15 January 2015

Happy Birthday Edna: Banana Cake

150109 Edna Staebler Banana Cake 2

Happy birthday to my friend, Edna Staebler. This Canadian culinary gem would have been 109 years young today. She was a marvel and a talented woman who wrote about life, but is best known for bringing Waterloo County fare to the world.  I've written about her several times, including  here, here and here.

Even though 1 January marks the new calendar year, 15 January starts my culinary year: The holidays' excesses have lulled, the fridge is now rid of overcomplicated and overzhuzhed memories.  Overreaching and overhyped wannabe food personalities are hushed.  
It's time to return to what sustains me for the other 350 days of the year--delicious yet simple foods, born of tradition, seasonality and curiosity.

This January sees a surfeit of bananas in my house--more freckled yellow fruit than I care to mention are in bowls and on my countertop, thanks to my parents.  Don't ask.  Things like this just happen.

While banana'd treats are a temporary staple--banana smoothies, and peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches--I still feel up to my knees in bananas.  I could take Josephine Baker's lead and make a fashion statement, but I don't. 

Edna offers several delicious-looking banana baking options, but this simple banana cake from her first book, Food That Really Schmecks, caught my eye.  As with all of her recipes, this one is easy, tasty and came together quickly.  I've made some minor changes: instead of shortening, I used butter with a splash of oil, and I substituted sour cream and milk for sour milk. 

The end result is a tender-crumbed, old-fashioned cake, devoid of propensity but filled with comfort and flavour.

This cake can be made in a rectangular pan or in two round tins, sandwiching a slathering of whipped cream and sliced bananas between layers.  Edna recommends a penuche icing--which I'm sure would be scrumptious--but I think unadorned is best.

150109 Edna Staebler Banana Cake 1
Banana Cake
Edna Staebler - Food That Really Schmecks (adapted)

Yield: One 33x23x5cm (13"x9"x2") cake

110g/125ml/0.5c softened butter
1Tbsp/15ml flavourless oil
300g/375ml/1.5c sugar
1tsp/5ml salt
2 large eggs
325g/560ml/2.25c all purpose flour
1tsp/5ml baking powder
0.75tsp/3.75ml bicarbonate of soda
2Tbsp/30ml sour cream 
2Tbsp/30ml milk
260g/250ml/1c mashed overripe bananas (2-3 large bananas)
65g/125ml/0.5c walnut or pecan crumbs


Preheat oven to 180C/350F (moderate/Gas Mark 4)

Prepare a 33cmx23cmx5cm (13"x9"x2") pan by either lining it with crumpled greaseproof paper or by greasing and flouring.

Sift together the flour and leavening agents. Set aside.

Mix together the sour cream, milk and mashed bananas. Set aside

Cream together the butter, oil, salt and sugar. Scrape down the bowl and add eggs one at a time, beating well between editions. Scrape down the bowl again.

Add the flour and banana mixtures in the usual way (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry), scraping down after incorporating each banana mixture. 

Fold in the nuts and give the batter a good stir to ensure no flour clumps are hiding. The batter should be light and thick but moussy texture.

Pour into the prepared pan, level the batter and smooth the top. Tap on the counter once or twice to release any large air bubbles.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake should be golden brown, the top springs back when lightly touched, and the cake pulls away from the sides. An inserted bamboo skewer should come out cleanly.

Slather with the icing of your choice (cream cheese, penuche, chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter), dust with icing sugar or leave as-is.


  • The baking time listed is for the rectangular cake pan.  If baking in two 20cm/8" or 23cm/9" pans, bake for 25-35 minutes


I'm a quill for hire!

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