with some white. We like half white flour, half wholemeal, but that is entirely up to you. And we're sorry, but it really does have to be freshly pounded, high quality cinnamon. Not that nasty brown dust out of a packet.
YOU WILL NEED
¾ to 1 cup of sugar. We use half brown, half white. Adjust according to the sweetness of the fruit.
2 medium-large free range eggs
3 large bananas, overripe. Just ripe will do.
½ to ¾ cup of fruit, other.
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons hot milk
2 cups plain flour, whichever kind you like.
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon freshly-ground or pounded cinnamon or similar.
-Turn oven on to 180 C, set the shelf mid to high if possible.
-Soften butter, add the sugar, cream until at least doubled in volume. Add cinnamon.
-Add eggs one at a time, beat well between each.
-Heat the milk in a saucepan or microwave until steaming, chuck in soda, stir well and mix through batter.
-Squish the bananas in their skins by hand and stir well into batter. (I use a knife for this)
-Dump in flour and baking powder and fold it all together thoroughly.
-At this point, either add your non-staining extra fruit or arrange it in the tin and add batter as discussed above.
We use a bundt tin (the ones with the hole in the middle) because it looks like we knew what we were doing and tends to cook more evenly if you have a shitty old oven like ours.
(I malign our oven, actually; the older, the better as far as cakes are concerned and the curses and admonitions that accompanied our modern F&P range to it's premature grave are best left where they lie. I would have shot it with a gun if I had been given the chance.)
We tend to bake for around 40 mins with frozen fruit. Let it sit for five mins in the tin, then place cooling rack over the top, pick it up with a teatowel or kitchen mits and turn it out. This cake can be eaten warm and will last two days without becoming noticeably stale if kept well sealed, but who are we kidding? That mofo's gone by the 30 hour mark, all things being equal.
Dust it with icing sugar when it's cold if you like, but we use a fruit syrup like our Elderberry Ink, which we'll share with you when the time comes.
At right- Le Chien Noir: Cake Inspector (First Class).