Wanting to surprise my housemate, “M”, I asked several weeks ago what her favourite type of cake was, in the hope she would have forgotten by the time her birthday rolled around. It worked!
M’s birthday is actually today but as she celebrated on Saturday night, I spent Saturday afternoon in the kitchen whilst she was at work, then surprised her with cakey goodness when she arrived home.
Thankfully, when I asked what her favourite type of cake was, M had said banana. I was dreading the usual ‘chocolate’ response as I am one of those weird people that hates chocolate cake (gasp! I know…). Naturally, I don’t like to bake things I don’t like myself, not because I can’t eat the end result (though I’ll admit that’s part of the reason) but because I have no idea if it is working out; it all tastes horrible to me.
I have made banana bread successfully in recent times but hadn’t made banana cake in years. I didn’t have my mum’s recipe over here, so had to use good ol’ Google yet again, trawl through reviews on recipe websites and cross my fingers the end result would be a tasty one. I decided on cupcakes because they are cute and easily shared but mostly because I couldn’t remember the last time I’d made them. I liked the idea of using sour cream instead of milk, so I decided on this banana cake recipe and these instructions on turning the cake recipe into cupcakes, both from the trusty Allrecipes site.
Then, sick of having a dead arm from hand mixing and beating and folding every time I baked, I forked out the massive sum of £19.99 and bought myself a new toy: The Kenwood HM326 Hand Mixer in Silver. I didn’t want to go too budget and get a £5 mixer that would break after a few uses but I also couldn’t justify spending too much on one when living in a share flat, struggling to pay London rent. Someday, someone somewhere will buy me my dream cake mixer – the KichenAid Artisan Mixer in Cranberry and I will cry tears of happiness. Sigh… It’s only £410 on Amazon – that’s not too much to ask, is it? Though a far cry from my dream mixer, the Kenwood did the job and I actually creamed butter and sugar properly for the first time in years! The mixer has three speeds and it was much more powerful than I expected for the price. For the most part, I only used the lowest speed so that the mixture didn’t go flying all over the counter top. Everything was mixed in half the usual time and I didn’t feel like I’d been lifting weights one-handed. Why, oh why, had I not purchased myself a mixer sooner?
But back to the cakes… As usual, there were changes: I used brown sugar instead of white (I always prefer it), I added an extra half cup of mashed banana (as recommended by many reviewers) and I used plain flour instead of cake flour (because I had never heard of cake flour and couldn’t find it in the supermarket).
I then topped the cupcakes with the vanilla cream cheese icing that I introduced M to recently when I used it on another friend’s banana bread. You can find the recipe here. As M was having a roller disco party with a fluro (aka ‘neon’) theme (we both only discovered through her party that ‘fluro’ is an Aussie/Kiwi term and no one else knew what we meant!), I wanted to make fluro green icing. Turns out that’s not possible with regular green food colouring. But the icing still looked pretty, especially once I’d topped the cupcakes with delightful little coloured stars (I used Sainsbury’s Sugar Stars). I found the icing a little runny again, so kept sifting in icing sugar until I was happy with it. It does tend to ‘set’ once on the cakes too.
Being very critical of my own creations, I was annoyed at myself for slightly overcooking the cakes due to concentrating too hard on turning the icing the right shade of green! They were only in the oven for 2-3 minutes too long, so were still fairly moist but the tops went a little too dark for my liking. Thank god for green icing! Other than that, the cakes were deemed a success when they barely lasted a day in the house.