Sugar Free Banana Bread

This is an unusual one for me. I am all about sugar. I mean, I eat a lot of vegetables too, but when it comes to cake, I am a purist – it’s got to be full of butter and sugar. That’s what cake is about, right?

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A few weeks ago one of my colleagues went on a sugar free diet, and a couple of the others were just generally trying to ‘eat better’…I think we’re always striving for this in my office, but there’s a pretty consistent balance between the amount of cake and the amount of fruit consumed – recently there has been a pretty steady stream of Creme Eggs being consumed. But, I digress! To my colleague, sugar free meant no cake, so I decided to look into making sugar free cake (because an office without sugar is no fun).

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And behold! I found a recipe that I like. This is pretty straightforward, and I’ve played around with it a bit – most recently I have added chocolate to it, because that still counts as low sugar, right? But what I’ve found is that in banana cake you don’t really need sugar. Granted, it makes it look a bit more appetising (for whatever reason this cake has come out a slightly grey shade of brown every time I’ve made it), but it tastes just as good because bananas are super sugary, especially if you leave them until they’re really brown. I’m not going to start advocating a sugar-free lifestyle, but, this banana bread is pretty good if you want to try it.

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Banana & Toffee Cupcakes

The last month has been crazy, full on crazy. I went to Stockholm a couple of weeks ago, and it was glorious. I never get tired of visiting Scandinavia, it’s like this paradise where everything is just lovely and full of coffee and pastries, and they have museum exhibitions about brewing beer (yes!). It also looks like this:

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On returning, we had friends staying for the Bank Holiday weekend, and then had a huge pizza party which was great, albeit very messy, because when you make 3kg of dough, and get your approx. 20 guests to all make their own pizzas, it gets…ugh. My kitchen. It was the biggest clear up job ever, and mad props to Laura and Hayden who did loads of it whilst I was still at the pub. We had some cool pizzas though – including macaroni cheese pizza, potato pizza, and banana and harissa pizza (which surprisingly worked).

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Anyway, now that I’m finally less insanely busy, it’s time to write about those banana and toffee cupcakes I mentioned a while ago. I love banana cake, and I’m always looking for variations to increase its general awesomeness. This is a tale of first world problems, whereby the little Waitrose near my house stopped selling the banana and toffee cupcakes I had grown to love. They still sell them at the one 4 miles from my house, but that is no use to me. So I decided to try and make some myself. I’ve made these a couple of times, and I will say it’s still a work in progress. I think I’m basically hoping that one day they’ll taste exactly like the Waitrose ones, but in the meantime, these work pretty damn well as a substitute.

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Herman: complete

So I finished making my Herman cake. That was…almost a week ago now, but somehow, time has slipped away from me once again, between birthday and interviews and seeing people, a week has passed. 

 

I never got around to taking a photo of Herman. There are still pieces of him left, but it’s just not the same now that he isn’t whole anymore. He did taste incredibly good though. The recipe asked for more cinnamon than I am personally comfortable with (I don’t especially like cinnamon except when in small amounts so it’s not the overpowering taste. However this does not stop me wanting to try that stupid challenge where you eat a teaspoon of cinnamon and have to try not to throw up), so I put less in, but due to whatever, there were still bits of it that tasted very heavily of cinnamon. I worked around it, it was still awesome. So I wouldn’t mind if another Herman worked it’s way back around to me at some point in the future (Laura this is not an invitation for you to return one of your parts to me). 

 

Herman was the only cake that I baked this week, but I received other cake, and plenty of baking-related items for my birthday – cake tins, cupcake cases, icing pens, etc (as well as lots of other lovely things). The first cake I received was made by Laura and Julian, chocolate and banana flavoured, which was lovingly decorated with an owl (made of banana and chocolate buttons) by Laura. I don’t know what it says about me that the majority of things I received were either owl, cat or cake related. Image

I also received vanilla berry cake with lemon icing from my sister today, which was equally awesome.

 

Something I received from my Scandinavia-loving friend Ffi today, was a Scandinavian baking cookbook – including lots of exciting bread recipes, like chocolate soda bread, and Kefir spelt sourdough – and cake and pastry recipes, such as Swedish princess cake, “success tart” and Danish sesame and poppy twists. All look incredibly good.

 

Pollen Allergies and Birthday Cakes

So, this week didn’t turn out quite as planned on the baking front. Having spent most of the week coughing and sneezing from the worst hayfever I’ve ever experienced, baking wasn’t really up top of my priority list. It was my friend Jade’s 21st birthday on Thursday and I was going to make a cake for the occasion…this had to be delayed for a few days whilst I finished my coughing and sneezing, and I finally got to make it yesterday.

One productive cake shop related thing I did manage to do this week was to set up a new bank account to transfer some of my money into, so I could separate money spent on baking things from my own purchases of peach iced tea, hayfever tablets and Bill’s Breakfasts (these seem representative of my recent spending). This has made me feel less guilty about wanting to buy things such as this, because it is all in aid of a greater, cake-related cause (as well as my attachment to bees).

This is probably the most ambitious cake I’ve made. Using number tins for the first time was a slightly daunting prospect, and became even more so when I looked in the oven after they had been in for 10 minutes and found the mixture was seeping out the bottom. For whatever reason, luckily it didn’t make too much difference to the end result – the cakes were still thick enough and I got to check they tasted okay by eating the leaked offcuts.

Instead of making both the ‘2’ and the ‘1’ shapes the same flavour, I chose to make two different flavours – Jade’s favourites – coffee cake, and banana, chocolate and walnut cake. The coffee cake had coffee buttercream icing, and the banana cake had a honey glaze sprinkled with sunflower seeds.

The coffee cake recipe is as follows:

200g caster sugar

200g butter

200g self-raising flour

4 eggs

4 tsp coffee essence

100g chopped walnuts

1. Cream together the butter and the sugar.

2. Sift in a third of the flour, add 2 of the eggs and beat together.

3. Add the second third of the flour and the rest of the eggs, beat again.

4. Add the remaining flour, walnuts and the coffee essence and stir together.

5. Pour into a greased tin and bake for 40-45 mins at 190C.

The icing requires:

175g icing sugar

90g butter (softened)

3 tsp coffee essence

Cream all together until well mixed. etc.

The banana cake requires:

200g brown sugar

200g butter

200g self-raising flour

4 eggs

4 over ripe bananas, mashed

50g walnuts, chopped

50g dark chocolate, chopped

Same method and baking times as the coffee cake.

The honey glaze was a bit more of an improvisational task, so I don’t really have a proper recipe for it – it was roughly 4 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp water and juice of a 1/4 lemon with an unmeasured amount of icing sugar to make it a bit thicker (after I put too much lemon juice in and realised too late…)

It turned out really well and I was so happy with it. I’ve never been very good at icing things, but after having to ice a cake which was a “1” shape yesterday, I’ve realised it’s something which I can definitely manage to improve on with practice.

There is something genuinely rewarding about making cakes for other people – baking is (or should always be) a labour of love for people you care about, done in the spirit of generosity to make others happy. Seeing the smile on Jade’s face, and her appreciation of what I’d made when I dropped the cake round her house earlier was worth the hours I spent in the kitchen yesterday worrying about leaking tins and bad icing. I think that’s why I really want to do this, because if there’s one thing that never fails to make people happy, it’s cake.