I have a sweet tooth and just love cakes. Of course, every time I ate one it made me ill, so one of my first tasks when I discovered my milk intolerance was to find out how to make cake without dairy. It was actually quite easy as non-dairy spreads are easily available in the supermarkets – I used to buy Pure sunflower spread as it was light and didn’t have a strong flavour, and is great for baking. And if milk was required, soya milk has a slight richness to it so works just as well. The spread doesn’t work quite so well as butter cream though, so a Victoria Sponge cake had to stay simple with just jam and a sugar dusting.
Coming out to India things became more complicated, and not just because I have the worst oven in the world that seems to emit more heat on the outside than inside. Mind you, at least it’s gas, so when there’s a power cut (a daily occurrence) the oven stays on! Butter is available in the shops, some forms of margarines but nothing dairy free. As there’s only so many pots of Pure you can hide in your suitcase, I had to start investigating making cakes with oil. The structure of the cake is slightly heavier and tends towards greasy, but its a reasonable replacement.
One of my favourites is banana muffins. Bananas grow everywhere in Southern India – I even had a bunch hanging down in my garden the other day from the house behind. Unfortunately, they came and claimed them. Some are really small and sweet, others larger but equally tasty. It’s easy to end up with a bunch ripe at the same time, so this is the perfect way to use them. I have two recipes – one with eggs, the other without so suitable for vegans or those with egg allergies.
Banana muffins version 1 (with egg)
3 ripe bananas mashed
1 cup of sugar (although if the bananas are really ripe, reduced sugar content as other wise just too sweet and of course it’s healthier with less sugar!)
1/2 cup of oil (I use organic coconut oil but whatever you have – not olive oil though)
2 cups of flour (wholemeal is best – or atta in India)
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt (or less if you’re not a salty person)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional but gives the added bonus of omega 3 oil)
All you need to do is mix together the sugar, oil and eggs until they are well combined then beat in the bananas. Stir in the remaining ingredients and add the walnuts if you’re using. Spoon in to individual muffin papers or a greased muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes or until they feel cooked at 180oC. Pop the muffins out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack, then consume; perfect with an afternoon cup of tea!
Banana muffins version 2 (no egg)
Exactly the same ingredients as above but omit the eggs. This time, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Then add in the mashed banana and oil. The mix will be rather thick and dry, so stir in some soya milk, enough to give you a thick batter that doesn’t stick to the spoon. Add in walnuts if you are using them. I also add a sprinkling of cinnamon and about 10g of flaxseed, blitzed in the blender to a powder. This makes them even healthier – flaxseeds are currently my number one superfood – will explain why on another post soon. If you are going for the flaxseed option, add in a bit more soya milk as flaxseed does make the muffins a bit more stodgy. Once everything is beautifully mixed together, fill your muffin cases and bake as above. These ones will be more dense than the eggy version but no less yummy. Try them out and let me know what you think.