Banana cake with pecan nuts

A banana cake is just like banana bread, only better, and it’s one of the best ways to begin your personal adventure into baking. Not only do you get a brilliant cake in a pretty short time, but
the opportunity to modify and enhance the basic recipe is just begging for your good ideas.

 To bake a banana cake, you will need:

  • 125g butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 ripe bananas
  • 225g brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence or 1 vanilla pod
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 50g chocolate chips (optional)

And on top …

  • 50g shelled pecans
  • 20g brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon, or a generous pinch ground cinnamon

First, a confession: I am not a happy baker. Baking is dependent on too many variables, unlike regular cooking where imagination is king and enterprise your personal gift to your guests. So take note, you who are about to bake for the first time: obey the rules and measure with care.

Record your improvements or variations to the recipe in case of total cosmic failure. It’s crucial to know what went wrong.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Have you noticed, by the way, that nearly every recipe, regardless of ingredients, requires 180°C? Who decided this?

Moving on. Choose your bananas. Ripe is essential, over-ripe a question of taste, bruised fruit, out of the question.

Measure and then pour the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir lightly. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter
and then add the brown sugar. Mix for two minutes, then add the eggs, which should be at room temperature, one at a time, with the mixer running. Follow with the peeled bananas. Mix until the ingredients are well dispersed.

Now for the vanilla. You have two options. One is rational and inexpensive; the other is completely over-the-top. The rational choice is vanilla essence. The over-the-top choice – which is how I do it – is to use a real live vanilla pod.

Cut the pod north to south and remove the seeds with a skewer. Add these to the mixture and stir them in well. (Don’t discard the empty pod! Store it with a kilogram of sugar for as long as you like and enjoy the new flavour of the sugar.)

Gently stir in the dry ingredients for as short a time as possible. A couple of lumps won’t matter, but too much air undermines the required post-baking density. If you’re using chocolate chips, add them now. Pour this batter into a well-greased loaf-shaped baking tin.

Coarsely chop the pecan nuts and scatter them over the top of the batter. Sprinkle 20g of brown sugar over the surface, along with a discreet scattering of cinnamon.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Near the end of baking time, stick a stainless steel skewer into the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Remove and place on a rack to cool.

Fans in love with excess should consider serving this delicious confection with a tablespoon of vanilla ice cream.