Banana Cake (or Banana Bread) is a simple pleasure, really. But I am easily seduced by a fancy title so I was drawn to this “Magical Banana Creole Cake” from the Share Cookbook.
I was interested to investigate its origins but I hadn’t realised that the word “Creole” does not describe a particular place or people but a new, distinct, form of language or culture created from two or more others. In other words, there are creole languages and cultures in a variety of places around the world. Some have become official, such as the Haitian Creole language, which is largely based on French mixed with West African Languages. And others are simply famous, such as the creole cuisine of New Orleans in the United States, which blends European, Native American and African influences.
So the “creole’ in the name of this cake didn’t give any useful clues about where it comes from. What about the “Magical” part? Might that be some kind of Voodoo reference? Perhaps. Voodoo is of course another outcome of mixing cultures, whereby African slaves brought their ritualistic, talisman and amulet based religions to America and threw them into a pot with French Catholicism and other local customs. The most interesting thing I learned while following that line of inquiry was that the classic voodoo doll of popular culture was actually, originally, designed to bring good luck and good health to the “vicitim”!
(Was it a touch of magic and the power of symbols that brought me a double-yolked egg for this recipe? Twins!)
Talk of creole and voodoo makes me think of a film I enjoyed recently, set in 19th century Jamaica: The Wide Sargasso Sea. I could imagine a character from this film making a rich, syrupy banana cake like this one and enjoying it with a swig of rum. If you like dark, period romances, like Jane Eyre which inspired it, then you would appreciate this film.
Baking this cake was far from a straightforward experience for me. I was halfway through preparations when I noticed I had baking soda but not baking powder, a key distinction and essential ingredient so I had to dash out to get some. Plus I didn’t know just how long it takes to hand whisk egg whites into “soft peaks”, and I was rushing to be somewhere. Finally, just as I removed the freshly baked product from the oven, all the power in our house shut off, leaving me holding a hot dribbly cake and us with two small children screaming in the darkness. (The workers who came with torches attached to their heads to fix the power each received a hunk of oozy hot cake when the lights came back on).
My verdict on this “Magical Banana Creole Cake” recipe? Well it smelled amazing. It was essentially a banana-turnover or upside down cake with lots of sugar and it tasted good, if sickly sweet.
Frankly I think it was more trouble than it was worth; it made a simple pleasure complicated. And I’m still no wiser about its true cultural origins.
And so if I ever have any spare, over-ripe bananas again, I’ll try not to be lured by a fancy title. I’ll look for the most basic, rustic recipe I can find to create the simple delight of a home-made banana cake.