Earlier this week, there were three ‘dying’ bananas on my kitchen counter and an opened bottle of milk that I wanted to finish before it went bad. After searching online, I decided to try a banana bread recipe that I found on BBC.

An hour and a half later, there was a lovely loaf of golden brown banana bread cooling on a rack and my apartment smelled of, well, bananas. It was delicious. Buttery with a lightly caramelised exterior and a nicely dense texture.

I brought a large portion of the bread to the office the next day and decided that I would leave it in the pantry with a note inviting my colleagues to have some. “What will the note read?” I wondered. While walking to work, I had an “eureka!” moment. The result:

I have been working on “Unlock Art“, a series of films that is being produced by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts with the aim to make art more accessible to more people. Pop Art is the focus of the latest film that we launched – you can watch it here, presented by Scottish actor, Alan Cumming.

That – together with an article that I read recently about a lawsuit between The Velvet Underground and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts regarding the infringement of the trademark for the banana design on the band’s The Velvet Underground and Nico album – inspired my note.


Happy to say that the banana bread was very well received!

Here’s the recipe that I adapted from John Barrowman’s rendition:

285g all-purpose flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
90g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing – the original recipe uses 110g of butter
170g granulated sugar – the original recipe calls for 225g caster / super fine sugar. I find that the 25% reduction in sugar is just the right amount of sweetness for me. Any more, it would have been cloying.
2 medium eggs
3 large ripe bananas, mashed – Barrowman used four bananas
85ml buttermilk – I substituted this with 80ml normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.
3. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. I did the creaming by hand until the mixture turned light yellow and slightly fluffy. I had to stop as my arm was aching! Here are some useful links on how to do it right: video and on The Kitchn
4. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture gradually.
5. Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5in loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into the tin. Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.
6. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

While writing this post, I was also listening/watching an insightful BBC documentary about human’s addiction to sugar. Topics include the evolution of the sugar trade, origins of the British afternoon tea tradition, the prevalence of sugar and corn syrup in produced foods and modern-day diets, and how high-calorie sweets affect the brain and cause diabetes.

Other interesting information:

Rare and extremely expensive in 13th century England, sugar used to be a symbol of status and was displayed as art pieces in the homes of the wealthy. An example cited in the documentary was a decadent six-feet-high sugar sculpture, “the equivalent of having a Maserati nowadays”.

Ladies of the 16th century coated their teeth black as it was deemed trendy since their queen, Elizabeth I, had a set of black decaying teeth from eating too many sweets.

If you have an hour to spare – for instance, while waiting for the banana bread to bake – I would recommend watching this excellent documentary. Though it may give you second thoughts about eating more than one slice of the delicious banana bread!

15 replies on “Banana Cake Goes Pop!

  1. Wow. This is exciting. My new year includes a lot of reading, writing and food. I will try this out.

  2. We bought a bread maker recently and Mrs. Ha is trying out various recipes. I want to try walnut bread. We have already used it to make cake and it was pretty good but we find we need to experiment with the amount of the ingredients and not follow the recipes too slavishly. I’m not a banana person sadly and I avoid sugar as much as possible. I think canned carbonated soft drinks are one of the evils of today. My curator brother told me once that they used to strip small animals down to their skeletons by soaking then in coca cola. That was the end. Above all fresh food and especially bread just smells so much better. Yummy!

    1. I avoid adding sugar whenever possible or at least to reduce the amount significantly. When possible, I substitute sugar with applesauce (no sugar added) or mashed bananas (probably not a good idea for you).

      I don’t like carbonated soft drinks nor beer, though Champagne’s probably an exception 🙂 I was discussing with my boyfriend about the calories in alcoholic drinks – wine, spirits, beer, etc. – and it’s striking that there is no nutritional information listed on the packaging, unlike soft drinks, commercial juices, etc.

      I’ve heard of people using coca cola to wash toilets… yikes!

      Fully agree that freshly baked bread is fantastic! If you’re interested, here’s a no-knead bread recipe:

      No machine required, just need to have time 🙂

      1. Thanks for the recipe – I have several for something called Artisan Bread, sent to me by a Korean friend. I think its similar. It does take time!

  3. Thanks for the recipe but, most of all, for your tips on adaptations… I always try to use less fat and sugar whenever possible. Sometime ago, I watched another BBC documentary, I think it was ”The men who made us fat”. It was an eye-opener about the extended use of corn syrup in almost everything, especially fast food (of course), and how highly addictive it is! Which is obviously why it was introduced in the foodchain, in the first place – apart from being the cheapest possible way to addiction and weight gain! Since then I try to keep an eye on the labels… but not too hard, otherwise I’d go bananas… 😉

    1. I saw “The men who made us fat” in the column on YouTube and was planning to watch it this weekend. Have you watched Food, Inc.? It’s about the food production industry in the US – very interesting and also touches on some of the things you mentioned.

      I think it is fine to sometimes eat sugary / fatty foods as long as it is in moderation. I love my (dark) chocolates and fried chicken wings, for instance 🙂 We often make food at home instead of going out to eat in Brussels as we often find that what we make is much tastier (well, to our taste would be more correct and we don’t make complicated food) and healthier/lighter than what we would get outside. And at a more pocket-friendly price too!

      Love the pun!

      1. Thanks 🙂
        No I haven’t watched Food Inc, I’ll look it up. I also find these documentaries very interesting; good to know what we are stuffing our bodies with and -especially- why! I would also like to watch something about how ”organic” the organic produce really is!

        1. It’s fascinating how much influence these production/agricultural companies have and it was quite an eye-opener for me to watch this film. Ah, organic produce – that would be interesting too. If you find one, let me know!

  4. I think I’ve tried the same BBC recipe some time ago! Anyway, this banana bread is so delicious that even my boyfriend who doesn’t like bananas, eats it. Goes well with a bit of nutella! 😉

    1. Ah hah, you did too! Mmm, now that you’ve reminded of the cake… I may just make some next month. Have to buy some bananas first and give them time to fully ripen!

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