High Tea again – a really good call

I don’t want to write too much about something I’ve already written about so I’ll keep this short. Today is really all about the cake. You must think this is a nutty kind of dinner blog. I keep baking cake for dinner. I don’t think of myself as a person who would find excuses to eat cake all the time. But I am finding that right now at least, we are having cake as a major component of dinner with alarming frequency.

This weekend my cousin got married. All the champagne, the little sandwiches of rare roast beef, apple slivers and horseradish, the champagne, the crab cakes and more champagne kind of put me over the edge. To say I over-indulged would be an understatement. On Sunday, dinner seemed insurmountable and boring to boot. I thought I was tired of cooking but the truth was I hadn’t even boiled an egg all weekend.

There were a few ideas I tossed around but they all seemed overwrought, dull, heavy or insubstantial.  Here was my list of dinner ideas for Sunday night:

  1. Bloody Mary Hamburgers with horseradish cream and Worcestershire -although the idea sounded delicious, the name turned me off in the end – it sounded a little gory
  2. Marcella Hazan’s Chickpea Soup with Pasta – seemed like too much work and boring
  3. Fish?! – has the virtue of healthiness but makes the kitchen smell too funny after a crazy weekend
  4. Omelette and toast?!  – very quick but sick of eggs
  5. Salad – too cold, too much work

In the end I scrapped all those ideas and returned to the brilliant and original idea of high tea. I think, in America, this truly is a very original idea. (In Britain, I’m sure it’s completely banal.) Tea, small sandwiches and a sliver of wonderful cake is rejuvenating, comforting, delicious, diverting and captivating. I can’t say too many good things about tea for dinner. Children like it and grown-ups do too – at least at my house. Tea is easy to put together. No special skills or techniques are required. One thing I like to see at tea though, is one of those tiered serving caddies. Mine’s not fancy; it’s from Target, but it makes everything look scrumptious.

I had some very ripe bananas so I convinced Martin (he hardly needs convincing in these matters) to make his Swedish banana cake. This is the cake I should have made the last time we had high tea. It’s so likable. Swedish banana cake is quite different from its American counterpart. The lemon rind and juice sets it apart from a typical banana cake. Also, for some reason that I don’t understand, it doesn’t get those weird little black flecks that American banana breads and cake do. I’m not usually crazy about banana bread but this cake is a different story. I love it. You can bake it in any shape. Usually we use a 9″ spring form but Martin decided to make it in a long rectangular tart pan. As always, this cake was very very good.

Next time I post I promise there will be no cake on the menu.

Swedish Banana Cake

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • the rind of half a lemon and its juice
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 very ripe bananas (about 2/3 lb peeled)
  • 1/4 cup milk

To finish: sifted powdered sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Butter a 9″ springform pan. In Sweden they dust the pan with bread crumbs. We just make breadcrumbs on-the-fly (in an electric coffee grinder reserved for bread crumbs and spices) from a heel of sandwich bread. Cornmeal works and so would flour, I suppose.
  3. Melt the butter in a small pan on the stove or in the microwave and leave to cool.
  4. Whisk the eggs and the sugar until quite fluffy and nearly white in a medium sized mixing bowl. You could use a hand mixer to do this.
  5. Add the lemon rind and lemon juice, the flour and the baking powder.
  6. Peel and mash the bananas in a small mixing bowl. I like to use a potato masher for this job. Stir the bananas into the batter.
  7. Add the butter and the milk and stir until just blended.
  8. Pour batter into the cake pan.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes. Let cake stay in the pan for 10 minutes before  turning it out and letting it cool on a baking rack.
  10. When the cake has cooled, sift a little powdered sugar on top. In the summer when raspberries or strawberries are ripe, they would be very nice with this simple cake.

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