I wanted to bake a cake for Sunday afternoon. I had been away for some of the weekend and we weren’t having a full blown Sunday roast but Mr S was going to cook his special steak with new potatoes and salad. I’ve been suffering a bit with my mental health recently. October has been a tricky month and I can’t wait for it to end. I know that baking helps lots of us who are struggling and I’m no exception. I didn’t really need any cake in the house but I needed to have that comforting ritual of baking and creating something.
I looked in the new Bake Off Book: A Bake For All Seasons to see if there was a simple Autumnal cake I could bake that afternoon that wasn’t too fancy or had weird ingredients I didn’t have in my cupboard. The only real contender was the Banana, Tahini and Caramel Loaf in the Autumn section of the book on page 158. I didn’t have any tahini paste in, though. The only ever time I bought it was a couple of years ago to make some hummous and the rest ended up getting chucked out as my own hummous tasted revolting! I thought what could give a similar effect that was in my cupboard and I thought maybe peanut butter would work. The top of the cake as seen in the recipe photo also shows the loaf sprinkled with caramel sesame seeds and a whole banana peeled and halved as a decoration. This did not appeal to me one bit so I left it off!
To line my loaf tin, I always use the pre-made loaf tin liners available from big supermarkets or shops like Lakeland! They save so much faff! When I had lined that, I melted some butter. When this was cooling, I whisked brown sugar and eggs together. Then this was added to the cooled butter, the peanut butter and some natural yoghurt. Finally I added some mashed bananas.
In another bowl I weighed out and mixed together some dry ingredients: self raising flour, baking powder and cinnamon then folded it carefully into the other ingredients. Finally the mixture was spooned into the the tin and then baked in the oven for around 50 minutes. This was slightly earlier than the recipe suggested but my oven seems to bake a lot quicker.
I must admit I didn’t end up trying the banana loaf as I’ve been a bit off my food and under the weather this week. Not Covid, I hasten to add! Mr S had a piece and said it was nice although I pinched 3 of his breakfast bananas to use in the cake. By the time I felt a bit better, what was left of tthe cake had gone off and had to be binned.
I don’t think I’ll attempt to make this version of a banana loaf again unless I do have any left over tahini paste knocking around. I might buy some as Nigella has a tahini cake in one of her recipes from Cook, Eat, Repeat and it seems to be popular. I think I’ll stick to my favourite Annabel Karmel one I’ve been making since my kids were little as that always goes down well with everyone.
I’ve baked loads of recipes from Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake” now. I’ve been really impressed with the range of recipes on offer from cakes to biscuits and desserts and savoury bakes. I can’t bake as much as I’ve done in the past which does make me feel upset. But it doesn’t do me or my family’s health any good and also I just don’t have the time any more. So baking for local happenings and for Clandestine Cake Club events is really special.
This Banana Loaf with Peanut Butter Frosting was the second cake I baked to donate to a local village’s Spring Festival on the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. I love banana loaf and peanut butter but I’ve never attempted to use both these ingredients together in a cake before.
Lorraine says in her recipe introduction: “The bananas need to be super ripe for this cake recipe”. This is never a problem in our house. I always buy bananas in our weekly shop and it’s only really Mr SmartCookieSam that eats them. I like them but prefer berries on top of my porridge. Sometimes Mr SmartCookieSam puts them on his toast with peanut butter. I was lucky that there were two ripe bananas left which would be ideal to use in this recipe.
The main cake was very quick to bake. I always use ready made loaf tin liners which are so easy to use. When the oven was preheating, I creamed together butter and sugar until it became light and fluffy. I then added one egg, followed by half the quantity of self raising flour needed. This was repeated with another egg and the remaining flour. When all this was combined, in went two ripe mashed bananas.
The loaf was baked in the oven for about an hour. I had to keep checking that the top didn’t over brown. Thankfully it didn’t but I kept poking a skewer in the cake to check it was cooked. Finally after an hour it was ready to come out.
The cake was put on a wire rack and left to cool down still with the loaf tin liner wrapped around it. I didn’t dare move it before just in case it made the whole blinking thing fall apart.
