My sister-in-law set me a challenge to develop a cake that is suitable for my nephew, Leo. Leo is 8 months old and a truly happy baby who I am pleased to say seems to love his food! My brother and sister-in-law are in the process of weaning Leo at the moment and are following the ‘baby led weaning‘ method. Baby led weaning is a fairly new concept to me, but strikes me as a sensible way of introducing a baby to food. Put simply baby led weaning is the where you give food to a baby and they feed themselves. So far as I can tell one of the major advantages is that they eat what you eat (within reason) and subject to a couple of basic principles to ensure that your baby’s diet has a very limited amount of salt and sugar.
Now then back to the challenge, to develop a cake suitable for baby led weaning. My sister-in-law asked me to create a cake that did not contain refined sugar. My first thought was what about using honey, however after a bit of research it became clear that this would not be a suitable substitute on this occasion as the general consensus is not to introduce honey to a baby’s diet until they are a year old. Not being a fan of sweeteners I set my mind to what I could use as an alternative. My solution – dates and banana pureed in a little boiling water. Using that as a sugar substitute I tired a couple of different recipes. The first attempt resulted in a dense but very moist sponge more like a muffin. The second attempt is the one I am going to share here as it produced a much lighter fluffier sponge that rose beautifully. What I should point out it that I made cupcakes instead of a cake as it was a better portion size for a baby. The other benefit of cooking them this is it means that you can freeze them individually and use them gradually rather than worry about them going stale.
I suspect that you are wondering what it tasted like – unsurprisingly it is nowhere near as sweet as a typical cake but as mentioned it has a lovely light texture. I asked my family for their thoughts on the cupcake and the comments were as follows “Where’s the jam?” and “Any chance of some cream with this?” I think these responses boil down partly to the fact that instinctively they expected something much sweeter and secondly that it is unlike me to serve a cake without icing. So if you are making this for both adults and babies perhaps treat it a little like a scone for the adults and serve with a little jam and cream on the side so those of your family with a sweeter tooth can satisfy their cravings. Enjoy!
Tip: if you have bananas that are going black and you are thinking about throwing them away don’t! Peel and freeze them as they will be perfect for this recipe as it works best with ripe bananas.
Banana and date cupcakes (sugar-free and dairy-free)
Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
- 100ml boiling water
- 100g dates (de-stoned)
- 100g of ripe bananas
- 3 eggs
- 100ml sunflower oil
- 200g plain flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Preheat oven to 180°C and place cupcake cases in your muffin tray.
- Roughly chop the dates and bananas, place in a bowl with the boiling water and using a handheld blender blitz until you have a smooth puree.
- Add the eggs to the puree and using a handheld mixer, whisk the mixture together until it has almost tripled in volume.
- Next add the oil, whisking until it is incorporated.
- Finally, shift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold into the mixture before dividing the batter equally between the cupcake cases.
- Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cupcakes cleanly.
- Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
For adults: serve with jam and a little freshly whipped cream.
For babies: serve with yogurt and fresh berries.