Virtual Afternoon Tea, March 2021

Cup of tea and a slice of cake? Image: Su Leslie 2021

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora koutou katoa  (Greetings. Hello to you all)

After our recent see-sawing in and out of lock-down I’ve been feeling the need for a wee celebration cake. And in our household, that means banana cake with (lashings of) coffee buttercream.

Banana cake with coffee buttercream icing. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Do you have a go-to cake (or other sweet treat) that’s your family favourite? What is the story behind it? How does a particular cake cake come to take on the mantle of “celebration”?

In my case, I have my late mother in law, Joy, to thank. My mother didn’t bake banana cake, so my early memories of it are from cake stalls and “ladies a plate” events (see below).

Joy made banana cake for the Big T’s birthdays, and then later for mine. They were unfailingly moist and tasty, had a generous, but not overwhelming, application of coffee-flavoured buttercream, and were often decorated with walnut halves.

First attempt at candied walnuts to top the cake. Image: Su Leslie 2021

For me this is the perfect banana cake, and I’ve never understood why other people’s versions seemed to be coated with anemic and thoroughly unappetizing chocolate icing.

Until last week.

I always bake banana cake from the recipe in the Edmonds Cookery Book — something of a cooking bible in NZ. What I had never noticed before is the last line of the recipe — “When cold ice with Lemon or Chocolate Icing or dust with icing sugar.”

Well, as you can imagine that got me thinking (and quizzing T) about his mother’s coffee buttercream, and about the history of banana cake generally.

Is banana cake a “thing” where you live? If so, what sort of cake is it. Is it iced? Coffee buttercream???

Sorry to bombard you with questions; I really want to know.

My banana cake is basically a butter cake with mashed bananas folded into the mixture. Practically all banana cake recipes in New Zealand are variations on this, and have been for many years. However, one local recipe — from (the delightfully named) Bush Advocate in 1906 — included currents and coconut, while one published in Britain’s Daily Mail published a recipe in 1928, was more of a sponge. In several early recipes from both Australia and New Zealand the banana component is basically sliced banana between layers of cake.

What’s really amazed me about this is a) how old some of the recipes are (1891 in both New Zealand and Australia); and b) how often NZ newspapers printed recipes for banana cake: 136 times between 1891 and 1950, which is the last year for which newspapers are available online through Papers Past.

Image: Su Leslie 2021

But enough of my Musa musings. Pull up a chair, grab a plate and help yourself to some cake.

Tell me what you’ve been up to? What’s happening in your world?  Your comments make blogging so much more interesting.

And if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — even better. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it. A recipe if you like.

I’ll update each of my posts with a ping-back to everyone’s in the same way as I do with The Changing Seasons.

#virtualteaparty2021 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)

The term “ladies a plate” was ubiquitous in New Zealand when I was growing up, and referred to the convention that catering for social gatherings involved all of the women bringing food. As a new immigrant to this country, my mother suffered the embarrassment of arriving at her first such gathering carrying — literally — a plate, having assumed that the hosts must be short of crockery.


My lovely co-host Del from CurlsNSkirls has baked soda bread, in honour of St Patrick’s Day. You can find her recipe here.

Pop over to see Margaret at Pyrenees to Pennines for a slice of lemon drizzle cake and a cashew nut butter cookie.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has baked banana bread and shared her recipe. Please check it out.

Have some chicken pasta salad with Ladyleemanila.

Carrot cake is particularly popular, and Ju-Lyn from Touring My Backyard has not only made one (and posted the recipe), but shares a new perspective on what “carrot cake” means in Singapore.

Deb at The Widow Badass has made some fabulous blueberry lemon oatmeal muffins (with recipe).

104 thoughts on “Virtual Afternoon Tea, March 2021

  1. Not sure I”m going to be joining this month as I unfortunately forgot about it. 😦 But the banana cake sounds delicious, although I haven’t heard of banana cake before. Banana bread is at thing here, though.

