Banana cake is probably the one food thing that encompasses most of my food memories as a kid. For one, my mother was a cake decorator so when it came to birthday time the cake sky was the limit and my choice was always banana, and for two, my Grandma who recently passed away, my Nannie, made my world's greatest banana bread and it always cured whatever ailed me. Banana is also my husband's favorite flavor.
Banana cake is a big deal at our house.
I could tell you that this is a fourth generation banana cake recipe but it's not. While I love my grandmother's bread and my mom's version of cake, this is my personal favorite. As I've talked about before with pies, cobblers, and crumbles, when it comes to fruit desserts I like to keep the fruit the star flavor, adding as few spices and taste additions as possible. I want to taste the banana, not the cinnamon that's in most recipes. This version is very much banana and very much cake.
Banana Nut Cake
Recipe by Glenna Anderson Muse
Inspired by a recipe found in Springfield's Junior League Cookbook: Sassafrass
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed ripe banana
2 cups flour
4 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
5 oz. almond paste
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp milk
1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees convection or 350 regular.
2. Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans with baker's joy cooking spray and lining with parchment or waxed paper.
3. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well.
4. Mix rest of liquid ingredients, including banana, together. Sift flour, baking soda, and cornstarch together.
5. With mixer running on medium low, incorporate dry and wet ingredients, alternating them, in 2-3 batches. Mix for 1 additional minute.
6. Divide evenly into cake pans and bake for 20 minutes or until pinch test shows spongey texture.
For more info on baking correctly, see my post: Seven Professional Secrets to Baking a Great Cake
Cook's Notes: A few notes about the recipe. The vinegar in the milk is to make what my mother called "sour milk" or a substitute for buttermilk. The acid in the vinegar or buttermilk is what reacts with the baking soda to leaven. The cornstarch sifted in with the all purpose flour lightens it up to form, basically, homemade cake flour, creating a lighter cake texture. Also try to keep the total mixing time to under five minutes. You want to thoroughly mix the ingredients and incorporate air, but you don't want to mix so long that the flour proteins form long elastic strands chemically which will make the cake texture more chewy and bread-like.
Cream together almond paste and butter until smooth. Alternating, add in powdered sugar and milk until a thick buttercream texture is achieved. You may need a little more milk.
Assembly: Level the cakes if needed and then stack with filling in between and also use filling, thinned a bit with milk, as a crumb coating if desired. Finish with either buttercream of choice or marshmallow fondant.
Notice how the cake has pulled away from the sides? That didn't happen until AFTER I'd had the layer out of the oven for five minutes. Even though standard cake instructions say cake is done when the layers pull away from the sides, it's actually a bit overbaked. Go by the pinch test where the samll divot in the center shows a sponge-like texture just before the edges pull away. This cake is browner than the cakes I've shown before but that's because of the banana.
Close-up of the internal texture to know when it's done.
Notice how level the layer is? I've already tested my oven with an oven thermometer so that I know the temperature indicated is correct. So all I had to do before stacking the layers was to run a serrated knife in criss cross fashion across the tops of the layers to mar the slick surfaces so the layers wouldn't slide once I filled it with the almond paste filling.
Once my cake was crumb-coated, I chose to decorate it with , a festive ribbon, and a dusting of powdered sugar to look "Christmas-sy".