To celebrate the return of affordable bananas to Australian fruit vendors, Melbourne food blogger Lady Lunchalot has deemed Sunday February 11 to be Banana Sunday. This is the kind of excuse I've needed for years to recreate my Mum's banana cake recipe. You see, Michael hates bananas. Hates them. The taste, the smell, and thus the sight. I've lived in a banana-less household without any major cravings, but I do have fond memories of the banana cakes that Mum baked when I was a kid.
Yep, that's me at about 8 years of age, dressed as a banana. The pineapple's my brother Liam. (From memory, the occasion was a special celebration of Queensland Day at our primary school. Unfortunately Queensland Day falls in June which, even in the sunshine state, is a little too chilly to be relying on a dress made out of an old bedsheet.) Sometimes, when our banana supply was over-ripe, Mum would make this recipe into cupcakes and pack one into our lunches. If we were really lucky, they'd have choc chips!
This recipe comes from the Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union Cookery Book, which was first published in 1904. My grandmother had a copy that she used a lot and, when my Mum got married, my grandmother bought her a copy too.
Of course I couldn't leave a good thing alone, and I tweaked the basic recipe. To half the mixture I added half teaspoons of cinnamon and cardamom for an aromatic twist. To the other half I stirred chunks of bittersweet chocolate (Lindt 70%) into a mixture that I expected would be sweet enough with bananas and brown sugar. These didn't save what turned out to be a dud batter! Although my cakes looked pretty and smelled good, they tasted overwhelmingly of baking soda. I must have accidentally added a whole teaspoon, instead of the prescribed half. The texture was right on, but the taste had barely a hint of my forbidden fruit.
So, here's a recipe I've failed at, but a recipe that's been tried and proved true by at least a couple of generations of women before me.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 small bananas mashed together with a few drops of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon milk
2 cups self-raising flour
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each in well. Then add the bananas, milk and soda, and lastly fold in the flour. Bake in a greased tin in moderate oven (180 deg C) for 45-50 minutes. My cupcakes took only about 15 minutes.