Later on that afternoon I made the Peanut Butter frosting. I used Crunchy Peanut butter to add texture. I prefer to use a sugar free brand, such as Whole Earth or Meridian. There was no point in using a sugary one as I was already adding icing sugar to the frosting. The frosting also used a little bit of butter and a small amount of cream cheese which gave it a delicious flavour. This was simply all weighed out and mixed together with my hand held mixer. The frosting was spread on the top of the cake with a palette knife. To finish off I had bought a bag of salted peanuts to sprinkle on the top. I had to hide the rest of the bag so I wasn’t tempted to eat them.
At the Spring Festival the following day I chose to buy a slice of the Banana and Peanut Butter Loaf to test it out (pictured above with a slice of my Pecan Pie Popcorn Naked Cake). My mum and I halved the slices of both cakes to check them out. I really enjoyed the banana loaf although I did find the frosting a bit on the sweet side. Since losing weight I’ve found my sweet tooth isn’t there as much as it used to be.
I’ll definitely bake the cake again. It would also work well with chocolate chips sprinkled in the cake itself and on top of the cake instead of salted peanuts.
As soon as I saw Mary Berry’s new book Everyday I had to bake the Hummingbird Cake recipe from the book. A while back I’d made some Hummingbird Cupcakes which had been very popular with everyone who tasted one. So I was keen to test out a big cake version of this “Southern US classic which takes banana cake up a notch,” according to Mary’s recipe introduction. Mary also states that “It makes for a moist, substantial cake, beautifully offset by the tangy cream cheese icing,”
Baking the Hummingbird cake would also be a great way of testing out some Sugar and Crumbs Banana Split icing sugar I had got in my baking cupboard. I had bought it before Christmas and wanted to use it in something but not had the chance. As banana is one of the key flavours in a Hummingbird Cake, along with pineapple, this banana flavour would be a perfect additional dimension to the cream cheese icing.
Into a large mixing bowl went all the dry ingredients. Self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, caster sugar all went in as well as some chopped walnuts. I mixed them all up together and then put them to one side to prepare the rest of the cake.
In another bowl I mashed up two large, ripe bananas. These were then added to another mixing bowl along with some drained and chopped pineapple chunks, two beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some sunflower oil.
Both bowls were combined together and dry mixture was folded in carefully. The mixture reminded me of a muffin batter. This was then divided between 2 greased 20cm/ or 8″ diameter circular tins. The cake baked for about 25 minutes in my fan oven. When it came out it had risen beautifully and smelled fabulous. I went off to put some laundry away and to do some hoovering. By the time I’d finished that job it was time to take the cakes out of the tin and put them on a wire rack to cool down.
The Hummingbird cake does not need much decoration. It’s all in the taste of the cake. In the illustraion Mary uses a cream cheese frosting for the filling and the top of the cake. I wanted to add a little bit more yet I didn’t want to overdo things. In the end I chopped up some more walnuts and sprinkled them on top to finish off.
The cream cheese frosting is made with softened butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar. As mentioned before I substituted the plain icing sugar for the Sugar and Crumbs’ Banana Split icing sugar. I left out the vanilla extract. This gave the cream cheese mixture a delicate banana flavouring. It was wonderfully creamy and so easy to spread on the cake.
As the icing contained cream cheese I chose to put the cake in the fridge to keep and this helped enormously.
A huge hit with everyone but the worst thing was that I kept craving more. I longed to have another slice and having the cake in the house tested my weakening willpower to breaking point.Happy Baking!
Just before Christmas I was contacted by Hammerson, the developers behind the new Victoria Gate retail development currently being built in the centre of Leeds. They are working in partnership with Zest Health For Life and the Leeds East Food Bank on a project which will make a huge difference to thousands of struggling families in Leeds. Zest Health For Life is a non- profit making organisation which helps disadvantaged people in the Leeds area by giving them chance to take part in activities to improve people’s social, mental, physical and emotional well being.
Over the past three or so years there has been an increasing need for food banks as families struggle to get by due to many circumstances. As a result there are more and more food banks which are providing a lifeline for disadvantaged families. There was also a need for providng people with help in giving ideas for nutritious, yet cheap mealthat would also be tempting to eat. So Victoria Gate has linked up and created a fantastic cookbook which is given out at the food bank.
To find out more about Hammerson’s partnership with Zest Health For Life and the cookbook, read about it here:
The book “Simple Cooking On A Shoe String” is an ideal starter book to give beginners a start in cooking healthy meals that won’t cook the earth. In the ingredients list against every recipe the foods that are usually put in the food parcels are highlighted in bold type. These are usually tinned or packet foods.
