Royal Banana Chocolate Bread

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The royal part of this quick bread is the fact that it is the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s, recipe.

The story goes that when she and her husband, Prince Harry, visited Australia in October of 2018, Her Royal Highness baked the now-famous banana bread in the kitchen of Admiralty House in Sydney. It was after a long day of engagements, well into her pregnancy.

To quote google, “As if juggling pregnancy, jetlag and 16 days of speeches, meetings and handshaking with Prince Harry wasn’t enough, the Duchess took it upon herself to make homemade banana bread for morning tea.”

Okay, well I think most of us who’ve been pregnant could have managed all of this and more, but whatever….

The bread isn’t just your ordinary loaf. It has crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, and, as the Duchess put it, “too many bananas.”

The recipe might not be the exact recipe of HRH, because I saw many versions online, some containing walnuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon, but the bread has indeed become famous.

This is the recipe that my sister has always used, and she highly recommends it. Me? I hadn’t even heard of HRH’s banana bread. But it is good!

Royal Banana Chocolate Bread

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated ginger*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with butter; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the mashed bananas, melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth and evenly combined.

Add the grated ginger, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir just until combined with no dry spots. Stir in the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until bread has risen, is golden brown, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.


Remove the bread from the loaf pan and let cool completely at room temperature before slicing and serving.

* Instead of fresh ginger I opted for 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger. I was worried that I couldn’t smoosh and properly disperse the fresh ginger.

The banana bread is very good, and somewhat unique. I’m glad I used the ground ginger.

I had to try it warmed with butter, although the bread itself is moist.

It’s certainly pleasing enough to be not only a snack but a dessert.


HRH the Duchess obviously has a loving heart and great sense of community, because she helped compile a cookbook, entitled Together: Our Community Cookbook, published in September of 2018 and not yet available in the states. Proceeds benefit the Hubb Community Kitchen, located in London.

Quoting google, “The Hubb Community Kitchen is a group of women who have come together to prepare fresh food for their local community. After being displaced following the Grenfell tower fire, some of the local women needed a place to cook fresh food for their families.”

Amarena Cherry Cake

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I always have Amarena cherries on hand, because my husband loves Manhattans, and I put them in his cocktail. I’ve also used them in sangria, but never baked with them. Until now.

If you buy Italian Amarena cherries, via Amazon, the beautiful jar has a recipe attached for a cake using them, along with this terrible photo. It looks like my grand daughter made this cake!

My cake definitely turned out prettier, and more what this cake is meant to look like!

On the left, below, are the cherries I order from Amazon. Trader Joe’s also sells these cherries.

It’s challenging to describe Amarena cherries. They’re almost candied, but not really. They’re not as sweet as a Maraschino cherry. And they come in a lovely cherry syrup. They would be wonderful on ice cream, or topped on buratta!

I’ve also seen Amarena cherries in biscotti, at the blog Marisa’s Italian Kitchen. I cannot wait to make those!

Amarena Cherry Cake with Chocolate
Cake with Amarena Cherries and Chocolate

200 grams Amarena cherries, drained
2 tablespoons of the syrup
8 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup fine-grained cornmeal
1 cup powdered sugar
3 large eggs, separated
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. Beat butter with powdered sugar until light.

Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat in orange liqueur and the syrup. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites to a soft peak; fold in gently. Fold in the cherries and chopped chocolate until just incorporated.

Bake in a greased and floured 9” cake pan (loaf pan) at 375 degrees for approximately 65-70 minutes. (I baked mine at 350 degrees and removed it after 45 minutes.)

I’m sure by now you know that this cake is exceptionally good. How could it not be with these cherries and chocolate together?!

Warmed up, served with unsalted butter, was heavenly.

In the photo of the recipe, shown below, the name of this cake is plum cake. I consulted my friend and Italian cooking expert Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help explain why it’s called plum cake when there are no plums.

“It is not necessarily a cake with cherries that is called a plum cake in Italy. Any cake that more or less follows the “quatre quarts” recipe is called a plum cake in Italy.

