Further Tales of Baking Imperfection

If you’ve been hanging around this blog for long enough, you’ll have realised by now that I tend to be somewhat uneasy when it comes to baking. I’ve had lots of recent successes (especially since this breakthrough) but my cakes, pies and buns still leave a lot to be desired.

Take these banana muffins, for example. They looked right and they tasted right. Except for one important little factor – the texture. Herein lies the dominant dilemma of my baking life. My muffins are tough and dense, rather than light and airy. I wonder what I can do about that?

All muffin recipes highlight the importance of not over-mixing. I don’t know how I can mix any less. Perhaps these muffins could have benefited from a bit more oil? I thought I’d share the recipe with you as the flavour combination of coffee, banana and pecans worked really well. Maybe you can help me with the muffin base recipe?

These are kind of healthy muffins, inspired by these Breakfast Muffins, being that they’re made with wholemeal flour. Although I don’t really think there is any such thing as a ‘healthy’ muffin, is there?

What you need for Breakfast and Coffee Muffins (makes about 18 cupcake-sized muffins)

Below is how I made the muffins. Notice anything that might cause a tough muffin?

125g wholemeal flour

125g plain flour

2 teaspoons of baking pwder

100g brown sugar

100ml sunflower oil 

4 very ripe bananas

2 eggs

2 tablespoons of milk

1 teaspoon of coffee essence (I used 2 tablespoons of the mild Irel coffee stuff – it reminds me of my Nanny B so much!)

A handful of pecan halves

Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. 

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake holders

Sift the two flours and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the sugar and lightly mix. 

In another bowl, mash the banana and then mix in the sunflower oil, the eggs, milk and coffee essence. 

Fold the wet mix into the flours with a large metal spoon. Don’t over mix it! Or they will be tough like my muffins.

Is this over-mixed?! I don’t even know anymore.

Divide the mixture between the muffin tins. You’ll have enough mix to fill all 12 and then another 6, which you can complete as a second batch. 

Finely chop the pecan halves and sprinkle over each muffin. 

Cook the first batch of 12 muffins in the oven for 20 minutes or until they’re cooked through. 

Cool briefly and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

So if you have any advice on how to get my muffins right, that would be amazing!

Categories: Baking


  1. Hey Aoife – I find it a bit odd that this recipe is asking you to mix the flours and SUGAR together; it may work better if you mix the sugar with the eggs first, and beat them together until light and fluffy. To the egg/sugar mixture add the rest of your wet ingredients until well mixed – this is where you can really mix without fear of making anything tough. Then in three batches add your flour/baking powder mix and fold it into the wet mixture until just combined. I think the fluffy egg/sugar mix might do the trick. Hope this helps!

    • Hi Clare – I usually always add sugar in with flour when I’m baking. I mix the dry ingredients together and then the wet ingredients together and then finally combine the two. But I can TOTALLY see how whisking the sugar into the eggs could benefit the muffins. And adding the dry ingredients gradually makes sense too – a way of combining them well but not over-mixing.

      I’ll try the tips and report back. Thanks!

  2. I use quite a similar recipe for banana and walnut muffins but mix all the dry ingredients together first in one bowl, mix the remainder in another bowl and then fold in.
    It’s probably not the ‘done’ thing but the last time I made blueberry muffins I had no plain flour so used self-raising instead – boy did I get light and fluffy muffins!

  3. Hi, you have 2 tablespoons of baking powder in your recipe, are you sure it’s not supposed to be teaspoons? If you have too much baking powder the muffins could rise too quickly and then collapse down on themselves.

    • Oh my goodness! What am I like?! Of course it’s supposed to be teaspoons. I’m a disaster. Thanks for pointing that out – have updated the recipe!

  4. This is my own recipe – you could alter it to get the right flavours you want, but the texture on these is great. Maybe it’s the ratio of flours and the amount of milk?

    Banana Walnut Muffins

    Makes 12

    Preheat oven to 190 Celsius

    75g melted butter
    150g self-raising flour
    100g wholewheat flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
    pinch of salt
    ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp mixed allspice
    100g caster sugar or light golden sugar
    2 large, ripe bananas, mashed
    2 medium eggs
    125ml/4fl oz milk
    Handful chopped walnuts

    Sift dry ingredients together, excluding the nuts. Whisk the wet ingredients together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and lightly mix in the wet with a wooden spoon. Fold in the chopped walnuts. Divide between 12 muffin cases. Bake for 20-25 mins until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean.

    Hope this helps.

  5. I would tell it is not your fault, only the recipe fault.
    I find it tricky to bake with wholemeal flour, I think the reason may be that some are corser than others. Banana can make the muffins heavy as well, my first banana bread was awful, dry and heavy.
    I wouldn’t worry about over mixing especially if you mix it just a little bit.
    And I always add sugar with dry ingredients.
    So, go for one of the recommended recipes. The easiest one I have is http://magdascauldron.blogspot.ie/2012/07/easy-peach-muffins.html this.
    One of the first ones I ever did were Nigella’s Chocolate Chip Muffins – you can see what kind of texture they should have. You can see also how Nigella does them.
    But just to avoid cups measurements here are them in metric system.

    250 g plain flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    ½ tsp baking soda
    2 Tbsp cacao
    175 g icing sugar
    150 g chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
    250 ml milk
    90 ml oil
    1 big egg
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    Good luck

    • Thanks Magda – I love the sound of those peach muffins! I will definitely keep them in mind. Thanks for all the advice – someday I’ll perfect my muffins :)

  6. Hi! Somehow I think I got bumped off your mailing list, so I’m glad to see you’re still blogging about food and cooking! I really like that you post about your dilemmas as well as your cooking successes. As a less-than-confident baker, I’ve produced my share of ho-hum muffins, so am interested in the responses…

    An idea not yet mentioned is to check the best before date of your baking powder. Recently I watched a tv show by the people who put out Cook’s Illustrated and they demonstrated that baking powder that’s even a little past its prime can *really* limit how much baking rises!


    • Hi Anne, thanks for your nice message! Although I’ve learned a lot since starting this food blog, I’m still in nail-biting baking territory :)

      Will definitely check the baking powder – great tip!

  7. Hello, how can I get on your mailing list?
    I think Magda is right in pointing at the wholemeal flour. I use it regularly and got somehow used to the heavier results, but I think that there is an organic wholemeal self -raising version out there, it may work better. Or try wholemeal spelt – it is a bit lighter, and milled finer than the wheat one.
    Anyhow I will bake your muffins as soon as possible!
    PS Just noticed the new post case at the end of the page…!

  8. My mam Once told me that Sugar is a wet Ingredient in baking terms.

  9. they are lovely. I put in less sugar or the kids go hyper.

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