I recently wrote an article that paid homage to my first cake love, my baking constant, my moist, sweet life partner…Banana Bread. I wanted to include the same article here, on this little blog, along with a couple of my favourite recipes.
Anyone who has indulged me in a conversation about baking will know my views on banana bread. Despite my inquisitive baking nature, and interest in all things ‘dough’, I find myself falling, time and time again, into the buttery arms of this humble loaf cake. Banana bread encapsulates everything I crave from a baked good with its moist crumb and soothing, biscuit flavours. It is ‘wooden-spoon’ baking at its finest; best results occur when using a chipped Mason Cash bowl and gazing dreamily out of the window whilst I stir. It requires no ceremony, no technique, just a heavy thud and crackle as the batter hits the parchment-lined tin. As it bakes it fills my home with sweet, caramel notes, heady with wholesome promise and irresistible to visitors. Once cooled it can be sliced into thick slabs or wrapped whole and transported as a sturdy loaf. Whilst it sits it develops flavour and dense, moist texture, as if the bananas themselves have continued to ripen in their mashed, baked state.
Banana bread was not present in my childhood, I discovered it in my teens when my Mother gave me her recipe. She believes it to have come, originally, from her Mother and the measurements are still in pounds and ounces. It made two fat loaves using four bananas and 8oz of butter. This is banana bread in its elemental form; white sugar, white flour and eggs. What is most glorious about this combination of fruit-moistened batter is its adaptability; over the years I have made vegan versions, dairy free versions, versions swirled with peanut butter and a particularly memorable dark, spiced banana bread that uses wholemeal flour and brown sugar. I have made it for breakfast, baked it for cake sales, gifted it to friends and shared it at work. I like it moist from cling-wrap as part of a picnic and I like it warm, crusty and adorned with salty butter. Until further notice banana bread is, in my opinion, the ultimate giver of comfort, my personal baking nirvana, the undisputed king of cakes.
It is important to me that I convey both my passion and my belief that forming a bond with such a simple and wholesome baked item can make one’s life just a tiny bit sweeter. If that place in your heart is already filled with say, your Mother’s Apple Cake or a divine Flapjack recipe then I understand, it is, after all, a personal matter. If, however, there is a vacancy in your regular baking repertoire then Banana Bread is an excellent candidate. I have a traditional recipe that will make a couple of basic, fluffy loaves, or for something dark and different try my recipe for Cinnamon Spice Banana Bread.
Versatility means that I see Banana Bread not just as a cake but as a potential breakfast and/or dessert item. Once baked a loaf can keep for up to a week, especially if you keep it cling-wrapped in the fridge. It’s shape means that it can be slice methodically into dense, sturdy pieces, it’s lack of iced adornment means that it’s transportable and just a tiny bit wholesome. I like to eat a slice warm from the oven just after it’s baked. I then like it cold the next day with hot tea or coffee after the flavours have developed and it’s become squidgy and moist. In the following days I’ll lightly toast and butter it for breakfast. If it’s a weekend I’ll wrap a slab in some foil and chuck it in a backpack to take on a hike. Once it’s nearing it’s end I’ll even take the last couple of dry pieces and soak them in one beaten egg, a splash of milk and a pinch of cinnamon to make Banana Bread French Toast.
Banana Bread french toast underneath a pile of Greek yoghurt and cherries
Traditional Banana Bread
This recipe came from my Mother and was the first Banana Bread recipe I ever baked myself. It uses pounds and ounces as measurements and the huge batter makes two loaves, it’s ideal if you need to use up a surplus of over ripe bananas. My Mother acquired it from her Mother and it’s origins are unknown, possibly from an old cookery book or housekeeping magazine. I like the idea of making two loaves, one could easily be wrapped and stored in the freezer but it is a far more romantic notion to wrap it in baking paper, tie it with a little string and give it to someone else. There is something about handing over a neatly wrapped, sweet-smelling loaf that appeals to me deeply, giving food is a huge gesture of love and I’ve never known anyone to be reluctant to receive homemade cake.
8oz Caster sugar
4 Tbsp Honey
4 Beaten eggs
1lb Self-raising flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda
4 Medium bananas (mashed)
4 oz Walnuts/Pecans (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180C (160 C fan) and grease or line two 2lb loaf tins
- Place the butter, sugar and honey into a bowl and beat until combined and fluffy
- In a separate bowl blend the flour, salt and bicarb
- Add the beaten eggs to the butter mixture a little at a time, adding a spoonful of flour at each addition (this prevents the mixture from curdling)
- Once the eggs are combined add the rest of the flour and fold together
- Drop the batter into the prepared loaf tins and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a knife comes out of the centre clean.
- Allow to cool for a while in the tin before turning out onto a cooling wrack.