    What have I been up to? Vaccination shots one and two for me and my parents–hurrah!! Shot #1 for my husband. What a year when getting shots is one of if not the highlight. :-/ I’m looking forward to traveling to southern California to visit our daughter and son-in-law and eventually back to Illinois to visit friends. We worked another puzzle, a beauty but a beast to work. I finally got back into a real library with real books, although it’s far from actually open–just a small area with selected items for browsing. Of course you can put books on hold and pick them up, but what a joy to get real books after over a year without library access, something I used to do twice a week on average. Corned beef, potatoes, and roasted asparagus with a glass of wonderful red for St. Patrick’s Day, even though we’re not Irish. Taking care of my parents (they’ve had their second shots, too.) Blogging, keeping in touch with friends, visiting the Desert Botanical Gardens for my birthday. All good.


    Liked by 3 people

  2. I love the stories behind the cake! And your poor mom. It’s so hard to know what the unspoken rules of engagement are. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever had frosting with banana cake, bread, or muffins. Surely I have but not your mother-in-law’s delightful take ~ sounds and looks delicious.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. No baking done but the sourdough bread is still baking.
    It has been raining a fair bit since the start of February and is pouring at the moment. Just hoping the storm clouds don’t shut down my internet before I finish this comment. It is quite soggy out and gumboots (or wellies for those over there on the other side of the world) are the fashion when gong out side.
    In between showers of rain, the butterflies and birds are out in the garden. Colourful whizzing past windows and the Pied Butcherbirds have arrived with their melodious songs echoing through the bush.
    Getting my driving licence back after 8 months of being a neuro-prisoner is bliss. Being independent again is wonderful but I do miss having my daughter taking me shopping and having a dad and daughter day.
    Ladies bring a plate was common in Australia too.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I’ve made a banana chocolate cake from a Swedish recipe a couple of times..cake with a layer of melted chocolate, then baked. So good…but the link to the recipe has gone it seems. Ah yes…the Edmonds book…a Kiwi friend gave me a copy in the first few months we were here. Full of classics, and always use their recipe for Anzac biscuits.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ll be along later to join you. I’ll have a favourite too, but sadly, not banana cake. I may be the only person on the planet who doesn’t like the flavour of cooked banana. All the same, this does look good, and so daintily served. I believe in the UK, banana bread isn’t usually served iced, and certainly not with coffee icing. Good idea though!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for the cake, the tea and the lovely story at the end. 🙂 A plate! It reminded me of the time when I went to a meetup of online card players and we were also supposed to bring a dessert. I rarely bake but I did, a sort of orange sponge cake. I brought it on a big tray cut in little squares. When I was near the door to the restaurant where we were meeting, the big host bitch (well, the dog was a female) ran to me, jumped me, knocked the tray off my hand, and in a second ate the whole lot. So we’ll never know if it was any good. 😀 I’ll let this story be my contribution for today, but I’ll visit all the participants of your party and taste their offerings most gladly. Your cake looks divine. I don’t remember having a banana cake at all yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Virtual Afternoon Tea, March 2021 – Ladyleemanila

  8. Oh dearest Su; I’ve read this post with a slight feeling of nausea, with wonderment, appreciation and a few other things as well. As you know by now, I’m NOT a cake eater and this kind of ‘Torte’ as they’re called here, does nothing for my cravings. BUT I love your tea parties and I love the dedication, joy, cooking, baking and mayhem that often goes into them. I also love participating and this time all the more – the 20th & 21st of March also being our wedding dates. So i’d gladly take a large slice for Hero Husbands who adores cakes and anything sweet (AND savoury!) – thank you.
    I thus can’t contribute with my own or inherited cake recipe but I can always offer my ‘off the cuff’ creations – only who would want to know 😉
    Thank you, as ever – have a glorious day & pre-weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That looks delish!! I have had banana cake with chocolate icing, but never lemon. When I made it, I placed a doily on the top then dusted the cake with powdered sugar. It looked really pretty. Of course, the cake has to be completely cool.
    I hope to join your tea party again. I had so much fun last month! xoxo Regina

