Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making It a Piece O' Cake

I was seven when I first ate a banana cake. A fellow NRI (non-resident Indian) was visiting my parents and the cake had made its appearance at our house. My mother told me to try some. I did, and I told her it was "peculiar", more the smell than the taste. Going by the memory of my mother's amused reaction, I realise I had probably latched on to that big English word then and was using it quite often.

Years later, my mother bought what was then called an 'inframatic cuisinette' and would treat us in the next few weeks to grilled chicken and waffles. It was a many-in-one contraption that came with a baking tray, grill, a waffle iron and a sandwich maker. I even vaguely remember baking a cake or two in it. Then either the fancy wore off or I went off to the hostel, I'm not sure.

More years later, I asked my mother if she would let me have it and she sent it with someone who was visiting. We put it on the topmost shelf in the storeroom where it lay for many more years - till my mother visited a few days ago and we were discussing the many useless and unused things that were lying around the house and she told me to throw them off, at which my conscience reared and pricked and I resolved I wouldn't let it go without giving myself another chance.

That night, I got The Spouse to bring it down and S, who helps me with the work at home, gave it a thorough cleaning - all the little spiders housed in its nooks and crannies were given a chance to escape and I told S to go at the plates with soap and a toothbrush. We plugged it in and were happy it was heating up. Now that the dry run was over, we needed to actually bake something in it.

I had been experimenting with my diet and was testing bananas, well, just one, actually, for breakfast - it's such a convenient, filling food - peel, eat, feel full - but I wasn't feeling as good as I hoped. (When did convenience food ever do you any good?)

I had eaten my way through three bananas but at the end of three days, I was feeling sick and the bananas were really ripe and squishy. Mum's visit and the discussion were fresh in my mind, so I resolved to make banana waffles and put an end to my misery - no more banana after that, that is.

I looked up recipes for banana waffles on the Net but I hadn't really bargained for waffles with banana slices on them - and my eyes glazed over when I looked for banana-in-waffle-batter recipes. No surprise, considering it was 1 a.m. In any case, how hard could banana waffle batter be? All you needed was a pouring consistency and some baking powder.

The next morning saw me mashing the two ripe bananas with a fork - it made about a cup.

Then I added 1/4 cup of sugar, mixed an egg into it and added 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.

Then I sieved 1-1/4 cup of flour, 1-1/4 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.

I added the flour in ladlefuls to the banana mixture and folded it in with a fork. I also added a couple of spoons of milk, simply because it was available.

By this time, I didn't have the patience for waffles - I was unsure of the consistency of the batter and wasn't willing to experiment, suddenly enough - so I simply washed my bundt pan, greased it and poured the batter into it. At this stage, I tasted the batter and added about three tsps of icing sugar. (Why icing sugar? Because it needed to be used up.)

I baked it at 180 degrees and it took less than 30 minutes to bake. It cooled in as much time and I sliced it up and boxed it.

And you know what?

It tasted peculiar. To the Spouse.

In fact, he said he liked it but said that it was 'bitter', and deigned to eat only one more piece. (But then, he is vastly prejudiced against anything unconventional in matters of food.)

The next day, I ate another piece, wondered why it tasted peculiar to The Spouse and knowing it would go ignored by both of us (by me for diet reasons), carted it off to The Land of the Failed Experiment - my workplace, not the dustbin. We could even call it The Refuge of the Failed Experiment, maybe that's more fitting.

My colleagues oohed and aahed over it, and one of them even told me I should quit my job and go into business, set up a deli, a cafe, whatever. Another asked me how I had managed to make it so soft, and marvelled at how it tasted so much like banana. Another colleague appreciated it while affirming its mild bitterness, downing it appreciatively.

And that's why I've put it up here - I rarely make cakes - I mostly detest the creaming, whipping, sieving and other associated tedious stuff, washing out the greasy dishes afterwards - but this felt like it was done in a jiffy. I know there are enough and more banana cakes and breads going around, but as my blog is all about what's a discovery to me, I have to talk about it.

Happy baking! And am I hearing it wrong or is there really a song that goes something like "I wanna be go bananananaaaa ... I keep hearing it my gym and I quite like the beat, though I can't make out any of the words!


  1. cake looks really good for such a unconcerned write up. so did u find out what made it bitter?

  2. Wow, that was a wonderful read,enjoyed thoroughly each and every word plus the piece of spongy cake too. You shd write more often,truly :):)

  3. It does look really soft and moist, Sra.....

  4. Haha.. "agreeing that it's bitter.. while downing it appreciatively.." lol!!! :D :D

  5. truly enjoyed reading tis,.

  6. Poor 'Inframatic cuisinette' finally got to see water, a fresh lease of life and put back to sleep again :(
    Good that I don't belong to the refugee lot in your office :) tough cookies!
    After eating that decadent dates cake, I can never subscribe to you being a 'no good/lazy baker'...Still long for one another slice of it..

  7. Well, it may be baking soda or baking powder, sometimes it does that.
    But the cake looks good!

  8. Sra, that's what office kitchen tables are for!

    The texture of the cake looks beautiful though.

  9. Clap Clap! Finally and the crumb is a proof of how soft it was.

  10. Folks, thanks for the nice words and compliments. I guess the bitterness, if it was that, came from the intensity of the banana - know the strips that come away from the peel? Maybe from that. Or maybe as Miri said, the baking powder/soda caused it - only two people mentioned it, the others didn't, at all :)

    Sanjeeta, I'm v afraid u hit the nail on the head. :(

  11. loved the write up and the recipe
    first tie here and loved your space

  12. Enjoyed reading your post.Lovely space.

  13. The cake really looks very soft and fluffy Sra. A little bitterness might make you think it is healthy, so that is a good point

  14. That cake looks good, though the bitterness might have come from the baking powder.
    Its like my daughter tells me about some of my baking experiences, "Don't worry Amma, I'll take it to school. My friends will eat anything you bake!" I'm not sure her friends (or your colleagues in this case) would appreciate that comment. :D

  15. I've never had banana cake but my mom makes the absolute best banana bread!

  16. loved loved loved reading the post:)but the cake looks super to me

  17. That looks very soft and moist! No wonder it got rave reviews.

  18. This cake looks so delicious! And I loved this post...such a good read!

  19. That was a good read! I liked it. And the sponge cake really looks good!

  20. hehehe... oh i miss that refuge land you speak of, since i am stay at home now :O and the waste lands up in the garbage. but now i simply refrain from cooking large quantities of anything other than stuff that has chocolates in it - waiting for my daughter's tastes to evolve. my husband on the other hand is someone i have given up on when it comes to experimenting with food. yes i have so many unused and underutilised things waiting for me back home. i refuse to accumulate anything here as I live in the eternal hope of joyous homecoming. one day soon.

  21. Wondering if you still have the inframatic cookbook / booklet that came with it? My mom had it too and I still remember some delicious stuff coming out of that thing! Unfortunately my parents moved and the booklet was lost along the way...

  22. WOW!!!! I too own this contraption! But I lost the booklet. Do you still have it?

  23. Hi Suparna, funny I should see these comments today, I was just thinking about the Inframatic. I gave it away a year ago, along with a big Sunflame oven, to exchange for a more compact oven that I could put on my kitchen counter. I didn't think the store would accept it but they did and I was glad to get rid of it because I was not using it at all and I knew I wouldn't. I probably have the book somewhere, have to check.

  24. Hi do u hv the cookbook provided along with it? I hv lost mine, cud u send me pics if u got it?

    1. I recently weeded out a lot of cookbooks, I'm fairly sure I don't have it but I will check again. Whose comment is this?


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