Originally, a plum cake is any cake that has dried fruit in it, like prunes or raisins. The word “plum” is used loosely. In Italy, plum cake is thought of as a recipe from England. I believe that nowadays a plum cake is usually called a fruitcake in England.

In Italy, the name plum cake is used for any cake that is rectangular and has flour/sugar/butter/eggs as the main ingredients.

A cake in Italy that is rectangular with flour/sugar/butter/eggs plus cherries would probably be called a plum cake, or more completely a “plum cake alle ciliegie” (literally: plum cake with cherries).”

I hope that helps! It’s still a little confusing to me. This photo shows part of the recipe.

Olive Cake

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In the fall of 2015, my husband and I spent a lovely vacation in the Provençal countryside with our friend Stéphane Gabart. If you’re not familiar with him, you should be. He writes the inspirational blog “My French Heaven,” and he’s also a professional culinary guide, chef and photographer.

Before this trip I’d already visited him twice – once with my daughter, and the other time with a girlfriend.

But this trip was different in that we traveled from Bordeaux through Provence, ending up at le Côte d’Azur at the end. So for two full weeks, we really saw Provence, thanks to the itinerary Stéphane customized for us. I wasn’t familiar with many of the villages, like Boulbon, Gordes, Grasse, and Tourrettes. All were awe-inspiring.

Near Aix en Provence, we visited a working olive farm, Bastide du Laval, had a tasting, and walked the trails amongst the olive groves.

This photo shows Niçoise olives ripening.

At every happy hour in Provence, along with our cocktails, we were served olives. Some were whole, some were made into a tapenade, and all were delicious.

At one hotel we were served olives with what I’m sure was olive cake – a savory quick bread.

The olive cake I’m making today is reminiscent of the lovely bread I enjoyed while sipping rosé underneath golden sycamores.

This is the recipe I’m using, although I can’t credit anyone or any publication; I couldn’t even find it online.


I pretty much made the recipe as is, except for increasing the cheese to 7 ounces, all grated, and omitting the ham.



The bread/cake turned out perfectly.

I served it still warm with cheese, olives, salami and oven-roasted tomatoes.

I think the cake would have been fine with just the olive oil and tapenade, but the chopped olives added a nice texture.

Next time I will make this olive cake the same way.

note: I omitted the ham in this specific recipe, but if you want something more fun, check out the raclette quick bread I made a few years ago for the blog, pictured below. It contains sun-dried tomatoes, pancetta, raclette, pine nuts, and herbs. In fact, it just shows how creative you can get with a basic savory quick bread recipe!

Raclette Quick Bread

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For those of you who don’t know what a quick bread is, well, it’s just that – a quick bread! As opposed to slow bread, you could call it, or a yeasted bread, which can take hours to prepare and bake.

A quick bread contains no yeast. Baking powder is the leavening that lightens the bread as it bakes. Without leavening of any sort, breads would come out of the oven as heavy, dense bricks.

I learned that the hard way as a young girl. I went through a baking spurt where on Sundays I would get up and make recipes from a cookbook written for youngsters by Betty Crocker, such things as cinnamon rolls and coffee cakes. Once I wanted to make a certain breakfast bread that required yeast and something called “rising time,” and being that I didn’t have that kind of time, I just ignored that part of the recipe.

Knowing that I had made something special, because I had a feeling that yeast was special, and being quite proud of myself, when my mother came down to the kitchen, I asked her to remove the bread from the oven. As she proceeded to lift it from the oven rack, she almost dropped it because it weighed a ton. And, of course, it was inedible. The rising process for yeasted breads is mandatory. Lesson learned at age 9.

But back to quick breads. Besides being quick, they are extremely easy. And you can really mix up the ingredients much like you can pancakes. You just have to respect the wet ingredients to dry ingredients ratio. Think about it. A cookie dough is different from a cake batter for a reason. You can’t make a pancake with a stiff dough, and just the same you can’t bake a quick bread from a drippy batter.

There are familiar quick breads that just contain honey and molasses, but also banana and pumpkin breads as well. These are all sweet quick breads. But I really like making savory ones.

