The (Near) Perfect Banana Cake

You have to let people see what you wrote. It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated. Perfect is boring. — Tina Fey, Bossypants (2011)

I tend to agree with Tina Fey. What’s the point of carrying on if perfection has been and gone? If you don’t believe that the best is yet to come? But I make an exception for this cake – when it comes to banana cake, I’m stopping here and hoping that I don’t get bored.

The recipe originally comes from Mix & Bake by Belinda Jeffery, a book I would highly recommend. I’ve found Jeffery’s recipes to be pretty much fail proof. They’re unfussy and delicious, but also elegant. Her date scones are some of the best things ever to come out of my oven (credit goes to my sister for uncovering the recipe).

Unfortunately, this banana cake recipe has to be the exception that makes the rule. The first couple of times I made this cake, the finished product was sumptuous. However, getting there drove me to breaking point. Jeffery instructs you to combine mashed bananas, eggs and sugar. You then beat cubed butter into the mixture. This proved to be difficult with a stand mixture and utterly impossible by hand – the butter just wouldn’t cream. Though the finished cake was great, I was determined to find a better method. Next time I used wholly melted butter, which was much easier but the cake was too dense.

Finally, I gave up on Jeffery’s recipe and went back to the traditional way of baking cakes by creaming butter and sugar. And I have to say, this produced the best banana cake I’ve ever made (or even eaten!). The cake is moist but not squidgy (technical term, that) and the flavour is sweet and heady with banana. There list of ingredients is rather paired down – no secret ingredients here – but the finished product is much, much more than the sum of its parts.

(Near) Perfect Banana Cake (adapted from Mix & Bake by Belinda Jeffery)

125 g butter, cubed and softened

1 1/2 c sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 large bananas, mashed

100 ml full fat greek yogurt (or buttermilk)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 c plain flour

3 tsp baking poder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350′F. Butter a 20 cm cake tin with a thick layer of softened butter or line with baking paper (I like to line my pans with butter and then coat with sugar – see here for instructions).

2. Place the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Beat until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined. Add the bananas and yogurt and beat until combined.

4. Remove the bowl from the stand mixture (it’s easier to do this last part by hand). In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and a pinch of salt. Sift this over the butter mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon until just combined.

5. Pour the mixture into the lined pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Jeffery says that the cake takes 30-35 minutes to bake but I find it takes up to 45-50 minutes in my oven.

Notes

  • The top and sides of this cake brown quickly. Usually this results in a hard, dry crust but for some mysterious reason that doesn’t happen here. Instead, the crust is perfectly chewy, especially if you line the pan with sugar.
  • Don’t be put off by the large amount of baking powder in this recipe. The finished product does not have even a hint of that metallic taste sometimes found in scones and other things with lots of baking powder.
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