Chocolate & Brazil Nut Banana Loaf

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A banana loaf was, if memory serves, the first cake I made from Nigella Lawson’s undisputed classic, How To Be A Domestic Goddess. The unmistakeable, sweetly nostalgic scent of baked banana filled the kitchen and my heart burst with pride as I pulled the golden cake out of the oven. It was perfect. As time goes by, however, my tendency to tweak things – and frequently err on the side of excess – has resulted in this rather decadent, if slightly plain-looking, banana-based offering. I’ve been fixated with the idea of Brazil nuts in a banana cake for years, but only put one together earlier this year, using chocolate-coated Brazil nuts leftover from last Christmas. The recipe here uses chocolate chips and Brazil nuts instead for ease, but if you happen to have chocolate-coated Brazil nuts lying around, go for it. This would also taste amazing with pecans instead, if you prefer. It’s hard to go wrong with a banana cake! You could make it plain and leave out the chocolate and nuts if you like – but where’s the fun in that?

You will need a normal 2lb loaf tin (not one of those ones mysteriously labelled ‘2lb’ but are actually the size of a small cruise liner)

100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
75g soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or a natural extract)
2 large eggs
200g mashed banana (this is about 2 large bananas, or 3 small ones)
150g plain flour
50g oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
100g chocolate chips
50g chopped Brazil nuts (or pecans if you prefer!)

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First, preheat your oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla using a hand mixer or by hand. When it looks light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, beating for a few seconds after each one, then add the mashed banana in one go. Mix until thoroughly combined.

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Separately, briefly stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt. Add it to the mixture by the heaped tablespoon, beating between additions. Do not over mix at this stage – stop once it looks smooth and creamy. Over mixing the flour results in a heavy cake.

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Now add the chocolate chips and the chopped nuts then mix briefly again on a low speed just until they look evenly distributed. Transfer to an oiled 2lb loaf tin (or use a liner). Place in the centre of a preheated oven and bake for around 1 hour.  Check after 55 minutes, but it might need up to 65 minutes, depending on your oven. When the cake is a deep golden brown (and the smell of baked banana knocks you out) it’s ready. A skewer should come out quite clean – just don’t mistake moist banana residue for actual cake batter.

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Place on a rack. When the tin is cool enough to handle, remove the cake and transfer to the rack until completely cold. This type of cake tastes so much better (and slices better) the day after baking – and it will keep for a good week in a tin.

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