If, like me, you're a novice when it comes to baking, I'd recommend starting out with a loaf cake. Also described as a "bread", these look great without the need for complicated frosting or multiple layers, and can be filled with pretty much anything you fancy: fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts, chocolate and coffee...even bacon!
Whereas previously my cookies have crumbled and my brownies have burnt, my lovely fruity loaf cakes have never let me down. Indeed, I was so stunned by my first beautifully risen bread that I even let its memory live on in the logo for this blog.
Now I have my shiny Ice Blue Kitchen-Aid mixer these loaves can be made at lightning speed...which I keep telling myself is surely proof that this purchase was totally justified and not just incredibly expensive and frivolous...?!
My go-to loaf filling is banana; I'll only eat the raw fruit when firm and practically green, so particularly in the summer we'll often end up with a browning overripe bunch that are only good for cakes or smoothies.
On this occasion I decided to add a tropical twist with shredded coconut, plus a cheeky splash of Malibu coconut rum to make the bread just that little bit boozy. After a vote via twitter it was decreed that chocolate makes any baked good taste even better, so a generous helping of Green & Blacks 70% dark chocolate was also added to the mix at the last minute.
Without wishing to come across all Paul Hollywood "Star Baker" on you, I think this was my best loaf cake yet! As the bread cooked the scent of the coconut wafted through the kitchen like a summer breeze, inspiring memories of beachside holidays; on the first bite I was transported to a tropical paradise. The banana gave a background sweetness and satisfying gooey consistency (there is no other suitable word to describe it!), and occasionally I'd be surprised by a chunk of bitter chocolate that melted in the mouth.
One minor mistake was the sprinkling of shredded coconut on the top of cake, which toasted to a crisp...but no one would've believed I'd baked it if it'd been 100% perfect! Plus this is an excellent excuse to bake another loaf soon and keep the summer spirit alive as we head towards autumn...
Boozy banana, coconut and chocolate bread (makes 1 loaf 9x5 inches)
(Adapted from Joy the Baker's cookbook)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp coconut rum
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 175C, then grease a 9x5 inch loaf tin and line with baking paper.
2. Sift together plain flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
3. In a separate bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (beat for 3 to 5 minutes if using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment).
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the mashed bananas, lemon juice and coconut rum. Beat everything together until well combined.
5. Pour the flour mixture into the other bowl in one go and beat until almost incorporated (set the mixer to low if using). Add the shredded coconut and chocolate chunks and fold into the rest of the batter using a spatula.
6. Spoon the mixture into the pre-lined tin, and bake in the centre of the oven for around 45 minutes to 1 hour. The loaf will be ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
7. Remove from the oven and let the bread cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely...though it's hard to resist testing a cheeky slice when the chocolate chunks are still semi-molten!