Taiwan’s bananas are famous. The Japanese established vast hectares of banana plantations during their 50 year period of colonial rule (1895 to 1945). Then in 1967, Taiwan became the first country to export bananas to Japan. Bananas were an expensive, luxury item at that time – six bananas cost as much as an imported suit – and Taiwan’s bananas were especially prized for their quality. Taiwan exported over 400,000 tonnes of bananas per year, amounting to a third of Taiwan’s foreign trade, earning Taiwan the moniker “Banana Kingdom”. The curved shape of the island of Taiwan even resembles a banana; well, sort of.
These days, Taiwan’s economy is more focused on strategic high-tech industries than agriculture. But Taiwan’s agriculture sector is still famous for its tropical fruit including bananas, mangos, pineapples, lychees, passion fruit and more recently dragon fruit.
It was raining today – a perfect day for baking. I decided to make a banana cake to use up some over-ripe fruit I had been saving. When I notice bananas starting to get a bit soft, I simply put the whole thing in the freezer and store until needed. The over ripe bananas are the best: the blacker and riper the banana, the nicer the cake.
Taiwan’s bakeries do not often incorporate bananas into their baked goods, but they should. Here is my recipe for a Golden Banana Kingdom cake.
125g butter (substitute soybean oil if butter is unavailable)
180g white sugar
40g Taiwanese brown sugar (sometimes referred to as ‘black sugar’)
220g flour (low gluten or plain flour)
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Step 1: Preheat oven to 170ﾟC. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the flour and vanilla, stir to mix through and then add the mashed banana.
Step 2: Add the dried cranberries and stir through gently.
Step 3: Pour the mixture into a prepared 22cm (8 1/2 inch) cake tin, and bake for around 25 minutes. The cake should be lovely and golden on the top. (Turn the oven down and cook for a bit longer if it has not quite set in the middle.)
Step 4: Dust with icing sugar before serving.