MANILA, January 22, 2004 (STAR) A TASTE OF LIFE By Heny Sison - I have been going bananas lately. Actually, I have been eating a banana every day of my life. Maybe an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but for me its a banana that keeps the doctor away.

Last Christmas, I was gifted with so much bananas I decided to use them in my search for the perfect banana cake, the recipe for which I would like to share with you, my dear readers. Before I give you the recipe, let me give you some information on bananas.

Bananas come in different sizes. And as anyone whos watched their lacatan go from speckled yellow to brown knows, bananas have varying stages of ripeness. As they get riper, they get a little smaller. The size and degree of ripeness affects the cake texture and bulk.

Small brown spots on bananas are a natural part of the ripening process caused by the release of carbon dioxide. During the ripening process, starches inside the banana turn to sugar. A green banana or a not-yet- fully-ripe banana has a starch-to-sugar ratio of 20:1. And this figure flips to 1:20 in a fully- ripe banana. Since bananas emit a small amount of ethylene gas during natural ripening, you can speed up the ripening process by placing them in a sealed bag together with a ripe banana.

After much trial and error, I discovered that 1-1/2 cups of mashed bananas turned out to be the right amount for a banana cake.

The ripeness of the bananas also affects the color of the cake. There is a lot of sugar in a ripe banana. According to my dietitian, one fully ripe banana may contain more sugar than one chocolate bar. In the recipe I concocted, there is a lot of sugar. Therefore, the bananas and the sugar together will caramelize and darken the cake as it bakes. Sweeter bananas, like a fully ripe lacatan, are perfect for a deep, dark and moist finish.

And whoa! One banana? Two bananas? This recipe calls for three ripe bananas. And an addition of lemon zest will heighten the flavor, while a spike of rum will deepen the mood. Walnuts add an extra level of richness and excitement to the cake.

To serve the cake, you may dust it with powdered sugar, splash a dollop of whipped cream or drizzle chocolate sauce or a cream cheese icing. This, for sure, will make your banana cake sinfully delicious.

So with trial and error that led to an interesting discovery, here is the recipe for my banana cake.

Banana Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted 1 Tbsp. baking soda 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 3 bananas, overripe, mashed, about 1-1/2 cups 1 cup sugar 1 tsp. grated lemon zest 2 eggs slightly beaten 1/2 cup Magnolia Gold Butter, melted 1 tsp. Ferna vanilla flavoring 1 Tbsp. sour cream 1 tsp. dark rum Optional: 2/3 cups nuts, preferably walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Line a 9x9x3-inch square pan with Glad Bake paper. Set aside.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt three times. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, beat together the mashed bananas, sugar and lemon zest. Slowly add the beaten eggs. Slowly add the melted butter. Add the sour cream, vanilla and rum. Add the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated. Add the walnuts, if desired.

Bake for approximately one hour or until done.

Cool on wire rack. Invert the cake when completely cool. Dust the top with powdered sugar.

* * * Well, I hope you will try this recipe. Soon, you will be digging your fork into your own banana cake that is easy to make and enjoy. Let me know the result and your comments. Happy baking!

* * * E-mail inquiries to henysison@pacific.net.ph.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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