I’ve made this cake twice in the last week. Well, technically, I’ve made it three times, but the first time it was the Women’s Weekly Banana Passionfruit Cake, which I must have made a dozen times in the last six months, so after my first batch of the week I changed all the flavour ingredients and the type of sugar and flour I was using and the baking tin size and the icing, and decided that at this point it counted as a new recipe.
My problem is that I keep buying bananas and forgetting about them. Or ordering fruit and veggie boxes which contain lots of bananas and forgetting about those. And then one winds up with twelve old bananas and realises that there is now banana cake all the way to the horizon…
Fortunately, I now have two separate groups of scientists to feed. My Original And Best Scientists (TM) are on one floor, but I also have six labs worth of New Improved Scientists (Trademark Pending) on a different floor. So a couple of weeks ago, I started spending one day a week on the other floor, to try to get to know my new scientists.
The trouble with that idea, though, is that despite appearances, I’m actually quite shy and find the idea of starting conversations with new people to be mortifying and kind of shrivelling to the soul. New people are TERRIFYING. And, while my Original Scientists are by and large a bunch of extreme extroverts, which made the job of getting to know them very easy (and after nine years, they are pretty good friends and not scary at all), my New Scientists, while very nice, are a lot quieter and more reserved. (Rumour has it that a former Professor on that floor forbade speaking and noise of all kinds, and even though he is long gone, the area still has a library-like hush to it. But sadly, my brain chooses to interpret this as ‘aaaaaargh they all hate me and find me annoying like an overly-enthusiastic puppy!’)
Hence, cake. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I’ve been using cake as a social crutch since 1996 or so. I wasn’t a very good baker in 1996, but even then it was clear to me that if you are the one who turns up to parties bearing cake, this will cover a multitude of social awkwardnesses. Cake is a universal expression of goodwill. Maybe you just said that stupid, stupid thing, but on the other hand, you brought cake, so people will give you the benefit of the doubt. Also, cake is a conversation topic, so that’s your small talk covered! And you can hand it around the room, which allows you to gracefully enter and exit conversations! But, best of all, cake is an excuse to go hide in the kitchen at regular intervals (something I’ve been doing at parties since my teen years, which is why I’m still friends with the parents of all my schoolfriends)!
So last week, I made banana cake (with passionfruit) on Sunday for my Original Scientists, because I don’t want them to feel unloved, and then I made banana cake again (now with bonus chocolate and spices!) on Tuesday for my New Scientists in a blatant attempt to get them to like me (they do seem seem inclined to favour the incoming cake regime, though they may change their tune when they realise just how often that cake is banana cake at present).
And then yesterday I made banana cake a third time, because I still had bananas, and I took it to the lovely woman who works at the Islamic Book Council shop down the road from me to share with her colleagues and her customers, because cake is also how I say ‘my God, this is absolutely awful, I’m so sorry you are having to deal with it, and I hope you are OK.’
I mean, it is, really. I don’t know what else I can say about it other than that (though I’ve had a try at it over on my politics blog).
Anyway. It’s a good cake. It’s very chocolatey. And it does the job of saying ‘Hello. You are welcome here,’ whether ‘here’ refers to your Division or your suburb or your country.
(Also, I completely forgot to take pictures on any of the occasions I made this cake, mostly because I was organising a conference, which took place yesterday, and that has absorbed every part of my brain which hasn’t been watching the news and feeling horrified. So you will just have to imagine the cake. Or make it yourself, of course. It’s very easy, and extremely rewarding.)
Your Shopping List
- 125 g butter, softened
- 3/4 g caster sugar
- 1/4 cup pistachio cardamom sugar (see note)
- 1 egg
- 4 small or 3 medium overripe bananas
- 200g plain Greek yoghurt (or other set yoghurt)
- 85 g dark chocolate, chopped (Lindt 70% cooking chocolate is good here)
- 1 2/3 cups plain flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa + 1/4 cup cocoa for the icing
- 8 tsp baking powder (40 ml, which is half of a 1/3 cup measure) (note: I previously had this as 8 tsp because I was tired and got overexcited with my maths and kept doubling things. And it works with 8 tsp. But 4 really is sufficient)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup icing sugar
- 2-3 tbsp water
Now what will you do with it?
Preheat your oven to 175°C, and line a baking tin with baking paper – this cake goes in a 20cm round tin, but I’ve been making it in my largest loaf tin, because I’m now riding to work and it doesn’t bounce around too badly in my bicycle basket. I think the dimensions are about 28cm x 13cm, but honestly, this is a pretty forgiving cake. You could probably divide it between two small loaf tins, too.
OK, cream the butter and the sugar, including the pistachio cardamom sugar, and by cream I mean ‘I have made 14 banana cakes this year, I really am not doing this any more, smoosh the butter and sugar together until they are well combined and that’s good enough for me.’ The cake is going to be pretty fudgy and damp anyway and that’s how we like it.
Beat in the egg, then mash the bananas and beat them in, along with the yoghurt. Chop your chocolate into chunks – think choc-chip size – and add them.
Now add the flower, cocoa, baking powder and cinnamon, and mix everything together until well combined. Scrape and pour into a tin and bake for an hour or so, or until the cake passes the skewer test.
Cool in the tin for five minutes or so, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the icing, combine the icing sugar, cocoa and 2 tbsp water in a small bowl, and mix together until you have a paste. If your paste is too thick, add another tablespoon of water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Spread over the top of the cake – it will just cover it, this is not a big thick icing moment – and leave to set.
Share with someone who needs to feel welcome.
The cardamom-pistachio sugar is from Gewurzhaus and happened because I was out of caster sugar and I thought cardamom would work well here. If you don’t have this ingredient, or you are allergic to nuts, replace it with 1/4 cup brown sugar and a teaspoon of cardamom.
This cake contains all the allergens, though nuts are fairly easy to remove from it. It would work just fine with gluten-free flour mix, and since there is only one egg in it, you could probably replace that with anything from aquafaba to chia, add even more baking powder, and be just fine (I mean, mashed banana is often used as an egg substitute, for that matter…). I would expect that it would work with margarine and soy yoghurt, too.
I used Callebaut cocoa, because it is the very nicest and if I can afford it, that’s what I buy. Do try to get a good dark cocoa if you can, I think it makes the difference between this being a banana cake with chocolate and being a chocolate cake with banana, if you know what I mean.