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh my sweet tooth rejoices! This looks so good, Su. The joke during our lockdown was that everyone was baking banana bread. Personally, I think you can never have too much banana bread–I love it. Not had banana cake, though. We have Hummingbird Cake here which has banana, canned pineapple, nuts….very rich, very sweet. It’s too much for me. Oh, your mother….what else would you think, though? We have Pot Luck Dinners here or Covered Dishes where everyone brings something to eat and everyone digs in. During my kids’ school years, you got to know which moms were the good cooks and who picked up a ready-made item at the store. So much for bending your ear–now I need some tea! A wonderful gathering, as always, Su.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tea and cake coming up!

      I love your observation about shared food events when your kids were at school. I remember the exact same thing. I have a wonderful friend who is a terrible baker and I recall her stalking the stalls selling donated cakes to see if anyone would buy hers.

      In my head, banana bread is quite a new thing here — but increasingly common, and yummy. And easier to make!!
      I’ve had hummingbird cake but feel the same …. way to sweet and rich.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi, Su. My post is here:

    Your banana cake looks lovely! Here in America we seem to talk about banana bread rather than cake, and I’ve several recipes for it, but rarely have any bananas ripe enough for baking. (Someone always eats them… Can’t imagine who. 🙄)

    Our Level 4 afternoon weather forecast – egg-sized hail, high winds, frequent tornadoes – has been downgraded to Level 3 overnight.
    Fingers crossed it doesn’t go back up after sunrise and earth warming today.
    Hope you’ll understand if I make this brief.
    A few other things to get done beforehand. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hope the weather doesn’t change for the worst!

      I bake banana bread too, but it’s a different recipe, and a denser texture. It’s also a lot easier and quicker to make, so I do it more often. Oddly though, banana bread seems to have arrived as a “thing” in NZ a lot more recently than cake.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thankfully & remarkably, the storm line broke apart and didn’t touch most of the county I’m in. It’s still early — tornado warnings closed only 30 min. ago — but it also appears there was no major damage, power outages, and no loss of life. We are all extremely grateful not to have experienced what other states did yesterday. A lot of us are gonna rest much easier tonight!

        Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you, Su. Yes, it was a huge storm system, stretching from far north to far south. Western states got 50 inches of snow; dozens of tornadoes criss-crossed central states. By the time it got to the East Coast mountains, a lot of the punch had dissipated, although Georgia (no mountains) had a lot of tornadoes. Our area was very lucky as the system was starting to fall apart and we squeaked through a hole. Far too many places around the world are experiencing increasingly dangerous weather conditions.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Oh, dear – so sorry to hear about the flooding there. We’re about the size of Australia – bet parts of it are flooding, whilst others are in drought conditions. Just as we’ve been experiencing.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. Kia ora, Su! What a lovely cake you have prepared, it sure would lift anybody’s spirit! I am sorry I did not get a chance to bake something new for the party this time, but this post really fits with your theme:

    The “ladies a plate” reminded me of the “BYOB” (bring your own booze) student parties in Canada, kind of in reverse; when I first arrived to the country as a grad student, I thought it meant to bring a pack of beer or a bottle of wine to share, but people actually brought just enough for their personal consumption. I thought it was weird, but I liked it because I don’t drink much, so I didn’t end up spending on something I didn’t even consumed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your banana bread recipe. I love the idea of grated apple — and will try that next time I make banana bread (which is a lot more often than the cake).

      The BYOB thing happens here too, and not just at student parties. But it’s kind of vague, and the line between sharing and only drinking your own gets a bit blurred.

