Gochugaru Girl and Junior 2 made some cakes last night…
…in preparation for the rain we are forecast to have this afternoon.
Nothing, in the UK at least, dampens the spirit like rain. Having grown up in a tropical country, I would never complain about sunny days. However, the predicted thunderstorm will be such a welcome relief from the dry spell we have been having.
In biblical times, when people depended on rain for their crops and livestock, abundant rain at the right time was regarded as a blessing from God on his people. Conversely, the withholding of rain was regarded as a most severe punishment.
I thought of Greece (A Bankrupt Greece Is Struggling to Stay Afloat) when reading this Old Testament verse: The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. (Deuteronomy 28 v 12)
We live in ‘modern times’ now and for many, it is difficult to believe that God has anything to do with the sending or withholding of rain. Having revised the rain cycle with three of our children, in preparation for Geography tests, I can tell you all about evaporation, condensation and precipitation.
Yet we would be foolish to think for a moment that we have everything under our control. I realised this when my friend Mary asked why, using the banana cake recipe from this blog, she had one cake rise perfectly and another sink. I asked her the usual ‘cake doctor’ questions: did you use exactly the same-size cake tin for both cakes, did you bake the cakes at different times, did you place the cakes on the same oven shelf?
Mary said she doubled the recipe then divided the mixture into two cake tins. Both tins were identical, and went into the oven at the same time and on the same shelf. So I was really baffled, until I made some banana bread from the most perfect recipe I know of, and which is the basis for other banana cake recipes, and the same thing happened. Two cakes turned out beautifully and the other two rose a bit then gave up halfway, resulting in a solid lump of cooked batter.
There really is no reason for the cake to fail so here is our house banana cake recipe, that is to say, page 33 of Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess.* I have written down and tried many other banana cake recipes but page 33 is what I return to time and time again. In fact I bought a second copy of this book just in case the page in the original book becomes too marked…with handwriting and cake splashes.
In making this with Junior 2 last night, we tried to eliminate any mistakes that could result in a failed cake: although we omitted some ingredients (and reduced the quantity of sugar and salt), we didn’t make any substitutions and we measured everything meticulously. The slight difference is that we simply mixed all the ingredients in one large bowl, raised the oven temperature and lowered the cooking time.
Junior 2 made two cakes (with chocolate) and I made two (with poppy seeds). We doubled the recipe and divided the mixture into two tins: not only did we have too many ripe bananas, we also had friends we could give the cakes to.
The cakes turned out perfectly. The only thing I can think of that would make a difference is that we were careful in mixing all the ingredients, as the recipe calls for baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to be added to plain flour. I would imagine if the batter were not mixed thoroughly the uneven distribution of the raising agents would cause problems with the cake rising.
The following recipe is for one cake, but we almost always make more than one. I am not sure why Nigella calls it bread rather than cake, but I will call it by its original name as given in her book.
Finally, having produced perfect cakes, and having cut a slice for breakfast this morning, I found to my disappointment that it was the turn of the coffee machine to yield imperfect results. The first latte was flat and the second was what we have been having on a daily basis for nearly two weeks with our Korean friends who stayed with us recently. So nothing is as predictable as it appears to be, even the rain. It is now 1 pm London time and the skies are still sunny as I look out the window…
For the Banana Bread:
175 g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
125 grams unsalted butter, melted
110 g caster sugar
2 large eggs
300 g very ripe bananas (weighed without skin)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g plain chocolate, chopped OR 1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
You will also need a 2-lb loaf tin, lined with greaseproof paper.
How to Make:
Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas 4.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the mixing bowl.
Add the butter, sugar and eggs.
Beat on a medium speed until the ingredients are all thoroughly mixed together.
Add the mashed bananas and vanilla and continue beating for a minute.
Finally, stir in the chocolate or poppy seeds, if using.
Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the preheated oven for 55 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched. A metal skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
The cake will slice into 10 thick or 12 medium-sized pieces – perfect for a sunny day or a rainy day.
Spot the difference: regular vs flat latte
* How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus, ISBN: 978-0701189143