Today I decided to make a quick bread using some leftover raclette cheese that I had frozen after Christmas, and a few other goodies I gathered together. If you decide to make this bread, you can completely change up the ingredients including the cheese, to make this bread your own. See what you think.

Raclette Quick Bread

2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes from a package
4 ounces unsalted butter
6 ounces pancetta
16 ounces milk
2 eggs
8 ounces ricotta
3 tablespoons leftover pancetta grease
1/2 cup, approximately, fresh, chopped herbs*
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
12 ounces grated raclette or your cheese of choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Chop up the dried tomatoes and place them in a small bowl. Add the butter to the bowl and microwave it until it is melted. Let the tomatoes hydrate in the butter while you continue with the recipe.

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Chop the pancetta into large dice.

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Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat. A little browning is good; don’t allow any burning. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate, but save the grease in the skillet.

To a large mixing bowl, add the milk, eggs, ricotta, pancetta grease, the herbs, and salt. Whisk this mixture until smooth.

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Using a spoon, gradually add the flour and baking powder and stir until the flour is almost combine with the wet ingredients. The batter will be thick because of the ricotta cheese, so don’t think you’ve done something wrong. At that time, add the grated cheese and fold the batter until the flour and cheese is incorporated; do not over stir.

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Divide the batter in between two greased 8 x 4″ loaf pans.

I actually used a handful of sliced Kalamata olives for half of this batter, because my husband doesn’t like them, but I do. The addition of the olives doesn’t affect the dry to wet ingredient ratio, so I just simply folded them in.
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Place the pans in the oven for 45 minutes. The bread with the olives is in the foreground.

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To make sure they are cooked through, use a cake tester or long toothpick to check them. No doughy substance should be sticking to the tester. If there is, the breads need to be cooked for maybe five minutes longer. An alternative is to lower your oven to 325 degrees to help the breads cook in the middle.

There should be a little rise along the middle of the bread, and it should also be firm to the touch.

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Let the breads rest in the pans for about 30 minutes, and then remove them to cool completely.

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Serve these breads as part of a buffet, or for an hors d’oeuvres platter. They’re best warm or at room temperature.

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* I used parsley, rosemary, and oregano straight from the garden. But you can use one herb or many, depending on your taste.

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note: To change up the ingredients, think about adding nuts, for example, or even chopped jalapenos! This bread would also be good with a smoked cheese, cilantro, and adobo seasoning! Get creative!

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Achiote Cornbread

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I’m not a huge cornbread lover. For one thing, when I first tried it after I moved to Texas a million years ago, it was way too sweet. And unnecessarily sweet. So I stayed away from it for years. But then I started making it from scratch, and ignoring the sugar. I like it much better sugar-free – besides, corn is already sweet!

But, the great thing I’ve learned about making cornbread is that you can do so many different things to it to make it your own, and really compliment whatever entrée you’re serving with it. Cornbread can be Southwestern with the addition of chile peppers, or it can be Mediterranean with the addition of olives. You can herb it up in the summer, or add any kind of flavor during the winter months like sun-dried tomato pesto. And, of course, you can always add cheese!!!

Today I wanted my cornbread fairly plain, but I wanted a little flavor enhancement and beautiful color from achiote oil. So here’s my recipe for Skillet Cornbread with Achiote Oil.

Achiote Cornbread

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons achiote oil, plus a little more
6 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Have a 10 – 12″ iron skillet on your stove.

Get your dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Then place the buttermilk, eggs, and achiote oil in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Have your melted butter handy.

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When your oven has preheated, turn on the heat under your skillet and let it pre-heat.

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Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, whisking just until smooth.

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Using a little extra achiote oil, grease the skillet. Then pour the batter into the hot skillet, an immediately place it in the oven.

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Bake for 18 minutes. It should be nice and golden and the middle should be somewhat firm to the touch.

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Remove the skillet from the oven and let the cornbread cool a little for about ten minutes. Loosen the sides, then remove the cornbread onto a cutting board.

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Slice into wedges and serve warm!