Birthday Banana Cake!

Another banana bread?! There are, it seems, an infinite number of recipes and variations on the banana bread theme, and this one was created on a special day – the birth-day, of my third beautiful grandson! So it’s a birthday banana cake!

I wondered what kind of cake to make and looked around the kitchen.. lo and behold a bunch of bananas just about to go past their best! And I also had some dates from a while back. A quick search on the internet for a recipe – there are lots – and I found just the thing.

This iteration is banana-date-walnut with a touch of honey. I made a few tweaks, and didn’t do the honey/ walnut glaze, as I thought that was a bit too much.

The recipe is from the BBC Good Food website and can be found by clicking here. So what did I tweak? Well I made it in a loaf tin not a Bundt tin. The main reason for that was that the loaf tin was to hand, and the Bundt tin was buried somewhere in the cupboard. Also it’s a pain greasing the Bundt tin so that the cake reliably turns out without sticking. I added a bit of nutmeg as well as the cinnamon. And I changed the method a bit.

Here is my version:


175g softened butter

200g self raising flour

1 tsp cinnamon & some grated nutmeg – maybe 1/2 tsp

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

100g light muscovado sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

3 tbsp clear honey – mine wasn’t clear but I don’t think it makes any difference

2 overripe bananas – 350g with the skins on – I used 3 & 1/2 small ones

200g stoned dates, chopped

50g walnuts, chopped


Heat the oven to Mark 3 (but I actually set mine closer to 4); 160C or 140C fan. Line a non stick loaf tin with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Mix in the vanilla and honey. Add the flour and spices. Mix in the dates, walnuts and banana. Mix well. Turn into the tin.

Bake for 50-60 minutes – check with a cake tester or skewer – it should come out clean, and the cake should just be pulling away from the sides of the tin.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely.

The cake was very delicious. The dates are like little nuggets of caramel dotted about, with the slightly crunchy texture of the walnuts an excellent contrast. I think a bit more cinnamon and other spices wouldn’t go amiss next time. Altogether a very nice recipe, and quick to prepare. Recommended!

As I mentioned in my previous post my ability to process sugar is not good, and I have pre diabetes. A cake like this with sugar, honey, dates and flour is not a great addition to my diet, sadly. However there are proven ways of reducing the blood glucose spike that will inevitably occur after eating a piece of cake. So with a little adjustment I can have my cake AND eat it (albeit only occasionally). Tonight I had my slice as dessert after dinner, and then went for a 30 minute walk. I am hoping that this is enough to prevent a spike. The last couple of months have been an interesting learning curve, and I may well write a post at some point about some of the fascinating things I have learned. The main one is that running a lot is not enough!


Cherry-berry pie

Two years ago I wrote about a cherry pie I made with morello cherries from my friend Margaret’s garden. I can’t believe it’s 2 years ago! This week Margaret kindly gave me some cherries again, and I made another pie. What is it about pie? Even the word pie is a good word, it feels warm to say. It conjures images of wholesomeness, of something that is more than just pastry and filling, more than just good to eat. Pie is going to make you happy, always.

Mmm cherries 🍒

I made a bigger pie this time, and augmented the cherries with strawberries and a few blackcurrants. I made the same quick flaky pastry using a mix of vegetarian fats this time – butter, Stork and Cookeen – what I had in the fridge really. No lard! Because I dislike overly sweetened food I didn’t add too much sugar, and the filling was pleasingly tart.

It was a good combination!
The pie says “eat me – and you will be happy!” Believe the pie – what it says is true.

Served with vanilla ice cream pie is one of life’s small joys. Homemade pie is even better. Fresh pie, just still warm, crispy pastry and juicy filling. Anything better?!

Thank you Margaret for the cherries, they always seem to inspire a pie!


Magic Custard Cake

One day recently I was pottering around the internet, as you do, clicking semi randomly and following links from place to place, when this recipe from Anne McDonald in Australia caught my eye. Unusual, and yet also familiar as it reminded me of an old school pudding from Delia Smith: Lemon surprise pudding. Delia’s recipe is in her Complete Cookery Course, originally published in 1978. I found a similar one (same name too) on the BBC site by Jane Grigson here. It’s not quite the same as the Delia one and I haven’t tried it. Anyway the idea of a cake mixture that separates while cooking into a sauce or a custard is not totally new to me. I’ve never thought of it as a cake before though, just as a hot pudding. It’s really good as a hot pudding by the way!

So the magic of the cake is that the mixture separates itself into layers – sponge on top and custard below. Since cake and custard is a classic combo (think of all those school dinners with their delicious puddings!) I just had to give it a go. You need 500ml (or a pint) of milk, and since there was a bit of a milk lake in the fridge it seemed the time was right.

