Whenever I eat a bare banana cake, I can’t help thinking it could do with some icing.
As we had loads of bananas, slowly turning black, in the fruit bowl, it was time to inflict another banana cake on my work colleagues. Rather than leaving bare, I decided to top it with some sort of salted caramel icing; I couldn’r decide on buttercream or a plain glaze.
The other issue, was deciding on whose banana cake to make, in the end I decided to go for Signe Johansen’s Banana spice cake, from Scandilicious Baking. This was under the incorrect assumption that I hadn’t already made this one for my work colleagues.
If I’d bothered to look at my spreadsheet of previous bakes, I’d have baked Dan Lepard’s Dark banana ginger cake instead. I’d baked it the weekend before, we had friends round for fika, and thought that it could handle some icing.
I decided to go with a simple salted caramel glaze. I can’t remember which recipe I used for inspiration, but it’s pretty simple; make a caramel, add some salt, pour over cake, eat. As it turns out, banana cakes are generally bare for a reason. The topping didn’t quite work, it was nice, but jarred with the cake a bit too much.
If I was going to attempt to top a banana cake again, I think a buttercream based topping would be a better choice.
I decided that we didn’t have enough mincemeat to make it through the Christmas period. As we had some pears left over, I decided to use them to make Apple, Pear and Ginger Mincemeat.
The recipe for this was in the variations section, at the bottom of the page detailing the Plum and Russet Mincemeat recipe in Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2. The method for producing it was exactly the same, so I wont go into details of that, just a couple of things.
I didn’t have any crystallised stem ginger to hand, just a jar of Chinese stem ginger in syrup, so I used that. I also didn’t bake it for quite as long, about half an hour less and I remembered to add the brandy. It did froth and steam at bit when I added it, as per the recipe, which leaves me wondering if all the alcohol was burnt off or not. It’s supposed to be required to aid in the preserving, so you’d hope some of it survived.
When we made mince pies last Christmas, I wanted to make some Plum and Russet Mincemeat, but I didn’t realise that it’s suppose to mature for a couple of months. When we were offered some plums and apples last month by a friend, I knew exactly what to use them for.
While the apples we were given weren’t russets, I didn’t think it would make that much difference, so didn’t bother trying to hunt some down. We also hummed and hawed about buying ginger wine and brandy, as neither is something that we have in the house. In the end we decided to buy both, as if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it properly.
You start by softening the halved plums in orange juice, before either blending the lot, or passing it through a sieve. As I have a Vitamix though, I wasn’t going to bother with the arm ache of passing it all though a sieve. The recipe says that you should end up with around 700ml of purée, I got waaaaaaaay more than that, so I’m not sure if my plums were extra juice or not. I added a bit of icing sugar to the remaining purée to turn it into a kind of plum coulis, it went quite nicely with some apple and bramble crumble.
Once you have your purée, you add everything else to it, bar the brandy and leave it overnight to meld. The following day, it’s into the oven to bake for two to two and a half hours. I decided to go for the full two and a half hours, I can’t remember why now, but I should only have baked it for two, as it was a bit too reduced and cooked for my liking. All that was left to do was add the brandy and pot it up, so I totally forgot about the brandy and shoveled it into recycled pasata jars and left it too cool.
I have no idea why I forgot the brandy, but as the alcohol is required as part of the preserving process and the fact that I actually went to the trouble of buying some, I’m quite annoyed with myself. Only time will tell if this was a fatal mistake or not. Only time will tell if using pasata jars was the right thing too, as I have not idea how I’m going to get all the mincemeat out of those when the time comes. I might have to buy a really long handled teaspoon or something; I’m not sure what I was thinking when I pulled those from the cupboard.