Loaf cake, three ways: lemon drizzle, chocolate pecan & banana

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The humble loaf cake is an under-appreciated thing. Quick, simple – hello no icing – and not too fragile to transport in foil on the underground (a very real and pressing concern of mine), they’re not going to qualify as a showstopper anytime soon, but they sure do go down well with a cup of tea. It’s all about priorities.

I’ve got three different recipes for you, all of which can be made in a standard 900g loaf tin. The lemon drizzle is one of my most popular cakes and still manages to keep that lovely citrusy tang which is so often lost in baking; I like to finish it with some cornflower or rose petals as the bright colour makes a beautiful contrast to the yellow of the sponge, but it’s just a frivolity really. My chocolate pecan has a hint of coffee in it to help bring out the depth of flavour in the cocoa powder and is lovely and dense (thanks to a much higher flour-to-egg ratio than the lemon); perfect warm with a dollop of sour cream and a cup of something hot. And lastly, the banana bread – not the prettiest of things, it has to be said, but it is one of the few cakes that I think you can justify eating for breakfast, and for that, it’s my favourite. The riper the bananas the stronger the flavour but you don’t have to wait until they’re black if you don’t have some to hand when the craving strikes; just make sure they’re soft enough to mash easily.

Lemon drizzle

150g unsalted softened butter
150g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
3 lemons
150g granulated sugar

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Preheat your oven to 180°C fan and grease and line your loaf tin. Grate the zest of 2 lemons and juice one of them (keeping the spare fruit for later).

Place the sugar, flours and baking powder in a bowl and mix. Add the butter, eggs, and lemon zest and juice and beat together for as short a time as possible to blend evenly together. With an electric beater, it should take no longer than a minute.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, until it is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Leave it to cool slightly in the tin while you prepare the drizzle. Simply juice the remaining two lemons and mix in the granulated sugar. If you prefer a smoother glaze to the traditional grainy version, give the mixture a few short bursts in the microwave until the sugar dissolves a little.

Pierce the top of your loaf with a knife, roughly every 2cm, stopping just before the bottom of the tin. Pour the drizzle over the top and leave to set in the tin.

Chocolate pecan loaf

200g unsalted softened butter
200g soft light brown sugar
140g plain flour
60g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon coffee granules (espresso if possible)
1 tablespoon milk
Around 50g pecans, finely chopped (I use a food processor for this)

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Preheat your oven to 180°C fan and grease and line your loaf tin. Dissolve the coffee granules in one tablespoon of boiling water and stir in the milk. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, weigh out the remaining the dry ingredients.

Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, beating between each addition. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of the dry ingredients to bring it back together.

Lastly, add the dry ingredients and the coffee and mix until combined. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and scatter the pecans over the top to cover. Bake for about an hour, until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Banana bread

125g unsalted softened butter
175g light muscovado sugar
280g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
125ml of milk
3 bananas, mashed

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Preheat your oven to 180°C fan and grease and line your loaf tin.

Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, weigh out the remaining the dry ingredients.

Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, beating between each addition. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of the dry ingredients to bring it back together.

Next, add half the milk, followed by half the remaining dry ingredients and beat together. Repeat. Lastly, mix in the mashed bananas and pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for about one hour, until it is golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. If the top begins to brown too much before the centre is cooked, cover with foil to stop it burning.

For best results, make all three at once at let cake-carnage ensue.

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