Today I have another chapter for you in what has become the low gluten, spelt baking zone of my blog. But this time, I’m not going to give you a long lecture on bananas. No, not at all, I’m just going to stick to the facts and the recipe. But I will say, make sure your bananas are brown and very, very soft before you try and make this cake.
And here’s a quick photo of one, y’know, just for reference.
OK, that’s better.
Cake or bread?
So, banana cake, or as most of the world would say, banana bread. Why does everyone call it bread? Does it have yeast in it? No. Does it have water in it? No. Does it look and taste like a cake? Yes. The only trait that many banana ‘breads’ share with traditional bread is baking them in a loaf tin, which by no means makes it bread either.
The reason for this lies in the term ‘quick bread’, which defines a baked product that uses leavening (rising) agents other than yeast or eggs. This seems like a complete misnomer to me, because bread conjures up imagery of food that meets your fundamental existential needs, a cornerstone of life since ancient times. So using it to describe banana cake simply seems to be a guilt free linguistic vessel to deliver cake without having to use that dietary four letter word itself.
Of course, the Lord’s prayer says “give us this day our daily bread”, but if you’re going to eat banana ‘bread’ every day then you’ll need more than the lord’s help, more like a pair of trainers and a gym membership.
“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it”. Boris JohnsonThere’s a famous saying “You can’t have your cake and eat it”, meaning that it you should never expect all outcomes in a situation to go your way, so using the example of a cake, you can either possess a cake, or you can eat it. You can’t do both. I’ve always felt this saying is stern, uncompromising and a quick way to cut people’s hopes down. I prefer Boris Johnson’s recent comment “My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it”. Taken both literally and abstractly, it’s a much more positive and optimistic outlook on life.
Back to the Baking
Calling banana cake ‘bread’ does it a dis-service. Bread is often a vehicle to carry other flavours or ingredients, to dip in soup, soak up sauces, or as the Earl of Sandwich realised, it’s a great container for putting other foods in. Cake is a treat, something special with a distinct sweet flavour of it’s own to savour alone or pair with complimentary sauces and creams, not something to slice up and slap some ham, cheese and pickle in. So, to my mind, a baked product such as this recipe with eggs, sugar, sweet flavourings and baking powder clearly resides in the cake territory and anything else would be misleading.
Now, I’m a modest chap, not one to blow my own trumpet, but I’ve spent many years assessing and subconsciously logging all the different banana cakes I’ve eaten or made. I feel that I can happily say that the one here is possibly the best banana cake in the world. Yes, I know, it’s a big claim, but I suppose the only way you’ll find out whether it’s true is to scroll down to the recipe, download the recipe card, and make it for yourself.
By creating this with spelt flour it seems to create a certain lightness of touch with a rich, tender crumb, aided by the use of yoghurt. The only embellishment above being a pure banana cake is the use of coconut, but that’s a hint of a flavour that pairs fantastically with bananas. And if you really want to put the ‘icing on the cake’, then try my dark chocolate coconut glaze to make it utterly irresistable.
So, let’s drop the ‘bread’ and and get on with making some good, honest, scrumptious cake and recognise it for the sweet treat it is, being confidently pro-having it and pro-eating it.
Banana Coconut Cake – dairy free and low gluten
By Gavin Wren
Uses 1 20cm springform baking tin
200g wholemeal spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
25g desiccated coconut
225g light brown sugar
150ml groundnut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 medium eggs
250g over-ripe banana flesh, mashed
50g plain yoghurt (any type, you can use soya, traditional, coconut etc)
Optional extra: Dark chocolate coconut dairy free glaze.
Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin.
In one bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, then add the coconut and gently mix through.
In another bowl, mix together the sugar, oil and vanilla with a handheld mixer. Add the eggs and whisk until combined. Stir in the banana and yoghurt and mix well. Add the flour mixture from the other bowl and gently stir it all together until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, then place in the oven for 50 minutes. Make sure that a skewer or knife pushed into the middle of the cake comes out clean, if not, put back in the oven for 5 minutes at a time until it does. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack.