Allinson's Banana Cake: my marathon training cake
I'm training to run a marathon that is in May - EEEEeeeekK! It's my first one and to say that I'm terrified is an understatement. So, I try not to think too much of the distance or the number of hours that I'll be running. However, I can't seem to stop myself thinking about what food to feed myself towards the end of a long run. I am ravenous. It's a different kind of hunger to when I was training for my first half marathon. Then, I found myself craving melons towards the 10 mile mark. So far, I can't seem to eat enough of this one cake.
I know that my latest posts have been about buttermilk, but bear with me whilst I share one more buttermilk cake recipe and then I'll move onto something else. This is the one that started it all. It began a few years ago when I found this gem of a recipe on the back of Allinson's Wholemeal Self-raising Flour packet. I wasn't entirely convinced at how it would turn out. But I thought, 'why not? I've got the ingredients at hand. What do I have to lose but maybe some bananas that are going off anyway, some sugar, butter and flour?' So, I made it for an English Tea Party for Study Abroad/Erasmus students at Leicester University as part of their Welcome Programme. And then I had to make it again for my colleagues because it all disappeared before they got a taste.
3 years on and a couple of banana cake recipes later, this has turned out to be one of my favourite banana cake recipes and I bake it frequently. It's also one of the few cakes that I get a craving for. So, I'll buy bananas deliberately in order to bake this cake, rather than eat the bananas as they are. I know that's not the common practice with bananas. A further confession. Sometimes I see how long I can leave the bananas ripening before they become unusable. (Answer - black and mouldy.) I've proved to myself that the banana in its various shades of mottled brown to very black is edible... in a cake... and will last a bit longer if you pop them in the fridge.
One of the nice things about this cake is that you can make variations of it, which is handy when you're baking it frequently. I've experimented by adding 100g of milk or dark chocolate chunks successfully, tried white chocolate chunks (doesn't work because they don't have enough flavour to come into their own in this cake), decorated the top with dried apricots soaked in apricot brandy. My preference? I like it as just a plain banana cake.
I'm sure that you can find even more variations. I'd love to know them so please share :)
Ingredients for Allinson's Banana Cake, adapted by yours truly.
- 100g/3½oz softened unsalted butter, cubed or as I recently discovered, you can subsitute it with 80ml sunflower or vegetable oil. I think that the oil makes the sponge a bit lighter.
- 140g/4½oz caster sugar (I halved the sugar, so add some more, if you'd like it a bit sweeter)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 350g/12½oz wholemeal self-raising flour (feel like I should say Allinson's, since its their recipe... and I've only ever used their flour)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 bananas, mashed
- 75ml/3 fl.oz buttermilk (how to make your own buttermilk)
- optional extra ingredient - 100g chocolate chunks; chopped walnuts or pecans...
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a deep cake tin. I find that anything between 18-23cm works. Just vary the baking a time a bit. A 23cm cake tin needs a bit less time in the oven than a 18cm one.
2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Then gradually add in the egg. Or, if you're using oil, then beat the sugar and egg together first, then add the oil.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. The sifting helps to create lightness which is important when using wholemeal flour. Remember to add the bran that remains in your sieve back into the mixing bowl. I tried using the bran to decorate the cake last time but it just went everywhere so I wouldn't recommend doing that.
4. Add 3. to the butter and sugar and mix well. It will resemble bread crumbs if you're using an electric mixer, or feel very stiff if you're doing it by hand.
5. Add in the mashed bananas and the buttermilk and mix well. If you want to pop in an optional ingredient, such as chocolate chunks or nuts or dried fruit, then do so at this stage
Top Tip: Coat your chocolate chunks lightly with flour before adding them to the cake mixture. This will help them not to sink to the bottom of your cake during the baking process.
6. Transfer the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin, smooth and pop it into the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.
I think that it's the combination of the wholemeal flour and banana that gives the cake its wholesome and moreish character. The top of the cake crisps up slightly and lends a wonderful slightly crunchy, sweet flavour. The flavour of the banana isn't too overpowering, for those of you who aren't overly keen on it and leaves you wanting to nibble on some more. Mmmmm Mmmmm MMmmmm.
Incidentally, I do recommend the back of flour packets as a good place to find yummy baking recipes. Flour companies should know these things, since flour is normally the primary ingredient. Now, I should listen to my own advice more often and make those chocolate thins that are on the back of the plain wholemeal flour one...