Getting baked: Banana bread

Imogen Coulson 24 January 2015

Some people draw, some people write, others sing or dance, but I bake. Not only do I bake – but I want others to bake, to perceive it not as something relegated to middle-aged housewives and retired grandmas, but as a innovative and creative science. The possibilities are more-or-less endless: a globe cake complete with core, mantle and crust? Sushi inspired mini-cakes with rice-like coconut topping? No problem – I made both of these last term alone.

Whilst everyone is talking about new regimes, diets and lifestyles that the New Year has supposedly inspired them to begin (and that we all know they’re lying about when they start popping to Van of Life after the first Cindies of term), what we’re all really in need of is some comfort. It’s January, we’re back in Cambridge for another 8-week slog, it’s bitter and dark – a cup of tea and a piece of cake is exactly what we need, not a raw kale smoothie and a 6am run. 

So here is my banana bread. It’s a versatile little beast open to those creative juices I mentioned above. Wholemeal flours are great when baking – with their nutty flavours, particularly spelt – however plain flour will work just fine. 

You can throw anything into banana bread and it’s sure to be a fail-safe winner. Always hated that bran-flake dust at the bottom of the cereal box? Throw it into this little loaf for a malt-y mellow flavour. Or got some left over chocolate from Christmas? Chop it up and throw it in. Maybe some nuts? chuck those in too (but toast them first in the oven!) 

Perhaps you have some oranges going mouldy in your room that were part of that New Year regime – squeeze the juice into the batter at the end and you’ll get a lovely tropical cake to keep you hanging on until summer. 



(Makes 1 loaf or 6 muffins)

200g plain flour (or use a little wholemeal, bran flakes or desiccated coconut)

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Large pinch of salt

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

1 cardamom pod, seeds ground & toasted (only if you have to hand)

125g butter, melted (sub in some coconut, sunflower or olive oil etc.)

125g light brown sugar (or a mixture of dark muscovado, honey, caster etc.)

2 eggs

3 bananas, mashed well

60ml yoghurt or buttermilk

1tbsp demerara sugar, to sprinkle on top



1. Preheat oven to 180°c/Gas Mark 4, grease & line a loaf tin, or put muffin cups in a tray.
2. Sift together flour, bicarb, spices and salt.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating hard after each. Add mashed banana and buttermilk or yoghurt, again mixing well after each addition. 
4. Fold in the dry ingredients, until just mixed. If your using any additions add them at this point. Pour into the prepared tin or muffin cups. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar for a crunchy top.
5. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour (for a loaf), or 20 – 30 minutes (for muffins). If the top looks like it’s catching or colouring too quickly, cover with baking parchment, or until a skewer comes out clean or with just a couple of crumbs attached.
6. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes or completely cool, then turn out. After this, the bread keeps well stored for a few days in an airtight container