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Banana Cake

I had some very elderly bananas left from my packed lunches, that were far too brown to eat but not yet so far gone to be binned. So I thought I’d be brave and try cooking a banana cake to use them up. It’s not a recipe I’ve done before, as baking is really not something I normally ever do. But I looked on line and found a recipe for Easy Banana Cake which made it sound very simple. So I thought I’d give it a go.

The trouble is that I’m not used to baking, and I really don’t like the short hand that is used in recipes. Delia Smith is pretty good – she gives exact weights and times, and basically treats her readers like idiots, leaving nothing to chance or left unspoken between the lines. If I’ve got a set of scales and a kitchen timer then I can generally cope with one of her recipes. But too many cook books and recipes assume a basic level of knowledge and indeed competence in their readers, and I find that difficult.

It didn’t start well. “Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin”. Hmm. I have a loaf tin, but I’ve no idea what size it is. It certainly doesn’t weigh 2lb empty. And line it with what? I’ve got very old rolls of both greasproof paper and baking parchment, but I don’t know what the difference is. And how tidy do you have to be lining it? I bunged in some greasproof paper and hoped for the best.

The next step was to melt the butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a pan. Butter isn’t a problem, and I had half a pack of caster sugar in the cupboard. I was sure I had some vanilla extract somewhere, and after a search I found it. It had a Best Before date of 2008. I think Christopher must have been the last person to use it! But it still smelled ok so I put it in the saucepan with the butter and sugar.

Once that was melted, I had to stir in two mashed very ripe bananas. I wasn’t sure how ripe was acceptable. What about the black bits where it’s really gone extremely ripe? And how big a banana anyway? And mashed to what level of consistency? I decided to use the not-black bits of three medium sized bananas and reckoned that was roughly equivalent to two whole ones.

The next step was to add in a beaten egg and mix well. It didn’t specify the size of egg, but I decided I could live with that. Then I had to stir in self raising flour and milk. I clearly don’t use self raising flour very often, as the packet had a Best Before of 2016! Not as far out of date as the vanilla extract, but not good. But there were no weevils or similar in it, so I thought it should be ok. I did think that perhaps the self raising aspects might have lost their potency on the shelf, so I found some baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and decided to add a bit of each. They both expired in 2015, but I was beyond caring at that point. I poured it into the loaf tin and bunged it in the oven for the stated time.

The final instruction was “Leave to cool and enjoy”. But should you turn it out of the tin while it was still hot? Or leave it to cool in the tin? And when should I remove the greasproof paper? When it was hot or after it had cooled? And I had a vague feeling that wire racks might be involved.

After all that angst and stress, I can report that the banana cake rose very well (perhaps the additional raising agents were still potent!) and tastes good. But I’m not sure it’ll be something I’ll be repeating very often!