Caramel Banana Cake

Mornings are distinctly autumnal now, cold and crisp, with a haze of mist hovering over the seafront. I’m excited about blackberry picking, windfall apples, and cosy nights in.

I spent the weekend luxuriating in precious free time, and baked banana bread.

I’ve noticed my focus in baking has really shifted this year, and I haven’t had much time for complex French patisserie-style recipes, focusing instead on quicker, more familiar cakes and treats. I suppose I’m starting to think that those recipes aren’t worth all the effort and faff. The reward at the end is not necessarily equal to the work. Let’s face it, there are so many stunning patisseries out there, perhaps it’s time to let others do the hard work!

That’s not to say I won’t always have room for a home-baked cake, it’s just more likely to come as two layers rather than six, and one cream filling rather than three!

Anyways, this banana bread has already been baked in several incarnations. I baked one last weekend which was so popular at work I spend all week willing my bananas to ripen more quickly so I could bake another one. My first run was with all dark brown sugar which turned out quite treacly, almost like gingerbread. The second time I changed it to light brown sugar – both are really tasty.

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This version is mostly based on Mary Berry’s banana bread recipe, but I had some leftover caramel buttercream in the freezer so threw that in too, which added a whole extra level of caramel flavour and was scrumptious. Granted, not everybody has a handy spoonful of caramel buttercream lying about so you could probably substitute a spoonful of ordinary caramel without any problems.

Caramel Banana Cake

  • 100g butter/margarine
  • 175g dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salted caramel buttercream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a loaf tin. Beat the butter, sugar, and salted caramel buttercream together until soft and fluffy, then whisk in the eggs followed by the mashed bananas. Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda, fold into the batter, then fold in the milk. Bake for around 45 minutes until risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool, and wrap up overnight. Tastes best the next day (if you can wait that long!).

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Easter Biscuits

I went to a wedding recently, as one of the first of my schoolfriends got hitched. I’m at that age where this coming summer, and the next (and the next after that) will be a mass of multiple weddings I’m sure.

So along with wedding season starting, work being busy as usual, and some exciting exciting news I will share shortly, Easter has basically arrived before I barely realised it was Pancake Day. I bought a packet of marizpan with the full intent of creating a Simnel Cake, and then those plans kind of fell by the wayside.

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So my big news?

I’m finally leaving London….yay!

In a few months, I will be decamping for life by the seaside, and I can’t wait. Although there’s plenty I love about the city, I’m not a Londoner born and bred, and I’m hoping for shorter commutes by foot rather than car, and change away from the frayed tempers, stress, and constant impatient bustle.

So while I continue to bustle (because I haven’t left yet) I’ve baked something very simple instead – these curranty, spiced, golden-brown Easter biscuits, with a light dusting of sugar.

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It’s an oh so English biscuit, originating from the West country, delicious, yet only rolled out once a year to counteract all that chocolate.

There’s such fun in kneading out the black-studded dough, deftly cutting out circles before it sticks to the table, sprinkling the kitchen with brown sugar, and whipping them out, burning your fingertips as you scatter them onto a cooling rack.

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Traditionally, the biscuits are made with oil of Cassia, but I made do with dried spices. They are also supposed to be stamped into rather big biscuits measuring approximately 10cm across, but I kept mine bite-size, perfect for nibbling on with a hot drink.

I wouldn’t rush to make these again, as they taste super similar to the supermarket fruit shortcake biscuits. If you do fancy giving them a spin, then I used a Mary Berry recipe which can be found here. The only changes I made from the written recipe were replacing ordinary flour with spelt flour, and caster sugar with light brown sugar.

Over the next few months, I’m going to be extraordinarily busy with work and getting ready for my move, so perhaps there will be a bit less time for baking and blogging. I will do my best to throw in all my experiments in the kitchen whenever I get the chance, and A has suggested perhaps more savoury food might be in order. As I may have mentioned before, I am pretty crap at non-baking related kitchen activity, so keep watching this space for some future kitchen disasters *ahem* genius creations!

Berry Good Biscuits

Autumn is on its way. I see it in the riot of colour outdoors, the deep red of fruit hanging ripe on the trees, the golden colour of the September sun. I feel every year a slight heaviness that comes with the bittersweet knowledge that Winter lies just around the corner, and soon the nights will be long and dark, and the days grey and wet.

On the other hand, Autumn is a season that is perfect for baking. You have the glories of free windfalls, and garden bounty and it’s no longer so hot you feel reluctant turning the oven on. I’m intending to make the most of the months of September and October this year. More time spent enjoying the outdoors, and coming home to deliciously simple treats like these Mary Berry Fork Biscuits.

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I make these regularly, and in various incarnations, but the original biscuits have never had a starring role on the blog before. I’ve baked it from Mary Berry’s original measurements in ounces as I reckon she’s old-school, and it is a very easy ratio of numbers to remember:

2 sugar : 4 butter : 5 flour

Interestingly, looking back at the recipe, the measurements written out in metric add up to a slightly different ratio of:

1 sugar : 2 butter : 3 flour

The latter ratio sounds more similar to that of a traditional shortbread biscuit recipe. The recipe in ounces will produce a biscuit that spreads slightly more due to the higher butter content, and to be honest, tastes a little bit yummier too.

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Despite looking rather small and unexciting, these fork biscuits are absolutely delicious. You can’t stop eating them, trust me!

Fork Biscuits

Makes between 16-20 biscuits

  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 oz caster sugar
  • 5 oz self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Mix the butter, salt and sugar together with a spoon until just combined. Then stir through the flour to form a dough. Roll out small balls, then press the impression of the tines of a fork into the top of the biscuits.

Bake the biscuits for approximately 12-15 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Allow to cool on the baking tray, then transfer onto a cooling rack until cold. Keep in an airtight tin.

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