Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Banoffee Cake. For Grandad, we miss the laughter.

My grandad loved puddings. In fact his love of cakes, puddings and all things sweet helped to establish a long-cherished tradition in my family: why have one pudding, when you can have three? He was a tall, slender man, having only been on a diet once in his life. After retiring, he put on a few pounds, but he didn't opt for any faddy raw food-only or zero-carb rules. His diet involved eating a small, ordinary main meal, followed by an ENTIRE milk pudding. ALL to himself. Rice pudding, macaroni pudding, semolina, tapioca, ground rice with a big blob of jam... And, you know what? It worked! He discovered the pudding diet, decades before Uma Thurman came to it, with her post baby struggle to wriggle into her yellow, skin-tight, Kill Bill jumpsuit in time for filming.

Before the diet police start getting their tiny knickers in a twist, I'm not suggesting for a minute that sitting watching telly all day stuffing down cream horns is going to help anyone lose a dress size, but cakes come on plates made of joy and joy keeps you young and youth keeps you active and activity keeps the blubber at bay. Grandad was always extremely active, taking five mile walks daily and never missing his morning stretches. He discovered he could swing his legs higher if holding on to the bannisters at the top of the stairs and, after a particularly eager swing, he tipped himself over and managed to accidentally back-flip down the stairs. He was 78. He was absolutely fine. And, of course, he thought the whole episode was hilariously funny.

He loved nothing more than treating us to lunch out and there was always a cupboard full of goodies stacked high with cakes, biscuits and chocolate. It was great going to Nanny and Grandad's. We had carte blanche to eat party food whatever occasion, or lack thereof, but we'd always play it off in the garden afterwards.

He always used to ask me what I thought. And he always really listened and really respected what I said. Even when I was very young. And even when he disagreed with me. There was never any fear of getting anything wrong with him, it was all about asking questions and working out what I thought or I believed. He made me question everything, but never once bullied me into aligning my views with his. He told me always that I could do, be, think whatever I wanted. He told all of us that, and he believed it. He believed in all of us, waved our flags high and he made us laugh our heads off while he was doing it.

He was a great champion of women - lucky really, being the grandfather of four girls. He believed in equality and always shared household chores with my Grandmother. In the early '60's, when my mother was first applying for jobs, she came across an advert for an admin post "for men only". My Grandad's reaction was to say, "Men only? Bugger that! You could do that job with your eyes shut". So she applied and got to interview, due largely to the firm's curiosity, where they apologised for not being able to offer her the job because they only had a men's toilet. My Grandad laughed and said, "I told you you could do the job though!"

My Grandad was never the sort of man to become stuck in his ways. He embraced and interrogated all things new and got a mobile phone long before I did. He brought it to a restaurant to show us and it turned out he'd accidentally brought the TV remote along with him instead, but so what? That just meant we had something else to laugh about. It didn't surprise me at all when he told me he'd got himself a new PC. "Have you, Grandad, what sort?" I asked. "Prostate cancer", he said. And he fell about laughing and was so pleased with his joke that there was absolutely no way to resist laughing along with him. He was 87 when he died. It was the 11th April 2003. It took him days longer than they expected for him to go, so strong was his heart, from all his walking, laughing and pudding-eating. His particular favourite was banoffee pie, so here is my recipe for banoffee cake, in memory of my Grandad - one of the greatest men I have ever known and the greatest man I have ever lost.

Banoffee Cake

This banoffee cake tries to keep as true to the structure of its pie namesake as possible, with a sticky toffee base, topped with sticky toffee butter cream and sticky toffee sauce. The top half of the cake is banana sponge with a layer of bananas, topped with vanilla cream cheese icing and a grating of dark chocolate. If time is short, you can buy a jar of dulce de leche ready made, but please don't be tempted to boil an unopened tin of condensed milk. It is extremely dangerous and unnecessary.

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan assisted) and grease and line two 8" sandwich tins.

Sticky Toffee Cake

  • 8 oz/ 200 g Medjool dates, chopped
  • 1 mug of fairly weak black tea
  • 4 oz/ 100 g soft unsalted butter
  • 4 oz/ 100 g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 oz/ 25 g dark muscovado
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 heaped tsp mixed spice
  • A generous splash of vanilla extract
  • 7 oz/ 175 g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Place the dates and tea in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes, then take the pan off the heat and reserve for later.
  • Cream the butter and sugars together until pale and fluffy.
  • Gradually add the egg, whisking between each addition.
  • Add the golden syrup, vanilla extract, mixed spice and date and tea mixture and mix well.
  • Sift over the flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold in until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the mixture into one of your prepared sandwich tins and bake for around 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven but leave the oven on for the banana cake.
  • Place the cake, still in its tin, on a wire rack and stab all over with a skewer, before pouring over a few tablespoons of hot sticky toffee sauce (see below), that you will have had time to make, along with the buttercream, while the cake was in the oven.
Sticky Toffee Sauce

