When I visited Italy this past summer, I stayed with my darling friend Mariangela. Mari cooks like the free spirit she is. No recipes. No rules. Her style is beautifully Italian. Some fresh produce from the fruttivendolo down the street, a few generous glugs of EVOO liquid gold from her hometown in Calabria, and magic just happens. I learned on this last stay that Mari apparently bakes in a similar fashion.
On a weekly, sometimes twice-weekly basis, Mari would whip together a simple breakfast cake, “Because mornings are so much easier when there’s cake,” she’d say. I know, don’t you just love her? This cake is super easy, the kind of cake you can throw together without any fuss. All it takes is flour, sugar, eggs, olive oil, yogurt, vanilla, baking powder, salt, and ripe fruit. Mari mostly made a banana version, but while I was there we experimented with using some divinely sweet and juicy peaches — highly recommended. I need to do some more testing, but I suspect berries would also work well in this versatile cake.
A good amount of fruity extra virgin olive oil adds some great flavor (and less guilt) to this breakfast-snack-dessert cake. Yogurt is the other secret to this super moist banana bread. A full-fat cream top yogurt or Greek yogurt would be the closest thing to the ultra creamy, thick European yogurt we used in Italy. If you’re looking to save a few calories though, low-fat yogurt works just fine.
Oh, and then of course, you need a few ripe bananas. Extra spotted please. Also, Mari’s original recipe called for una bustina di lievito per dolci, which I gathered to be a mixture of baking powder and vanilla powder. I estimated the amounts…if anyone can confirm what exactly is in a bustina, please share.
The lesson that I really took away from my cake making sessions with Mari is that baking doesn’t always have to be such a to-do. I mean, this girl’s mode of measuring was an old plastic yogurt cup. She used a fork to mix everything together. We ran out of sugar and resorted to emptying little packets of sugar from the coffee shop downstairs. No biggie.
So loosen up. And have some cake for breakfast.
Mariangela's Olive Oil Banana Bread
This delicious banana bread (a.k.a. breakfast cake) is easy, fuss-free, and made with fruity olive oil and creamy yogurt. As Mari says, ”Because mornings are so much easier when there's cake.”
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a large bowl, mix together the mashed bananas, olive oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and fold until everything is combined. Pour into a well-greased or parchment paper-lined pan (8.5" x 8.5" pan, bundt cake pan, skillet, or traditional loaf pan would all work).
- Bake for 50-65 minutes, or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cook’s Note: Make sure your baking powder has not expired. If it is too old your cake won’t rise properly and instead of a wonderfully spongey cake, you’ll have a dense brick on your hands.
This post was published on KQED’s Bay Area Bites on March 5, 2012.