My No-recipe Cake Recipe


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.

1-IMG_1506This 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.


Too tasty to photograph! Sorry!!


As soon as I started eating this, I realised that it was something worth mentioning in a blog, but it was far too tasty to leave. So the empty plate is all I can offer in evidence.

What it was was just about the simplest and quickest lunch you could imagine: mushrooms and bacon in a creamy sauce on a fresh, crispy bread roll.

We’d been out shopping earlier, without a real idea of what to do for lunch, and I spotted some of those big open mushrooms, which looked great. I knew I had some bacon in the fridge that needed using up, so I just added some crispy rolls to my basket and that was that.

At home I softened up a small finely chopped onion in some light olive oil with some ground black pepper, added the chopped up bacon to get a bit crispy, dropped in the mushrooms which I had just wiped over, trimmed the stalks and quartered, and cooked everything through for a couple of minutes. The sauce was just made by adding a spoonful of flour and cooking it in, and I added a spoonful of mustard and a pinch of rosemary and oregano too. Then, as we also had some cream in the fridge I used that up, with a little extra milk to get the sauce not too thick. Heated until it was bubbluing and thick, and stirred in a little grated cheese. Tasted and added a tiny bit of salt. I cut the rolls in half and put them cut side down into a heated, dry frying pan, just to crisp them up and add a little colour. Put them on the plate and covered them with the mushroom/bacon/sauce mixture and voila! Lunch for two for not very much money, on the table in less than 10 minutes.

This is the sort of food I wish you could get in more pubs, rather than huge portions of rather sub-average fish and chips, or burgers straight from the freezer. Or massive ploughman’s lunches that are made affordable by using cheap cheese. As long as the taste is there, in a pub lunch I think less is usually more. And of course if people do serve up smaller portions, and the food is delicious, there is just the chance that you’ll go back in for a pudding.

It’s also a reminder that you don’t need to buy expensive jars of ready made sauces. If you have some very standard things in your store cupboard and fridge, then you can whip up a fresh sauce in about the same time that it takes to heat through something ready made. So nice to use up good food ( in this case the bacon and cream) rather than chucking it away!

If you don’t already cook like this yourself, get creative. Think about what you already have at home, and how you can quickly and easily use it up. It’s fun, as well as a way to save money and avoid waste, and you get to eat some amazing things!