Banana bread: a recipe for bake sale success

In less than two months, I will be running 26.2 miles through the glorious streets of London, along with about 37,000 other people. For me, the London Marathon is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so I’ve been really focused on my training so far this year.

As well as training through the winter months, getting up for a run before work twice a week as well as dedicating a day at the weekend to an increasingly lengthy stint, in order to confirm my place in the marathon, I have to raise a whopping £2,000. I’m raising money for the charity I work for – Christian Aid – an international development NGO working to end poverty in several developing countries around the world through long-term, sustainable projects.

So what’s the best way to raise money? Feed people cake.

Bake sale

On Wednesday, I put on a Cakes, Books and Clothes Sale at work to help my marathon fund. A wealth of books were donated by colleagues and family – so many that I could hardly fit my feet under my desk at the beginning of the week! And some of Christian Aid’s resident bakers took to their kitchens to provide sweet treats for the event.

Cakes and books sale

I made some banana bread, and lemon and poppyseed cupcakes for the sale, both of which sold out. The banana bread was the standout winner though, selling out in record time. So if you’re looking for a popular bake sale idea, then you should give this a go.

Banana bread

Banana bread

I’ve made this sweet bread a couple of times now. If, like me, you’re not a big fan of bananas, don’t be put off by cooking with the sweet and squidgy fruit! It makes this loaf lovely and moist, and really delicious; the taste of banana is quite subtle. It’s also pretty cheap and simple to make. Go on, give it a go.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium bananas
  • 100g butter, softened at room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g plain flour, sifted
  • 80ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: An hour (possibly a little longer)
Slices into 10 generous portions

On this occasion I used an impropmtu lemon buttercream icing, leftover from the cupcakes I made the same night, which I made following this recipe, but I think a simple glaze made from icing sugar and water compliments this bake nicely (just buy some icing sugar and follow the instructions on the packet).

Method

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Grease and line a standard loaf tin.

2. Tip the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. When adding the second egg, add a tablespoon of the flour with it to prevent curdling.

4. Get a small to medium sized bowl. Peel a banana and slice into small pieces, then add to the bowl. Repeat this for all three bananas, then use a potato masher to mash the pieces up until fairly smooth.

5. Pour the milk and lemon juice into a jug. Add the liquid to the large bowl along with the vanilla extract and banana. Mix well.

6. Fold the remaining flour and the bicarbonate of soda into the mixture gradually until thoroughly combined.

7. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and spread it out evenly with a spatula or a knife. Bake for one hour, take it out of the oven and poke a skewer or knife through the centre. If it comes out clean, it’s cooked. If not, pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. I’ve found that the knife never comes out entirely clean. As long as it’s mostly clean, I think you’re safe to say it’s done.

8. When the bread is ready, leave it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out on to a wire rack or chopping board to cool.

9. Ice as you wish and decorate with sprinkles.

This recipe was inspired by The Clandestine Cake Club cookbook.

If you would like to sponsor me for the London Marathon, you can do so here.

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Carrot and orange cupcakes

Well, I think my first baking post is well overdue. A couple of Sundays ago I took part in a local initiative in Walthamstow, the St James Street Jumble Trail, where residents of the St James Street area were encouraged to set up shop in front of their homes to sell old wears, food and drink, books, records and more, to get to know neighbours and find out what people think could be done to improve the area.

To go alongside the clothes, shoes and bags I had on offer, I baked these cupcakes to tempt any jumble sale customers with a sweet tooth, and sure enough, they all went! They went down a treat with the kids; one very smartly dressed little boy was my best customer, buying three cakes.

carrot-orange-cupcales

I’ve made these cakes a few times now using this BBC Good Food recipe. The light, carrot sponge is complimented delightfully by the lavish vanilla cream cheese icing. The sponge is quite quick and easy to make. But don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the hard part over and done with; preparing the icing is just as time consuming, so make sure you leave yourself a good hour or so for this bake (and a bit longer for the washing up!)

Ingredients

  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • zest of 1 orange (the skin), grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 200g carrots, grated

For the icing

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 300g soft cheese (I used a ‘light’ version)
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • orange and yellow sprinkles to decorate

Preparation time (including the icing): 40 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes 12 cupcakes

Method

1. Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line two 6-hole muffin trays with cupcake cases.
2. In a large bowl, add the sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest. Mix together so they are combined well.
3. Crack the eggs into a small jug and whisk. Stir in the oil.
4. Stir the carrot into the dry mixture then add the oil and eggs and stir thoroughly.
5. Pour the cake mixture into each of the cupcake cases evenly and then pop them in the oven. After 20 minutes, take one of the trays out of the oven and poke a knife through the middle of one of the cakes. If the knife comes out clean, without any cake mixture, they’re ready.
6. Take them out of the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack if you have one. If not, pop them on a chopping board to cool (I usually take them into another room as my kitchen gets very hot).

To make the icing

7. Pop the butter in to a small mixing bowl and beat until really soft. Add the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence and mix in together. Using an electric whisk on a medium setting, beat the mixture together until thick and light. Leave in the fridge until you’re ready to ice the cakes.
8. When the cakes have cooled down completely, apply the icing to each cupcake generously using a small spatula. Use an anti-clockwise motion, starting from the outside to get a neat finish.
9. Lastly, pour a handful of sprinkles into your hand and carefully decorate each cake with a dozen or so.

As with most cakes, these are delicious washed down with a mug of English breakfast tea.