banana cake with cup of coffee

When I made this banana cake, I made a mistake. Having failed to thoroughly read the first line of the recipe, I thought the list of ingredients was adequate for a single layer. I meticulously prepared for my cake adventure, doing my shopping and gathering my ingredients, never once thinking that perhaps I might be overdoing it. It wasn’t until I actually started pouring the batter into my springform pan that it occurred to me I might have made a mistake. Alas. Two cakes instead of one. What is one to do? Share, naturally.

banana cake with penuche frosting, side view

I feel I should confess: I’ve never really been that into bananas. My parents claim that when I was a toddler I would eat them with alarming enthusiasm, but at some point it seems my preferences veered wildly into banana-hating territory. For a period during my adolescence, even the smell of bananas would turn my stomach. To this day, I hate eating them raw (there are a handful of foods with textures that disagree with my very soul), but flavor-wise, they certainly have their place. A slice of good banana bread with some butter and a cup of coffee on a cold day? Hell yes. But banana bread is my mother’s game (I statement I make with all due respect). 

top view, banana cake with penuche frosting


Thus, when I felt pulled to bake and wanted to do something a bit summery, this banana cake recipe jumped out at me. It sounded desserty and hot-weather friendly but without being cutesy; in fact, this seemed like a proper, adult option for something sweet. The frosting recommended in the recipe (penuche) was new to me. Penuche is a type of candy made from brown sugar, butter, and milk. It has a flavor highly reminiscent of caramel, but without being so thick. It’s nice with this banana cake, but use sparingly. The recipe calls for powdered sugar (to create the frosting), which makes it almost sickly-sweet. If you’re expecting your cake to look like the cake in the beautiful photos on the recipe page on the Food52 website, you’re going to overdose on sugar. Go easy on the frosting (or try using a different frosting altogether) so that you don’t miss the banana flavor.

cut banana cake with penuche frosting


I really enjoyed making this banana cake. Some modifications were made to the original recipe; I substituted buttermilk for sour milk and all-purpose flour for pastry flour. Making two banana cakes turned out to be a great mistake, as I got to share with my coworkers. They made quick work of it; gone over the course of a single afternoon. It comes together pretty easily. It’ll only take a couple hours of your time, and you’ll have the added benefit of having a house that smells like banana cake (at least for a little while). Recipe from Food52 below. A little last hurrah for summer!


Makes one 2-layer cake

Banana Cake (based on recipe by Lindsay-Jean Hard via

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • eggs, separated
  • bananas, crushed
  • 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar, then one at a time, mix in the egg yolks, bananas, and sour milk, stirring after each addition until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients (and the nuts if using) to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, and fold into the batter.
  5. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans, divide the batter evenly between the pans, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.
Penuche Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1cup brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add the milk, raise the heat, and cook until the mixture boils. Remove from heat, and let it cool until the mixture is lukewarm.
  3. Gradually stir in the powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

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