Bananas for cake: a slice of sweet nostalgia
There’s no doubting New Zealand’s love affair with banana cake. But who’s is the best?
Mention banana cake to many Kiwis and they’ll usually get a little twinkle in their eye before recounting their favourite version from childhood: coming home from school to a piece of Nana’s buttered banana bread with its crunchy bits of walnut; a special birthday cake, studded with choc chips, its two layers sandwiched together with cream and extra slices of banana and topped with chocolate icing...
You’ll find plenty of folk wedded to a beloved banana cake memory. So it’s hardly surprising it consistently comes out top of the polls as the most popular recipe in that bastion of classic Kiwi baking, the Edmonds Cookery Book.
These days, though, you’re just as likely to stumble across a gluten-free version, made with ingredients such as coconut oil, honey and ground almonds. Or maybe a fancy mini loaf with a cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle. The variations are endless.
Its origin, though, is thought to have come from America, when two key events converged – the Great Depression of the 1930s (when “food waste” was a dirty phrase) and the mass production of baking powder and baking soda for home use. That overripe banana suddenly became a hero ingredient, soft and sweet and perfect for baking with these now widely available leavening agents. By the early 1930s, banana bread recipes were ubiquitous. Its evolution is legendary.
Whatever version gets you salivating, this simple yet delicious sweet treat has one thing in common of course – bananas, the world’s most popular fruit, which gets its very own day of celebration on April 18 this year. And nowhere are they more popular than New Zealand – Kiwis eat more bananas per capita than anywhere else, getting through 18 kilograms per person, per year, according to Statistics NZ. They’re our most common supermarket product.
What’s extra nice about these highly nutritious natural gems is that Dole bananas, sourced from Ecuador and the Philippines, are given all the right care before they end up in your home, through a partnership with Market Gardeners. The joint venture ripening partnership has three state of art facilities across the country. Dole bananas are harvested green, transported at cool temperatures and allowed to ripen at their destination, meaning they’ll always arrive at your store fresh, firm and delicious.
If you buy them green, they’ll ripen in your home at room temperature. When they’re the perfect shade of yellow, they’re ready to be zipped open and devoured as a snack (a perfect fuel for exercise and a lunchbox staple), or chopped up to top your cereal or porridge, maybe added to a smoothie or sliced into a pikelet mix – so many scrumptious ways to get a naturally sweet fix. If they’ve turned a shade too brown, just whip the skins off and freeze them for when you’re ready.
But as the saying goes, when life gives you ripe bananas, make banana cake. The question remains… which one is the best?
“Kiwis eat more banans per capita than anywhere else”
Banana cake is the most popular recipe in the Edmonds Cookery book.
Celebrate World Banana Day on April 18