Banana Nut Cake with Caramel Frosting

My mom's famous recipe for Banana Nut Cake, a great special-occasion cake yet simple enough to make often. Plus, bakers, you've just got to try this new banana technique: no more waiting for bananas to ripen!

My mom's famous recipe for Banana Nut Cake, a great special-occasion cake yet simple enough to make often. It employs a new banana technique: no more waiting for bananas to ripen!

Panic! How in the world would I fulfill the birthday cake request from my favorite eight-year-old? He wanted banana cake, more particularly “banana cake with vanilla ice cream” thank you very much, exhibiting much promise as a child-prodigy foodie.

Trouble was, I had no ripe bananas and it takes a good week or ten days for bananas to ripen properly until the bananas are almost black. Even the favorite “ripen bananas in a paper bag on the counter” trick wasn’t going to produce ripe bananas in 18 hours.

That famous mother of invention, necessity, stepped up to the cake plate and sure enough, I figured out a great way to make banana cake (and likely, banana bread and banana cookies too, say) with unripe and still yellow-skinned bananas.

I started with my mother’s famous banana cake recipe, the one she made for my dad’s newspaper staff when it was her turn to provide treats for the Wednesday afternoon coffeebreak after the weekly paper was put to bed. Then I sautéed the bananas in the butter until they were soft, hoping that the cooking process would heighten the sweetness. Sure enough, it worked like a charm. The cake was one of the best I’ve ever made. The eight-year-old and his birthday buddy, the cake baker and the rest of the family were all happy cake eaters.


In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let bubble for 1 – 2 minutes. Add a tablespoon of milk (it will sizzle), stir to incorporate and cook another minute. Remove from heat, stir in 1/2 a teaspoon banana extract or vanilla. A tablespoon or two at a time, stir in powdered sugar until thick.

ALANNA’s TIPS This cake has an unusual mixing process, but don’t worry, it works! For an extra boost in banana flavor, use Banana Extract from Vanilla, Saffron Imports. In Mom’s day, we slathered the cake with a thick caramel icing, so sweet that the mere memory makes my teeth hurt. Nowadays, a drizzle seems plenty, saving a few calories too. This means the Caramel Frosting above is ‘half’ the amount we once used. To drizzle the frosting, scoop the warm frosting into a freezer bag, snip the corner and drizzle away. Substitute English walnuts for black walnuts but I do recommend toasting them to bring out the flavor.


Hands-on time: 40 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
Makes a 9- or 10-inch round cake or 9x9 cake (double for a 9x13)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3 large unripe bananas, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise in small pieces
  • 2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon banana extract (see TIPS) or vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped black walnuts, optional (see TIPS)
  • Caramel Frosting (left)
  • Black walnuts, optional

Heat oven to 350F/175C. Prepare baking pan(s) with baking spray.

TO USE UNRIPE BANANAS Melt the butter in a skillet on medium heat until shimmery. Add the bananas and cook, stirring often, until bananas are soft and the butter is just beginning to brown. Transfer banana-butter mixture to a large bowl.

TO USE RIPE BANANAS Skip the skillet step, instead, just mash the bananas with a fork. To mix the cake, cream room-temperature butter with a mixer, then proceed as follows, adding the mashed bananas with the milk and vanilla.

Add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; with an electric mixer, mix until just combined. Add the milk and vanilla [and mashed bananas if using ripe bananas]; beat on low for 2 minutes. Add the eggs; beat on low for 2 minutes. Gently stir in the nuts.

BAKE Transfer to a well-greased cake pan. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a knife slipped into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool about 30 minutes. If you like, turn onto a serving plate.

TOPPING While the Caramel Frosting is still warm, drizzle over top of the cake, then sprinkle walnuts over top. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

NUTRITION INFORMATION With 9 servings, per serving, cake only/cake and frosting: 289/364Cal; 15/17g Tot Fat; 7/9g Sat Fat; 74/81mg Cholesterol; 523/543mg Sodium; 36/49g Carb; 2g Fiber; 29/42g Sugar; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 7/8 & WW PointsPlus 8/10
Adapted from my mother’s long-time recipe for banana cake which she herself adapted from a 1961 issue of Better Homes & Gardens

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg
and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating
and occasional indulgences.
In 2009, Kitchen Parade celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special collection of my mother's recipes.
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