In that bag of books you would take to a desert island, surely you must include Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions. My review from a few years ago may convince you of that.

We keep the book on a convenient shelf and Suzen reaches for it once a month or more. This past weekend, we had bananas and blueberries. Flo has this Banana-Poppy Seed Cake which she says can be “upscaled” by topping off with blueberries. That’s just what we did.

This cake is made with cake flour, cinnamon, poppy seeds, buttermilk, mashed ripe bananas, plus sugar and eggs. It’s a bit on the light side, fluffy and aromatically banana. The tart blueberries are a welcome contrast to the banana.

Easily made, this is the perfect weekend brunch cake. Or, you can make it late on Sunday to fuel breakfast during the week. Not that I think this cake would make it to Friday. More like Tuesday.

The recipe below includes a lemon drizzle over the top. We’ve never made it. Out of the oven, the cake is so good, that we just pick up a knife and begin slicing.

Try this cake and you’ll be convinced of the genius of Flo Braker.

Banana-Poppy Seed Cake

Yield: 8 to 10 servings


For the cake:

  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
  • ¾ cup mashed ripe bananas [2 small or 1 large]
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, well shaken
  • 4 ounces [1 stick] unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulate sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup blueberries, optional

For the lemon drizzle:

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds


Before baking, Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 10 by 2-inch round ceramic gratin dish (6-cup capacity), a scant 10 by 2-inch round, fluted metal pan with sloping sides and a removable bottom (scant 8-cup capacity), or a 10 by 2-inch round cake pan (10-cup capacity), then flour it, tapping out the excess flour. Or, coat the pan lightly with nonstick spray and flour it. If you plan on removing the cake from its pan after baking, line the bottom with parchment paper (except for the pan with the removable bottom).

Have all of the ingredients at room temperature.

To make the cake, Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; add the poppy seeds on top and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the bananas and buttermilk; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low speed until creamy and smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, add the sugar in a steady stream and continue beating until the mixture is lighter in color and texture, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, about 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing after each addition until incorporated. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and pale ivory. The entire process of adding and beating the eggs should take about 2 minutes. On the lowest speed, add the banana-buttermilk mixture until blended.

Detach the paddle and bowl from the mixer, and tap the paddle against the side of the bowl to free the excess batter. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture in three additions. With each addition, scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue mixing until the batter is smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. With the spatula, spread the batter from the center outward, creating a slightly raised ridge around the outside rim. (Since heat is conducted faster near the metal rim, mounding the batter around the edges ensures the cake will bake more evenly and will be more level.)

If using the blueberries, now is the time to dot the top of the batter with them.

Bake the cake until it is golden, springs back when gently touched in the center, and the sides are beginning to pull away from the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. (The baking time may be shorter depending on which pan you used, so to avoid overbaking, start checking for doneness after 30 minutes.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Or, to remove the cake from the pan, let it cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, tilt and rotate the pan while gently tapping it on a counter to release the cake sides. If they don’t release, slip a small metal spatula between the still-warm cake and the pan and run the spatula carefully along the entire perimeter of the pan. Invert a wire rack on top of the cake, invert the cake onto it, and carefully lift off the pan. Slowly peel off the parchment liner, turn it over so that the sticky side faces up, and reposition it on the top of the cake. Invert another rack on top, invert the cake so it is right side up, and remove the original rack.

If you have used a pan with a removable bottom, set the pan on a narrower elevated surface, such as a tin can, so the bottom of the pan is released as the metal rim slips down. Return the cake to the wire rack. Let the cake cool completely. Slip a sheet of waxed paper under the rack and proceed to glaze the cake.

To make the Lemon Drizzle and decorate the cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake from the tines of a fork, then sprinkle the poppy seeds over the cake.

To store, place the cake in a sturdy covered container and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. For longer storage, label with the contents and date, and freeze for up to 2 weeks. The glaze does not freeze well, however, so wait to glaze the cake until the day of serving. Thaw at room temperature, about 2 hours, then glaze the cake.

To serve, cut the cake into wedges with a sharp knife.

Source: Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker [Chronicle, 2008]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for1/50th second at ISO‑640