I've made some pretty dire attempts at banana bread in my time. Seriously, how is it that you can follow a recipe down to a tee, and it'll still manage to bake into a dense and rubbery mess? Like, every time. There are certain things in the baking world I remain cautious of, namely breads. This mostly means yeast doughs (but I am getting better!) but extends to anything with a sketchy 'bread' in the title. So, after a few years of no luck, I resigned myself to the fact that it was going to one of those things I just couldn't crack. Every baker has their weakness...
That was until my flatmate Ieva made this banana 'bread' for a flat birthday. I use the term 'bread' here loosely, because this is more of a cake than a stodgy loaf. It's definitely sweet, and has a lovely moist crumb and strong banana taste.
This cake really doesn't need an icing, but appreciates a little prettying-up with some icing sugar. I just cut out a star shape from paper, layed it on top of the cooled cake, and dusted icing sugar over it with a sieve. Remove the paper star and you're left with a cute cake that's casual enough for afternoon tea, tasty enough for birthdays, and could even stretch to a post-party mid afternoon breakfast (well, it has got fruit in it...). That said you can also choose to this bread with some chocolate icing, but I'm more than sure vanilla would work well too.
After asking for the recipe almost as soon as I'd tasted the bread, I was *slightly* nervous at trying out the cake at home. WHAT IF IT GOES WRONG?! I suspected I just was not born to make banana bread. But lo and behold! It emerged glorious from the oven, risen, spongy, and delicious. I suspect it was the bicarb that saved me. Half of it was gone before it was completely cooled. I'm sorry to have ever doubted you, banana bread.
This cake keeps exceptionally well, the bananas not only make the cake crumb moist and delish, they keep it fresh for days afterwards. As in, it was still delightful about 4 or 5 days after (the only reason it hung around that long is because it was Christmas and our kitchen was laden with treats).
285g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g butter, softened
225g caster sugar (or brown sugar also works well, to give a caramely taste. Try a combo of half and half)
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, or gas mark 4. Grease and line a deep 8-10'' tin. Mash the bananas well in a bowl with a fork.
2. Sift the flour and bicarb together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar.
3. Add the eggs one by one to the butter and sugar mixture, stirring between each addition. Mix in the bananas, milk and vanilla. Mix well.
4. Carefully fold in the flour. Pour mix into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours (this will vary depending on your oven, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes our clean.
5. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin, then leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Decorate as desired.