Last week my sweet nephew turned one! As any culinary minded aunty would do, I set about to make something celebratory for my favorite little human. What I came up with has no refined sugars and is full of dates and bananas. Even the grown ups enjoyed a slice or two after the baby fest.
I know there are many different points of view on how to feed our kids, in particular baby food. While I don't yet have little ones, I know enough from hanging out with a lot of new parents that low sugar, healthful, nutrient–dense food is best. I had to be able to make something that fit within all the baby health guidelines, but would hold up for party-going adults. I settled into a date-banana bread recipe that I heavily modified in accordance to Mom's wishes and got to it.
How'd it go? Pretty well! The resulting cake was lightly sweetened and a great compliment to seasonal fruit wedged in the center. I used a juicy apricot, but raspberries, a stone fruit compote, mashed strawberries or even more banana would be great additions as well. The main thing was that the dates sweetened the bread enough not to have to add any refined sugars. For the grown ups, I slathered some banana jam in the center of each cake and topped them with a bit of chocolate ganache. If you need a recipe for a healthy munchkin's birthday, this may be the treat for you!
1 cup oat flour (or any whole grain flour would work, such as buckwheat, millet, quinoa, etc)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1 cup dates, pits removed and slivered
1 large banana, mashed
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Butter for greasing muffin pans (or one cake pan)
Seasonal fruit (optional, for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a muffin pan or one 9" round cake pan, or in my case, grease one muffin top pan.
Sift the flours, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg together and set aside. In the bowl of a high-powered blender (I used a Vitamix) or food processor, blend the dates, banana, vegetable oil, almond milk and vanilla extract until they form a smooth consistency. Get it as smooth as you can, blending on high speed for about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and blend a little more, pulsing until eggs are incorporated.
Add the wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently mix together. Use as light a touch as you can: this keeps the cake soft and airy. When your batter is uniform, divide it between the greased molds.
Bake for about 20 minutes, a little more if in a cake pan and a little less if in a muffin pan. Check at 12 minutes to see how much longer you have to go. Cakes are ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Wait until cakes cool, then slice them in half and put seasonal fruits, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, jam — whatever! in the center of the banana date cake.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)