As I set up a cocoa-dusted tile under the skylight in our attic room, ready for a rich, chocolatey banana loaf, cream and hazelnuts, it struck me how much writing this blog has become ingrained within my very bones. From developing recipes, to jotting down measures on the butter-splattered pages of my notebook, and the photography and digital journey I love so much, the process of maintaining it has helped me achieve focus in almost every aspect of life.
So you can imagine how much taking a six-month blog break for wedding planning bothered me.
Of course the only way to make things right is with Banana and Nutella Hazelnut Cake. When it’s baking in the oven, the entire house smells like the Sunday afternoons of my childhood when mum and I would be experimenting with flavours and egg replacements. This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk which slightly caramelises in the oven, filling the entire house with the smell of how Banoffee Pie tastes. As for the egg replacer, the bananas, cornflour, baking powder, cocoa and vinegar work in such a way that the cake rises and holds its shape like a trooper.
A problem I often encounter with loaf cakes is that the longer baking time makes for a drier texture. I recently read in a wonderful book on French pâtisserie, À la Mère de Famille (the renowned Parisian confiserie) that if you wrap the cakes in cling film whilst they’re still warm from the oven, they remain moist both outside and in. Try it.
Baking Nutella right into this cake means there’s no need for drizzles or icings – it really is sweet enough. Simply dusted with cocoa powder, it’s perfect with a cup of tea or served slightly warm with a generous splash of ice-cold single cream.
Eggless Banana and Nutella Hazelnut Cake
Makes 2 loaves
2 medium bananas
1 x 397g tin sweetened condensed milk
220g extra-fine cake flour (you can use plain flour if you can’t get this)
15g good-quality cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)
20g coarsely-ground hazelnuts, toasted
1 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cornflour
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and line two 1lb loaf tins (16 x 11 x 7cm H. (6¼" x 4¼" x 2¾"). I used this one from Lakeland.
2. Place the bananas in a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.
3. In a stand mixer or large bowl, add the condensed milk, banana puree, Nutella, melted butter and white vinegar. Whisk until completely smooth and combined.
4. In a separate bowl, sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and cornflour.
5. Add the cake flour to the wet mixture in three stages, whisking until smooth each time. Be careful not to overwork the batter or your cake will be heavier than it should be. Finally, fold in the toasted hazelnuts.
6. Divide the batter between the greased and lined loaf tins and smooth out the tops. Bake in the over for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remember not to open your oven door during cooking – this will deflate your cakes and make them sink in the middle.
7. When the cakes are fully baked, run a sharp knife around the edge of the tin to loosen it. Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack and after 20 minutes, wrap each cake in cling film and allow to cool completely this way. As these are naked, non-glazed cakes, this will ensure the loaves remain moist.
8. To serve, dust lightly with cocoa powder. My favourite way to eat this is with a cup of chai or with a generous splash of pouring cream straight on top.