Friday feeling: banana cake

A satisfyingly squidgy fruit loaf crowned with caramelised almonds

“We make our banana cake with buttermilk and fresh bananas,” Olivier Favrel explains—before correcting himself. “No, actually we don’t use fresh bananas.” There’s a brief pause, during which we anxiously contemplate just what alternative Oliver might be using, before he continues “we use old bananas. They need to be a little bit black.”

Nice, green-blushed bananas won’t work at all. No more will sunny yellow numbers. “You need the sugar,” Oliver continues. The sweetness of overripe bananas, of the kind you and I might consign to the compost heap, is what gives the banana cake at Olivier’s Bakery its sweet, fruity kick. There’s a little bit of extra sugar in the mixture, but not much in comparison to your average treat—hence banana cake’s reputation as a healthier option. “We stir the ripe bananas slowly, with eggs, sugar and flour of course, then bake for 40 minutes. Once they’re baked, we let them cool right down and put them in the fridge.”

Homemade almond cream
It’s at this point that the magic happens: the sorcery that singles out Olivier’s banana cake as better than most banana cakes you’ve eaten to date. “Once the cakes are cooled, we turn them upside down and add a very thin layer of homemade almond cream on top. Then we add a scattering of flaked almonds and bake them again to caramelise the nuts and the cream. That way we make people happy,” Olivier laughs—he knows he’s nailed it.

Olivier has taken a classic—a staple; something your mum probably made with begrudging regularity, every time a brown banana appeared in the fruit bowl—and he’s transformed it into a transcendent delight.