My vintage recipe inspiration for this Old-Fashioned Banana Cake came from my very tattered 1965 Fannie Farmer cookbook. This simple, tender cake has a depth of flavor from roasted bananas and is topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting. It’s an easy way to use up brown bananas sitting on the counter!
How I took a 60’s vintage recipe and baked it modern:
- recipe called for butter
- used regular bananas
- called for milk
- used baking soda as leavener
- Used a combination of butter and oil
- Roasted the bananas
- Used homemade buttermilk
- used a combination of baking soda and baking powder for extra lift
- Added a touch of cinnamon to complement the roasted bananas
How to make Old-Fashioned Banana Cake:
How to infuse more banana flavor:
- Never use green, unripe bananas in baked goods.
- Use brown-speckled bananas which have lend natural extra sweetness, and keep your baked goods moist.
- To add a depth of extra flavor to the banana cake, roast whole bananas on a parchment line baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
Combine butter for flavor and oil for a tender cake:
- Combine butter to provide flavor, along with oil to yield a tender, moist baked good.
- If your recipe calls for only butter or only oil, you can combine them together using equal portions of each to make up the full amount of fat originally called for in the recipe.
- Choose an oil with a neutral, light flavor, like extra light virgin olive oil or canola oil.
Buttermilk yields tender baked goods:
- Adding buttermilk provides a tangy flavor and yields a tender baked good.
- If purchasing buttermilk, look for simple, natural ingredients like “cultured milk” on the label. Some brands are loaded with stabilizers, gums and starches.
- You can keep dry buttermilk powder in your pantry to mix up anytime it is needed.
TIP: If you don’t have any buttermilk on-hand, make your own:
Method #1: Place 1 T. vinegar into a liquid measuring cup and add cream or whole milk until it reaches the 1 c. measure line and let it sit for a few minutes.
Method #2: Place 1/2 c. sour cream and 1/2 c. whole milk or cream and let it sit for a few minutes.
Method #3: Place 1 T. lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup and add cream or whole milk until it reaches the 1 c. measure line and let it sit for a few minutes.
Beat egg whites separately in cakes:
- Set out the eggs before you start to come to room temperature ingredients will incorporate better.
- Separate out egg whites from the yolks
- Beat the whites first before mixing up the rest of the cake since they need a clean, non-greasy bowl to help whip them up.
- When you are ready to add back into the cake, remove bowl from mixer and gently fold into the batter to help keep the cake light.
Use the proper baking pans:
- Always use light-colored aluminum baking pans since they conduct heat evenly. I collect and use vintage cake pans, however if you are purchasing new go with or Fat Daddio’s or Nordicware. Dark cake pans may darken or burn the edges before the inside batter is fully baked.
- Choose a cake pan depending on the style your trying to achieve. Using an 8″ x 2″ round pan is a classic, but requires a bit more time to stack, frost and decorate. Some easier pan options are a traditional 9×13 pan, or a half-sheet pan which will yield a thin, bar-like style typically seen at picnics.
- Be sure to always prep baking pans first with cooking spray and a light dusting of flour; or line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
- Fill your cake pans with batter 2/3 full.
How to make cream cheese frosting:
- For the best all natural taste and texture, only use full fat, brick cream cheese. Variations like those labeled as “whipped” or “light” are spreads and may contain liquid, food starch and other additives.
- If your are going to pipe cream cheese frosting, you may need to add additional confectioners sugar or stabilize it.
- To make the frosting ahead, you can stabilize it by adding 1-2 tsp. of cornstarch to the confectioners sugar.
How to decorate retro cakes:
- Place 3 cut rectangular strips of wax paper along the edges of your cake. This will help keep your cake plate clean for final presentation.
- Frost the top and the sides with a light crumb coat.
- Put cake in the fridge to chill for about 10-15 minutes before adding the top coat of frosting.
- To frost top coat, start by scooping dallops of frosting onto the top of the cake and push down the excess top frosting down onto the sides.
- Use a back-and-forth motion with an off-set spatula to create large swirls. Another option is to add a pretty classic spiral pattern. To do this, for the top start on the outside edge and spin your cake plate around until you get to the center and for the sides, start at the bottom and spin the cake plate around to the top.
- To keep the look classic, top with a simple garnish of whole or crushed nuts, sugared fruit, or a mini bouquet of fresh flowers.
I would love to know if you baked up this Old-Fashioned Banana Cake and what you thought of it? I’m always up for a baking challenge, so just let me know if you’ve been searching for an old-fashioned recipe your grandma made or want to learn how swap out an ingredient from old recipe to accommodate a modern speciality diet.
For more of my cake recipes, try:
Old Fashioned Banana Cake
- 2 3/4 c. unbleached flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. pink salt
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 3/4 c. unsalted butter room temp
- 1 3/4 c. sugar
- 4 eggs beaten separately
- 1/4 c. oil
- 2 c. mashed banana about 3 bananas
- 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
- 2 tsp. baking soda dissolve in buttermilk
- 2 tsp. vanilla or rum (or combination)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter
- 8 oz. block cream cheese
- 1 egg white
- 2 2/3 c. confectioners sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/8 tsp. fine salt
- Roast whole bananas on a parchment lined pan in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool and smash into a liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- Pour buttermilk into liquid measuring cup and add baking soda. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour (3) 8" round cake pans.
- In mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Place in separate bowl and set aside.
- In mixer bowl with whisk attachment, cream together butter and sugar.
- Add half the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon) and then half the remaining wet ingredients (buttermilk mixture and roasted bananas) and mix until just combined.
- Add in the egg yolks, oil and vanilla and mix until just combined.
- Add the remainder of wet and dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Fold in the beaten egg whites by hand.
- Pour batter into greased cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. Place toothpick in center comes out clean. Allow to cool before icing.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Place butter and cream cheese into mixer bowl and mix until light and fluffy.
- Add in egg white, confectioners sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt.
- Beat together about 5-7 minutes until light and fluffy.