I remember chatting with someone about improvising when cooking, and they said:
“The only thing you really need an exact recipe for is cake.”
And they are right if you are looking for the perfect Victoria sandwich, swiss roll or any cake that has a name. But if like me you sometimes just want a tasty home made cake, I really don’t think a recipe is necessary.
Here’s what I made this morning.
I noticed that I had three bananas that were getting over-ripe, and as I am waiting in for a delivery I decided to make a cake. I do usually have the essentials in my kitchen – flour, eggs and sugar – but after that I see what I have that I’d like to include. Today I had some sultanas, and some malt flour and softened rye grains that I had used for bread making, and I decided to include them.
This is the uncooked rye. It’s not something I’ve ever had before this week, but I’m experimenting with rye breads, so had some in the fridge that I had boiled until soft and then drained and salted.
So back to my cake method.
I line a loaf tin with baking paper and turn on the oven to about 180 C. In a mixing bowl I mash up the bananas with a couple of spoons of brown sugar. You don’t need much sugar as there is sweet fruit in the cake. I add some flour, a large teaspoon of baking powder to make sure there is some rise to the cake, a couple of generous glugs of cooking oil (not heavily flavoured olive oil: just something light), two eggs a large spoonful of barley malt, some sultanas that I softened and rinsed briefly in a mug of water and then drained, and some milk. Sorry – there aren’t exact measurements. I just add and beat until I have a thick batter. If it doesn’t look enough to fill the loaf tin, I add some more flour and milk. Oh, today I also put in a squeeze of golden syrup, a large handful of the soft rye grains and some ground nutmeg.
Sometime I add chopped nut, sometimes I add grated chocolate, sometimes it’s ground almonds, desiccated coconut, or a grated apple, or coconut flour, or any combination of the above: really I look to see what I have that would probably go with the basic banana mixture and put in whatever I fancy, especially if it something that won’t stay good forever. I hate throwing food away.
Then I pour the whole lot into the loaf tin and put it in the oven for about 40 minutes. I keep an eye on it especially when it’s turning brown on top. When I think it’s done I take it out, press the top to see how firm it is. If it’s very soft it definitely needs longer in the oven. If it has a nice brown almost crusty finish and just a little give when I press it, I reckon it’s done. I usually use a thin sharp knife or skewer just to check. Push the metal into the cake. If it comes out covered in uncooked batter it needs longer. Because the cake has fruit in it, I don’t expect it to come out completely dry. Here’s how it looked this morning.
Take it out and let it cool, then slice and taste.
This is my favourite moment. It’s always a bit of a surprise, but a nice surprise.
If you decide to give this non-recipe a try, I really hope it works for you too.