Sunday, 19 February 2012

Weekend baking delight: sugar-free banana cake

We just said goodbye to a couple of dear friends, who have a three-year-old girl, after a weekend of food, food and more food...this is what usually happens when friends stay over at ours, the whole weekend revolves around two questions: "what do we eat for lunch?" and "what do we eat for dinner?".
Both my husband and I immensely enjoy entertaining and cooking, it's our way of showing love to the people we care about.
This time, while the girls played nicely, I decided to make my favourite baby-friendly cake. It is so popular with little miss that it was her first birthday cake last summer.
This fruit cake is lovely, sweet and moist, yet it's sugar-free, as all the sweetness comes from the banana and the dried fruit. Using wholemeal floor adds fibre and makes this a very nutritious (and yummy!) treat.
I found this recipe in a book called "The baby-led weaning cookbook" when looking for healthy treats for my baby (as a new mum, you read every single label and often are shocked by the amount of junk you can find in pre-packed baby whenever I can, I make food for her myself). 
The book has lots of useful tips on weaning a baby without going through the fiddly (and messy) carrot purees, and although I didn't follow it word by word, I did take the advice very often with happy-baby results!

So here it is the Sugar-Free Banana Cake

  • butter for greasing
  • 100g self-raising wholemeal flour (or 100g plain flour with 2 tsp baking powder)
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 75g raisins (I use a mix of raisins and dried cranberries, they give a slightly tangy flavour to it)
  • 200g mashed ripe bananas
  • 50g walnuts, ground or finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten

for the filling / topping:
  • 200g cream cheese (but I use mascarpone, I think it works better)
  • 50-100g 100% fruit spread (I use strawberry or figs)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and lightly grease a 450g loaf tin.
Sift the flour  into a large bowl and add the spices.Cut or break the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Using your hands, or a food processor, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the dried fruit and make a well in the centre of the mixture.
In a separate bowl mash the banana, add the walnuts and stir in the egg. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and fold in.
Put the mixture into the cake tin and put it in the oven, turn down the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 and bake for 45-60 minutes. Let it cool on a rack.
You can serve it plain, with natural Greek yogurt, or you can mix the mascarpone and fruit spread and make a filling and topping for your lovely cake.

For little miss' birthday, I made this cake in a round cake tin using double doses and decorated it as a giant ladybird. It was my first attempt at cake decoration using sugar fondant. I made the fondant myself, and I don't know what went wrong (therefore I'm not giving you the recipe!), but the sugary paste started cracking horribly while I was laying it on the cake...the night before the party, my husband and I spent nearly 6 hours to decorate this cake, and thank goodness he is a very skilled guy when it comes to can see him in these pictures trying to painstakingly smooth the surface of the cake (and you start to understand how he often saves me from disastrous situations!)

The final result looked and tasted good, I thought, and you can see how not only the kids enjoyed it...

Our friend Alessandro with crumbles all over his face

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