      Liked by 1 person

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  15. Su it looks positively wonderful! My husband likes banana cake but it is really a white cake with a crushed banana as a filling. There are so many wonderful cakes. I like a praline cake which has a fudge like frosting. Then there’s a coffee mocha – umm good!
    Leslie xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen recipes for banana cake which sound exactly like your husband’s favourite, but I’ve never seen the actual cake.

      Coffee mocha … yum. I made a raw mocha cheesecake yesterday, but am yet to try a piece.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. In England we tend to bake banana bread which is served like a malt loaf or tea bread, sliced and buttered. My go to cake was always carrot cake with a lemon cream cheese filling and topping. In fact now I have said that I might actually bake one tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. As Margaret said, your banana cake looks great, but not at all what I’d expect. I can’t abide cooked banana either. When I first came to the Algarve, a fellow Brit, not renowned for her cooking, very proudly insisted I try some of hers. It’s the only cake I can make, she said! It arrived thickly spread with butter and I managed to nibble some and snaffle the rest into a tissue when she wasn’t looking. Phew! And don’t even think about banoffee pie! Other than that I can scoff most cakes. So sorry I don’t have a contribution today, Su. I can’t think where the time’s gone! I did have a very delicious pastel de nata this morning but I earned that by sweeping under the beds and washing the floor 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well-deserved (now I’ve looked up pastel de nata).

      I do sometimes butter banana bread (actually not much, but T does), but very sparingly.

      I don’t do banoffee pie either; way to cloying and sweet for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Su, that looks so delicious. I have eaten (not made) banana cake with a coffee icing once before. The flavour of banana and coffee went really well together. Thanks for the lovely photos. I can really get into the spirit of this virtual afternoon tea.
    I was planning on making something and then I had vet appointments. All went well. Ama was last week (teeth) and Makea (lumpectomy) yesterday. Just waiting on lab results for Makea now.
    Your posts had disappeared from my reader. WP software has updated recently on my computer so maybe that was the reason why. I’ve signed up again.
    Now that I’ve filled my face, I had better race off. Thank you so much for your hospitality and kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

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  21. A fabulous looking celebration cake: a ginormous slice for me, please, with breakfast tea & a splash of milk. I love the sounds of all those flavours – bananas, walnuts, coffee.

    I love the “Ladies a Plate” story – I’m pretty sure it was mortifying for Mom, although we have all encountered some version of faux pas like this.

    I can’t remember if I’ve ever had a frosted banana cake. I’ve had big confusion about what qualifies as banana CAKE vs BREAD. My self-conclusion, after many many many tastings, is three-fold:
    1) I think CAKE is more moist & softer than BREAD.
    2) I’ve noticed that BREAD often has additions in them: nuts, raisins, etc.
    3) Shape of the bake: Loaf tin=BREAD, round tins or cupcakes: CAKE

    But in all permutations, no frosting. I need to make me some BREAD or CAKE, and try that coffee buttercream.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. You ask about banana cake. Yours looks lovely. When I was younger it was a thing around here and it always had vanilla buttercream frosting, but now it’s all about banana bread. I don’t know why the shift, but I suddenly realize there has been one.

    [Deb sent me this way, btw. “Hi!”]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ally, thanks for stopping by and joining the korero (chat).

      I think the same thing may be happening here; banana bread was never a “thing” until a few years ago. But I guess it’s probably seen as “the healthy option” — and lacking buttercream, that is certainly true.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Here in Canada it’s always been banana bread and made in a loaf pan. Or at least here in western Canada. I personally gag when I eat banana so won’t join all your guests with eating it! I once literally saved a colleagues life with my banana gag reflex. Lunch table at work, looked like a delicious chocolate cake. Cut myself a piece as did the young nurse beside me. I took a bit and spit it out – gagging. She stopped mid fork lift and asked what was wrong. I said it’s banana – she has an anaphylactic reaction to banana and this cake wasn’t labelled! So that’s a different take on your wonderful looking cake – which my husband would adore!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! I’ve never heard of anyone being allergic to banana. Your poor colleague, and yay for you.