I was asked if I would like to take part in a Charitable Food Blogger Challenge by either using inspiration from my own recipes or recipes from the recipe book. I agreed and was sent a food parcel full of ingredients to take up the challenge.
I was impressed with the ingredients I got in the food parcel. I knew that I could bake quite a few things with the ingredients provided, they would stretch quite far and that by including oats, wholemeal flour and bananas the bakes would be healthier than, say a cupcake with buttercream. Not only were there ingredients containing the slow release carbs, such as the oats, they were also cheap ones. I did have to add my own butter but I used Sainsbury’s own value brand of unsalted butter which at the time of writing was 95p for a 250g packet. I also used golden syrup in one of the recipes and this is also a cheap standby to have in your storecupboard.
First of all I chose to bake the Spicy Banana Bread in the Cooking On A Shoestring recipe book. According to the ingredients list you might get sugar and oats in a parcel from the food bank but the other ingredients are cheap to buy and with the exception of the bananas will keep so you could make it again and again. The recipe introduction says “bananas are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre. You can use overripe bananas for this recipe so that they don’t go to waste. You could also use less sugar as the mixed spice already gives this recipe a delicious flavour.The bread could be eaten as a snack or at breakfast time”
The banana loaf was simple to bake in a 24cm size loaf tin and was easily stored in an airtight tin. It cut beautifully up into slices and tasted delicious with or without butter spread on it. My husband actually said he preferred it to other banana loaves he had tasted as it wasn’t too overpoweringly sweet.
With the remaining ingredients I had a brainstorming session and thought about what I’ve baked in the past using oats as a main ingredient and came across a wonderful recipe in another of my favourite cookbooks, one which I’ve bought for my children The Hungry Student Easy Baking by Charlotte Pike. In this book there is a recipe for banana and chocolate chip cookies. As I had quite a bit of sugar left and one banana left in the box I thought I would adapt the recipe to suit what was in the box. So instead of the chocolate chips in the original recipe I used 100g of oats and instead of the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda I used the wholemeal flour given to me in the food parcel.
The result was 18 deliciously chewy and moreish cookies whiche went down extremely well with the whole family. I had to add 90g of my own butter but I didn’t need anything else to make them special.
After the cookies I realised I still had enough ingredients left to bake some flapjacks. I combined 175g butter with 175g of the sugar in the parcel and to this I also added my own golden syrup of about 150g. Otherwise the flapjack wouldn’t have stuck together. When this had melted in a large pan I then added 500g porridge oats and some ground mixed spice. I reckon one or two of the bananas in the parcel might have worked here so long as it had been mashed in.
Unfortunately my daughter turned the oven temperature up to well over 200oC after I had asked her to turn it up. I was refering to some music playing in the kitchen, but she thought I meant the oven! I realised when I thought I could smell burning only 10 minutes after putting the flapjacks in the oven. So down went the temperature but they weren’t my usual chewy offerings. Anyhow I did find one of them was delicious with a cup of coffee at breakfast the next day!
After all this I still had a tiny bit of sugar and oats, some baking powder, some of the vanilla essence, some mixed spice and some of the flour left! It just goes to show that you can create some delicious things with store cupboard ingredients and that they don’t have to cost the earth either. I thought I could use the remaining ingredients to make pancakes and one member of my family could have porridge for breakfast.
You can find out about the work of Zest Health For Life at the link to their website here:
I have a long running diet problem. My weight goes up and down by the same two stone like a yo-yo. The reason why? I have a sweet tooth. I had a long chat with my hubby and he said the answer is simple: “Stop baking!” To me, to stop baking would be like someone who loved playing football to be told they couldn’t play or even watch a game. Baking is therapy to me, a real stress buster and I hope when my children are older to go back to baking cakes professionally. It is something I enjoy doing and although I need a lot of practice in some techniques, I like to think I’m good at what I do.
In the meantime, I had ripe bananas to use up. The kids never seem to eat them as much as they used to and I didn’t want them to go to waste. It was last Friday afternoon and we had to be up on the Saturday morning at 3am as my daughter was setting off on a school trip to New York. This involved being at school for a very early coach trip down to Heathrow. I don’t know about you but I can’t eat that early on in the morning, just a cup of tea or coffee is fine for me. Same goes for my daughter but I was worried about her not eating breakfast. So these muffins seemed a perfect idea.