It’s a straightforward process making the batter, although I would recommend an electric whisk for the egg yolks and sugar, and the egg whites. Don’t be put off by the very liquid state of the cake batter – it does literally pour into the tin. It is supposed to do that and it will bake into a proper cake.

Gentle whisking of the egg whites into the mixture helps keep it fluffy.
Before trimming
Edges trimmed off (yes I ate the other edge 😂)
You can see the 3 layers here; sponge, soft custard and a slightly firmer layer at the bottom.

While I was mixing I thought about making a version based on that other school dinner classic – chocolate sponge and chocolate custard… Do you think it would work? I think it probably would, so I might have a go at trying that and see what happens!

Magic custard cake – I’m pretty pleased with the results!

Cherry frangipane tart

Cherry season is in full swing, and that’s really good news because I love cherries. I can eat cherries like children eat sweeties. I also like cooking with cherries. Quiches have been a thing in our family in the last few weeks, with the family WhatsApp chats highlighting some great looking savoury tarts. I made a caramelized onion and olive quiche a few weeks ago that worked very well. But today is all about a sweet dessert tart. Almost exactly a year ago I wrote this post about cherry pie. Those pies were made with sour cherries, but today’s tart is made with sweet dessert cherries.

Frangipane or sometimes frangipani, is a filling for many different tarts, and is made from eggs, butter, sugar and almonds. It’s rich.

I find making pastry very relaxing. Although many people buy pastry ready made I rarely do, unless it is puff pastry which is a bit of a bind to make yourself. Many people make pastry in a food processor, and for years I did too. Then my old one broke, and the new one does just not mix it like it should. So I have gone back to the old method of rubbing the fat into the flour with my fingers, and mixing it together with a knife. And it is a very calm process. You cannot hurry it or else the whole thing blobs up. (Two family members share a guilty pleasure – eating raw pastry. Yuk. My left over pastry goes in the bin or is rolled and cut into shapes and baked into little biscuits.)

Stoning cherries is also very meditative, and easy with a cherry stoner tool thingy. Making a tart is not difficult but it does take some time, as each element has to be made, and then the whole thing assembled. But the satisfaction when it’s finally done, and sitting on the table ready to serve makes it all worth it!

I used this recipe from the BBC GoodFood website, which worked very well. I did do some very slight tweaking. I didn’t have any cherry liqueur, as used in the original recipe, but I did have a bottle of homemade damson vodka. I used 2 tablespoons of that in the frangipane and also to loosen up the damson and cherry jelly (also homemade but not by me), that I used for glazing the cherries at the end. I think the damsons give a certain depth of flavour to the cherries.

I served the tart with ice cream and (or) creme fraiche. It was delicious!

Key Lime Pie – Happy 4th July weekend!

Key lime pie is very American isn’t it? And yesterday was Independence Day – I hope all my readers in the USA had a happy and peaceful day. For me Key lime pie is associated with Florida and the happy holidays I have spent there with our friends. It’s a tradition – first grocery shop includes a big pie, which we then have for dessert every night for a few nights!

Key lime pie bars – made by me!

Last year my friend gave me a bottle of Key lime juice to bring home, and somehow I have only just now got round to using it. Don’t know how that happened, because making a Key lime pie with ready made juice is as easy as – pie!

Yummy 😋

So what’s the difference between an ordinary lime and a Key lime? Well part of the clue is in the name – the Key lime was traditionally grown in the Florida Keys, and I guess that’s why you can buy a Key lime pie just about everywhere in Florida. The lime is sometimes known as a Mexican or West Indian lime, and has a distinctive flavour compared to the more ubiquitous Persian lime. I’m sure fresh lime juice is always superior in taste than bottled but as Key limes are smaller than regular limes you need to juice about 20 to make a pie. Hmmmm. It’s way easier and quicker to use the bottled stuff, and to be honest it looked and smelled like the real thing.

Regular limes on the left.
Image from this site, which has an interesting article about why key limes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be in the 21st century…

I decided to make a bar version of the pie, mainly because portion control is a whole lot easier that way. It is simplicity itself to make, and I used this recipe from the Martha Stewart website. As it happens this weekend there was a really good Felicity Cloake ‘how to make … the perfect key lime pie’. Unfortunately today I can’t link to it. But in a few days it will be available on the Guardian website I’m sure. (It’s almost exactly the same as the Martha Stewart one in fact.)

Everything you need
Ready to go in the oven for 10 minutes, just to set the filling. Then it has to chill for four hours.

This is definitely something I’d make again – even if I have to squeeze the limes by hand 😉.

Decorated with piped whipped cream and a few shreds of lime zest.