      Banana bread is pretty common here, and becoming increasingly so. Perphaps because its a bit healthier (less sweet, and oil instead of butter)?


  24. Greetings from Sunny Florida. Your banana cake looks decadent and delish. Banana cake isn’t a thing here, but I do have a sweet friend who makes the tastiest banana bread; which to me seems like cake. Is there a difference? Well, I suppose the bread doesn’t have icing/ frosting.

    I giggled over your Mom’s misunderstanding of a Ladies A Plate. Who would have figured that out if you were new to the area? A girlfriend and I visited New Zealand just 3 years ago and had the absolute best experience ever. But whenever I think of New Zealand, I think of wine (yum) and pumpkin soup. It seemed that every restaurant we visited served a version of pumpkin soup. I’m sure it was just the ‘time of year’ but we still talk about that little fun fact.

    Visiting from Deb the Badass Widow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Suz; thanks so much for visiting and commenting.

      The whole cake/bread thing is interesting. I use different recipes for them, and the texture is different too. Banana bread in my world has oil instead of butter, buttermilk or yogurt instead of plain milk — and definitely no icing. And it’s quicker and less fiddly to make.

      I’m glad you had a good time in NZ. Yeah, pumpkin soup is a bit ubiquitous here. It can be amazing when done well, but like baby food otherwise.

      Wishing you a great week ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Your banana cake looks delicious, although I confess banana is not my favourite flavour in baked goods. But I’ll bet that coffee buttercream icing takes it to a whole ‘nother level! Thank you, Su…I will have a slice! 😉


    Liked by 1 person

  26. I bake a banana cake monthly. I stole the recipe off a lovely Greek friend Theodora. I have made some adaptations but I do not stray very far as it is always a winner. Ingredients usually are Butter sugar egg banana natural yoghurt dates walnuts oats wholemeal sr flour baking powder. People always ask for the recipe. I tend not to ice this one. It’s just nice with a cup of tea.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I’ve returned to admire your piping work, drool over the coffee frosting, and then pop off to tea with some other BlogFriends.

    Just had banana bread (stuffed with walnuts and baked in a loaf tin) and was just thinking how nice it would be to have some of that frosting.

    Liked by 1 person

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  29. As always, you make things look so scrumptious. May I confess, I have never had banana cake? However, my mom makes a fantastic banana bread that probably as close as I have ever come to the same level of sweet/moistness. We serve it with either cream cheese or a thick smear of butter. Warm, it is very near to heaven.

    But, given a choice of cakes, I either order Chocolate or Carrot Cake. It is a matter of mood and who has made it. Chocolate tends to be good almost everywhere. But carrot cake…that can be one of the best or most disappointing cakes you can buy. (The secret to a good carrot cake…well…I have a post of my mom’s recipe here: It truly is one of the best variations you’ll ever taste. If you get the ‘squeeze the carrots dry’ part right that is.


  30. Well this comment is 100th( century)😉, first experience of such thing.

    Well this cake was so tempting 😋, and reading the full blog create more hunger. Well my all time favorite cake is chocolate cake .
    However I do love “coffee cake” as well .

    But let me disclose the fact to you, I was not good at baking so got this, cake right after several tries.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Your blog is excellent and the way you reply to all your many comments.
    The photos of the Kai makes me hungry.
    The opening greeting makes me remember Aotearoa, so all this pakeha can say is tinacoco.
    The clouds were not always white, I missed the Aussie climate.
    I love everything else about the land of the Kiwi. 😎

    Liked by 2 people

  32. I have many years of N. Z. memories.
    I traveled with a N. Z. deerculler from Switzerland.
    His favoured song was Green Green grass of home.
    I like it sung by Dennis Marsh on YouTube.😎🥰the one with the hearts is Pauline.

    Liked by 1 person

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