Banana Loaf Recipe

The home of easy and delicious banana loaf recipes and a wealth of articles to answer all your banana loaf baking needs.

The Rubbing-in Method

The Definitive 10 Step Guide to the Rubbing in Method in Baking

When you make a cake, particularly if you're following a banana loaf recipe, there are many different ways to combine the ingredients. One of the easiest baking methods to learn is known as the "rubbing-in method". You will see it written in recipe books as "now rub the fat into the flour" or "now combine the ingredients using the rubbing-in method". Quite simply, it is the technique of using your fingers to combine hard fat (butter, margarine or lard) and flour by rubbing them together.

You may already be familiar with the rubbing-in method if you have ever made home-made crumble for a fruit crumble pudding or home-made pastry - you may just not have known it had a name!

One of the best reasons for using the rubbing-in method is that the hard work is done by our own hands so no machine or gadget is needed. And it is not a difficult technique to master - even a child can do it!  But don't hang about - it should be done quickly and lightly, introducing a bit of air where possible and without melting the fat. Need to learn how to rub fat into flour to make a cake? Here is our definitive 10 step guide to the rubbing-in method in baking:-

Step 1

Weigh your flour and put into a roomy mixing bowl. You need to get your hands in the bowl so give yourself a decent-sized bowl so you have space to work.

Step 2

Weigh your fat (butter or margarine). It shouldn't be at room temperature like with other cakes - straight from the fridge is actually better as the fat won't melt as you rub.

Step 3

Put the fat into the bowl with the flour.

Step 4

Start with a table knife and chop the fat into small pieces.

Step 5

Once the fat is well chopped, it's time to get your hands dirty! (Ensure you have clean hands).

rubbing ingredients together

Step 6

Using both hands, pick up handfuls of fat and flour and rub them together between your fingertips and thumbs. The fat and flour will combine into what look a bit like breadcrumbs.

Step 7

Try and lift up the fat and flour as you do it so you introduce air into the mixture  - do the rubbing above rather than in the mixture.

Step 8

Use the tips of your fingers not your whole hands as this keeps the ingredients cooler.

Step 9

Give the bowl a shake every now and then to allow the remaining lumps of fat to come to the top. Keep going at this until all the lumps of fat have disappeared and you are left with a whole bowl of breadcrumb-like particles.

Step 10

This should take no more than 5 minutes (once you've got the hang of it!). Don't over-do it or you'll make the fat too warm.

rubbed in fat and flour

Cakes and recipes that use the rubbing-in method

Now you know how to do the rubbing-in method, you may be wondering what recipes use the rubbing-in method. Our own banana loaf cake recipe is a great example of a cake that uses the rubbing-in method - it's one of the reasons we prefer this recipe as you don't need a mixer or food processor to make the cake. Visit our home page or click on banana loaf recipe to see our definitive banana loaf recipe, and read our various articles about how to vary the ingredients, how to know if your banana loaf is cooked, how to store your banana loaf, whether you can freeze bananas and how to bake successfully with kids.

Here's a list of recipes we love that use the rubbing-in method

  • Our very own classic Signature Banana Loaf Recipe
  • The lovely Nigella Lawson's Welshcakes recipe - you can whip a batch up in no time and they are delicious.
  • Crumble is the ultimate rubbig-in method recipe and there are thousands of variations out there. Our household favourite is the oat crumble topping version from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery course (our "couldn't live without it" recipe book) - we use 4oz(110g) oats, 4oz (110g) wholemeal plain flour, 3oz (75g) butter and 3oz (75g) soft brown sugar. Rub the fat into the flour, add the sugar and oats and spread over your chosen fruit in an oven-proof dish - cook on 180 C Fan, 200 conventional or Gas Mark 6 for approx 30-45 minutes.
  • Shortcrust pastry is a classic that uses the rubbing-in method and from there you can make pies, quiches and tarts to your heart's desire. This recipe BBC Good Food Shortcrust Pastry recipe is a straightforward one.
  • Scones are another rubbing-in method classic, whether sweet or savoury, with cheese or sultanas, cherries or just plain. Try this great Scone Recipe from Mary Berry, the Queen of Baking.