The original recipe for the muffins is in the breakfast chapter of the second Hairy Bikers’ diet book “Eat For Life” which is the yellow one published last year.
The muffins are so easy to make and as Si and Dave say “These little beauties are lower in fat and sugar than the standard and are still nicely naughty. They don’t have the same texture as a shop bought muffin but they are still tasty and filling”
At only 119 calories a muffin they would be ideal for anyone who needed to be out and about for an early start and then you could eat something like a piece of fruit later on in the morning to keep you going. Or if you’re like me, you’d drool at the smell of a bacon buttie…..
To bake the muffins I started off by sifting self raising flour, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. This was then mixed up and to this I added some grated lemon zest. After this I added in two medium mashed bananas and some milk. Then this was followed by some sultanas.
The lower fat content is created by using egg whites only in the mixture and there isn’t any other fat such as butter or oil added. The sweetness comes from the flavour of the bananas and there is a sprinkling of brown sugar on top of the muffins themselves. It’s a whole tablespoon that has to be divided amongst 12 muffins though!
I had to whisk three egg whites with my electric stick whisk until stiff peaks formed then this was quickly folded into the mixture until it was easily incorporated. Into the oven they went after spooning the mixture carefully into some muffin cases. The ones shown in the picture come from Waitrose, love the pretty pastel colours. There were green ones in the packet as well but they’ve all gone now!
The muffins baked for about 20 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven. I was desperate to eat one but had to wait until the next morning. My daughter didn’t eat one but my son and I enjoyed one. I was pleasantly surprised. They did taste different from the muffins you get in the shops but then again I don’t really like them anyway. Much too sweet for me and too big! These tasted delicious and not like “diet” food. Just the right size too.
I’m now well under way with baking from this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge. This morning was time to get started on the second recipe, which sounded good in theory being the school holidays. But in practice probably not a good idea to bake when you’re in a hurry, you need to be somewhere else and you need to be on hand somewhere to be a taxi service to your children. We had been up to Edinburgh the day before on a trip and I had not slept well on Sunday and last night, probably managed 4 hours sleep. Coupled with an uncomfortable train ride in a “quiet” carriage full of mobiles ringing, iPads playing films out loud and a screaming baby on the way to Edinburgh yesterday I was ready for my bed. But sleep just wouldn’t come. Maybe tonight? Here’s hoping!
Anyway, enough of me prattling on. Back to the job in hand. Baking. I shouldn’t be baking after letting my diet slip over the past few weeks and yesterday I ate loads of rubbish. At least my family like banana and chocolate so these flapjack type bars should go down a treat. It was time to bake the Banana and Chocolate Chip Bars from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. Mary says in the introduction that these are “a really healthy snack. The banana in the middle could be replaced by ready to eat dried apricots,” Both my daughter and I like dried apricots so that’s a great variation to try in the future.
As I began to get the ingredients out to start baking, my son came downstairs and asked what I was making. I told him what they were and he said “Eww, gross!” Funny how the recipe was in the Baking For Children chapter. This obviously doesn’t extend to grumpy teens who only eat breakfast when nagged to!
So first things first, I got a square cake tin greased. Mary says to use a shallow 7″ size one, my smallest one was 8″ square and deep. Oh dear. After that I mixed together self raising flour, porridge oats and brown sugar.
Some butter was then added into the bowl and rubbed into the porridge oats mixture to make it turn out a bit like breadcrumbs.
Now this is where I was distracted and didn’t read the recipe properly. This was my fault as the recipe was a simple one and I should have read it carefully. The porridge mixture was meant to go in the tin like a sandwich with the sliced banana in between. I made a complete mistake and put all the mixture in at once like you do with a flapjack!
The bars were baked in the oven for about 25 minutes. I was worried about the banana burning but that wasn’t a problem. After the right time out came the bars and I let them cool down.
I really enjoyed baking these bars and they would have looked a lot more attractive if I’d read the recipe properly. I could have got away with the rustic look with the extra chocolate on but because I was rushing (why do I always have to bake when I’m short of time?) I ended up with a very messy finish. I’m sure Mary Berry would have said “Could do better,” if she had seen them.
The appearance didn’t put me off, I ate one with a cup of tea in the afternoon and to be honest it tasted much better being kept in the fridge. Even my son who had turned his nose up at them enjoyed the bars and they had all disappeared by Wednesday!