Plantain or Banana, Coconut & Cardamom Cake Recipe by Dina Macki

Ever since I was little, Bibi and my mum have been adamant that I had to enjoy all of our home cooking, but until I was about 16, I refused to eat any dishes that looked too “different”, and especially avoided anything with an overwhelming taste of cardamom.

I couldn’t stand the spice, which was really unhelpful, because almost every single recipe of ours included it. There is one particular pudding from Zanzibar called ndizi mbivu, which is basically overripe sweet plantains stewed with coconut milk and cardamom. As a kid, the look of the dish always put me off – it looked messy, unlike all the pretty, quintessentially British puddings I was used to seeing.

Much to Bibi’s dismay, I would compare it to baby food and always turn up my nose at it. I must have been about 20 when I started to appreciate it and understand how something so simple could yield so much comfort and flavour. Now, I see the warmth of the cardamom and the creaminess of the coconut is bliss, and I’ve included my version on page 141.

However, I also wanted to include this “prettier” version: the version that let me feel as if I fitted in, and as if our food made sense. Bringing all the same ingredients into a cake seemed like the perfect way for others to relate to how comforting ndizi mbivu is for us. Even my mum and Bibi enjoy this version with a cup of tea.

This recipe is extracted from Bahari: Recipes from an Omani Kitchen and Beyond by Dina Macki

Browse Middle Eastern recipes, or shop Middle Eastern food and ingredients here.

Ingredients for Plantain or Banana, Coconut & Cardamom Cake

For the caramel

  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter

How to make Plantain or Banana, Coconut & Cardamom Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease a 20cm cake tin and line with baking parchment.
  2. To make the caramel, place the sugar in a saucepan over a low–medium heat and allow it to gradually melt, gently swirling the pan to help ensure all the sugar melts evenly. Once it has all melted, add the butter and keep stirring until smooth.
  3. Arrange the sliced banana or plantain in the base of the prepared tin, then pour over the caramel. Set aside.
  4. Combine all the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and whisk until fully incorporated and smooth, but don’t over-whisk. Pour the batter into the tin over the sliced banana or plantain and caramel. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 190°C (170°C fan/375°F/Gas 5) and bake for a further 25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then remove from the tin. I like to serve this warm, but if you prefer you can leave it to cool entirely – just be sure to remove from the tin while it’s still warm. This will keep for 4–5 days in an airtight container.
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