  • 5 tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 oz/ 100 g unsalted butter
  • 5 fl. oz/ 150 ml double cream
  • Place all the ingredients except for the cream in a saucepan over a gentle flame and stir until the butter and sugars have melted.
  • Turn the heat up and let the syrup come to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes.
  • Turn the heat down and add the cream.
  • Stir the sauce over the heat about about a minute.
  • Turn off the heat and leave the sauce in its saucepan until you're ready to drizzle some over your cake.
  • Once the cake has been drizzled, allow the sauce to cool properly before using it for the buttercream.
Sticky Toffee Buttercream

  • 4 oz/ 100 g soft unsalted butter
  • 8 oz/ 200 g icing sugar (preferably sugar cane rather than beat)
  • A generous splash of vanilla extract
  • 3 or so tbsp sticky toffee sauce (see above)
  • A splash of milk, if needed
  • Place the butter in a large bowl and whisk for about a minute.
  • Sift over half the icing sugar and whisk again until combined.
  • Sift over the remaining sugar and whisk for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the toffee sauce and vanilla and whisk again.
  • Taste the buttercream and decide if it's toffee-y enough and add extra sauce if you wish, whisking after any addition.
  • Whisk in a splash of milk to slacken the mixture if needed.
  • Place some clingfilm over the bowl to prevent the top from crusting and reserve for later.
Banana Cake

My recipe contains ground almonds but, if you have a nut allergy or take objection to almonds (you won't be able to taste them in the cake, promise), you can substitute the almonds for more flour. The almonds help keep the cake moist and help prevent the layer of bananas on top from sinking, but the cake will still be delicious without.

  • 2 bananas
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • 4 oz/ 100 g caster sugar
  • 4 oz/ 100 g soft unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • A generous splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 oz/ 25 g ground almonds
  • 4 oz/ 100 g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • A splash of milk, if needed
  • A tbsp of demerara sugar
  • Slice one of the bananas, place in a bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice to prevent the banana from browning. Reserve for later.
  • Mash the other banana and place in a mixing bowl with the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and ground almonds (if using).
  • Sift over the flour and baking powder and whisk the ingredients together for a couple of minutes until well combined, pale and fluffy. Add some milk to slacken the mixture if necessary and whisk again.
  • Pour the cake mixture into your prepared tin and smooth over the top.
  • Place the sliced banana over the top of the cake in concentric circles, sprinkle over the demerara sugar and place in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If the bananas on top start to catch, place a sheet of greaseproof paper over the top of the cake for the remaining cooking time.
  • Once baked, place the cake, still in its tin, on a wire rack to cool completely before turning out.
Vanilla cream cheese topping

You can reduce the quantities by half if you don't want quite such a billowing topping.

  • 6 oz/ 150 g cream cheese
  • 2 oz/ 50 g soft unsalted butter
  • 1 lb/ 400 g icing sugar (preferably made from sugar cane rather than sugar beat)
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
  • A splash of milk if needed.
  • A generous grating of dark chocolate (optional)
  • Place the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and beat together for about 30 seconds.
  • Sift over half the icing sugar and whisk the mixture together.
  • Sift over the remaining sugar and whisk for a good 2 minutes or until everything is thoroughly combined and fluffy.
  • Add the vanilla, whisk again and taste for vanilla-y-ness and add some more extract if you feel it needs it, whisking after each addition.
  • You can add a splash of milk to slacken the mixture if necessary.
  • Place your sticky toffee cake on a serving plate and spread your sticky toffee buttercream over the top.
  • Spread a generous helping of sticky toffee sauce on top. Don't worry if some of the mixture drips down the sides of the cake, it all adds to its deliciousness. 
  • Place the banana cake, sliced banana side up, on top.
  • Spread over the cream cheese icing, making swirls with your palate knife or a fork, if you prefer.
  • Grate over some dark chocolate (optional), stick the kettle on to make a nice cup of tea and your banoffee cake is ready to serve.


If you have any sticky toffee sauce left over, it is excellent as a topping for ice cream or you can gently reheat it in a saucepan and pour it over some Scotch or American pancakes.


  1. Lovely cake although alot of work! I made it last night and it came out wonderfully.
    Made a couple of small changes: I did 300g cream cheese to 100g icing sugar (instead of 150g cream cheese to 400g icing sugar) for the vanilla cream cheese icing and that was perfect, cuts through the sweetness of the cake nicely. Also, substituted the buttercream filling for 250g freshly whipped double cream with 4 tbsp of the toffee sauce gently folded through.
    Yum yum!!

  2. Made this cake for a friends birthday celebration, well worth the work. DELICIOUS!!! Whipped cream with caramalised and fresh banana slices on top instead of the vanilla cream cheese and extra toffee sauce in a jug to pour over. Beautiful recipe, Thanks!

    1. I have only just worked out that replying shouldn't involve starting a new comment. I'm an idiot and a luddite, but I always reply (see below). I've just been doing it wrong :(

  3. Thank you, Anna! I'm so pleased you enjoyed it and I hope your friend had a wonderful birthday!