This year has been a crazy one for me for a number of reasons – in the past few months I’ve been trying to adjust to (1) a new career, (2) some pretty serious public recognition, (3) moving countries, (4) a truly ridiculous travel schedule (averaging 1 flight every 2.5 days for the past 4 months) and on top of all that I’ve been trying to fit in writing a book  as well.

My friend Danny and his wife Mel have been lifesavers throughout all of this; helping me out and supporting me with every aspect of these numerous transitions. They even understood when I had to leave straight from giving a speech at their wedding (where I was Danny’s best man) to fly to Shanghai to cook some banquets there for the World Expo a couple of months ago. I wanted to give them each a bit of a special Christmas present this year so I decided to write a recipe specifically for Mel, cook it and give it to her together with a copy of the recipe.

I love banana cake but I sometimes find it too sweet and a bit boring. This is a super-moist ‘adult’ version of a banana cake made with less sugar and the addition of organic blackstrap molasses. The molasses gives the cake a real complexity and a slight sourness that I think is wonderful. This is Mel’s recipe now, but I thought I’d share it here with you all too (I’m sure she won’t mind).

Blackstrap Banana Cake


  • 125g softened unsalted butter
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100g beaten egg
  • 8g bicarbonate of soda
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 75ml full cream milk
  • 75ml pouring cream
  • 55g organic blackstrap molasses
  • 3g vanilla paste
  • 280g banana puree (about 2 large overripe bananas)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan forced). Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the beaten egg a little at a time until all the egg is incorporated.
  2. Sieve together the salt, bicarbonate of soda and flour. Separately, mix together the milk, cream, molasses and vanilla paste. Add half of the dry mixture and half of the wet mixture to the egg mixture and fold until incorporated. Repeat with the remainder of the mixtures and then fold in the banana puree. Do not overbeat.
  3. Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin, then turn out and wrap in plastic. Leave overnight before eating.

I also gave her a card I made with the recipe printed on it.

Adding a copy of one of her favourite books in the iconic Penguin Classic style makes it a more complete gift.

So that’s Mel’s present taken care of, but you’re probably wondering what Danny is getting. It’s this…