Best Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I am of the firm belief that every beginning should be paired with cake. Cakes can be celebratory for beginnings that are exciting, comforting for beginnings that are scary, and soothing for beginnings that are sad. This beginning is mostly the first with just a dash of the second. I have started this website to serve as an outlet for my culinary adventures and whims (exciting!), but I am inherently a private person and putting my writing and my cooking on the internet for any and all to see is a tad bit scary. Soo for those who know me personally, and now you, it goes without saying that cake will definitely be involved.

whole banana cake with cream cheese frosting and nuts

When I was growing up, there were always a ton of cookbooks around my house. In addition to stockpiling her favorite books, my mom has been subscribed to Bon Appetit since the 70’s and has kept each addition. She kept her favorite 30 or so cookbooks and magazines in the bottom two shelves of the kitchen pantry – conveniently within my reach from a young age. The rest were stored in boxes around the house and garage, much to my father’s chagrin delight. Many of her favorites eventually became mine as well, including the Silver Palate Cookbooks, by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins. There are many reasons these books are family favorites; one reason in particular is this Banana Cake. 

This easy banana layer cake recipe is especially great because it manages to be simultaneously nostalgic and fresh. The cake is moist, and reminiscent of banana bread and cozy in the same way, and is dressed up by the additions of fresh banana slices and cream cheese frosting. It has been requested by friends and strangers and even made into a wedding cake (No joke. My mom quadrupled the recipe last September and made it into tiers for a friend’s wedding.). As cakes go, it’s definitely an easier one to make, and given the amount of bananas and cream cheese used, I people have been known to eat it for dessert or breakfast. So you know, it’s versatile.

slice of banana layer cake

Best Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

(Baaarely adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins)

A note on layering the bananas between the layers: Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll use one or many layers of very thinly sliced bananas. I like to spread paper thin layers of frosting beneath and between the banana layers to keep them in place.

A note on the frosting: This frosting is very easy and very forgiving. If it gets too soft, simply throw it in the fridge until it thickens. Because I like to avoid cleaning, I don’t sift the powdered sugar and have never experienced any issues with lumps, but feel free to sift in the sugar if you want.

A note on the use of nuts: While I personally prefer to use the walnuts on the sides of the cake for texture and decoration, they can easily be omitted to accommodate for any nut allergies. The cake will still be delicious.

Cake

1/2 lb. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2/3 tsp. baking soda
5 Tbs. buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 firm, ripe bananas
1 1/2 c. roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of two 9″ cake pans with parchment, butter and flour the sides.

Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate each egg before adding the next. Add the mashed bananas, beating to combine thoroughly.

Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the butter/egg mixture. Add in the buttermilk and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat everything until combined throughly.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans. I like to use a scale make sure the batter is evenly divided, but it’s ok if you skip this step, just try to get the batter divided approximately equally so the layers bake evenly.

Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. Cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan and cool completely on the rack.

*Do ahead: At this point, the cake can be double wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge, or additionally wrapped in foil and frozen. You can proceed with frosting the cake directly from the fridge or freezer. Tip: I have found it easier to frost chilled cakes – it results in fewer crumbs mixing with the frosting. 

For the frosting: (See note above) Beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Doing so gradually will improve your chances of incorporating more of the sugar into the frosting and less of it pluming into the air and likely onto your face. Beat in the vanilla.  

Assembly: Place one layer of the cake on the desired serving plate and frost the top with a very thin layer of the cream cheese frosting. Thinly slice the remaining bananas and layer on top of the frosting (see note above). Lightly press the slices into the frosting. Top the bananas with another thin layer of frosting. Be gentle with this step, as the banana slices like to move.

Place the second cake layer on top of the first and press down lightly. Spread the rest of the frosting over the outside of the cake. Optionally use the chopped walnuts to decorate the cake, as desired.

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