When faced with a surplus of bananas, I make the Cook’s Illustrated banana bread recipe. If I’m feeling whimsical, I might make banana pancakes, or I will use them for muffins, with walnuts, chocolate chips, or whatever. Over the years I have collected wisdom around banana baking- and that is that first and foremost to get the best flavor it is imperative you use black, with a consistency of slugs, bananas because bananas ‘sweeten up’ in their life journey (from green->yellow->yellow with brown spots->brown->black and sluglike). Also, because banana is not the most assertive flavor, we try to “boost” it with either homemade extract (boiling the liquid from the slug like bananas, etc.) or in a pinch, bottled naturally flavored extract.
With the quarantine forcing me to at least try something different with my stress baking, I found a ‘cake’ recipe, which differs in reality only slightly from ‘banana bread’ which I think is a misnomer, but I tried it and it was an instant hit around my household, even though folks complained about the cream cheese frosting, they all ate it anyway. The original recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction, which is a great and for me, a time-tested site with great recipes.
As you would expect by the third paragraph, I found it necessary to make a few tweaks, including adding a banana (4 instead of 3) as well as some extract, boosting the vanilla quotient and of course, going heavy on the sugar and salt.
For the Banana Cake
- 4 bananas (black, previously frozen OK)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground fresh
- 1/2 tsp salt (heavy)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- 1/16th tsp vanilla bean powder
- 3/4 cup (1 + 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar, plus an extra 1/4 cup if needed
- 1 tbsn pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9×13 inch pan.
- Make the cake: Mash the bananas. I usually just use my mixer for this! Set mashed bananas aside.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the mashed bananas. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. The batter will be slightly thick and a few lumps is OK.
- Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top of the cake is browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
- Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely. After about 45 minutes, I usually place it in the refrigerator to speed things up.
- Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add the extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar (I add it). Spread the frosting on the cooled cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. This helps sets the frosting and makes cutting easier.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.