Monday, April 30, 2012

Back with Banana Cake

Tax season is finally crawling to a close.  I'm finally dreaming about things other than work.  Like last night, I dreamt I was trying to cover super greasy hair with a big headband.  It didn't work.  But hey, at least it wasn't about taxes.

In the meantime, I made banana cake.  Through a series of peculiar events, I actually lost a bunch of bananas.  I found them a week later at which point they were good only for baking.  This was perfect, because I'd had my eye on this recipe

The summers of my college years, I spent my days waitressing at an American family plan resort.  Saturday nights were the most hectic.  Not only was that when everyone was first arriving, it was one of the two meals we served blue plate rather than family style.  The meal of prime ribs was followed by slices of a rich, gooey cake dark with over-ripe bananas.  After the last dirty dish was dumped in the washing pit, we waitresses would grab the half empty pan of cake and a gallon of milk.  Then we'd stand out on the dilapidated back porch (because eating in the kitchen was forbidden) and eat that cake straight out of the pan.

I've been trying to duplicate that banana cake.  It's difficult to find something with a strong banana flavor that doesn't taste just like banana bread.  The Pennellwood cake was dense and moist -somewhere between pudding and cake with barely a nod to its tea bread cousin. 

When I found myself with a bunch of black bananas, I knew it was time to try Dorie Greenspan's recipe.  And it turns out - it's better than what we were scarfing down after a long night of waitressing.  Not only does it have an intense homey banana flavor, it has the crumb of cake and develops a great caramelized crust.  I actually ate four three two ok four pieces before I washed the mixing bowls.  But they were tiny pieces.  And I shared some with my in-laws. 

So lose some bananas, find them, then make this cake.  Or do what Jenn did an make them into muffins and eat them for breakfast (lunch, dinner, and snacks).

Banana Bundt Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan and Cooking Counts

2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
3 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of sour cream

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and beat until just blended.  Add vanilla and mashed banana and beat on low until combined.  Sift together dry ingredients.  Add half to butter mixture and beat on low.  Add sour cream.  Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until just blended.  Pour into a greased bundt cake pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.


  1. My Mom, who passsed away in 2008 at the age of 92, baked the Banana Nut Cake to live for. It looked like the one you picture, but the recipe is different from my memory.
    My cousin called Mom's baked delight a wet cake instead of moist cake because of those over ripe bananas. Mmmm Mmmm. I can smell it baking.Thanks for the memory so close to the Mothers Day holiday.
    Janice Robinson

    1. Thank you for sharing that memory, Janice. I hope you have a happy mother's day remembering your mom.

  2. I could try a piece right now!

    1. I would have shared (if there had been any left). :)

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    My family attended Pennellwood for a number of years. For us, it's not the banana cake, but the bread that has us always wishing we had more. Any chance that you've recreated that recipe? (Or, better yet, somehow got your hands on a copy of the original?)

    If so, would you be willing to share?


    Maggie O'Toole

  4. I was a baker at Pennellwood from 1989-1992. The key to banana cake is buttermilk! I don't have the exact recipe, but have found a very similar recipe that is every bit as good. Wish I had kept a copy of the Pennellwood Bread recipe. I made it enough, you'd think i could remember it, but that is not the case.

    Anne Porter (aporter17@charter.net)

  5. This bread was baked for 90 years at Pennellwood resort in Michigan.
    My mother baked it at home, and it was delicious.

    Pennellwood Bran Bread

    1 C Shortening (original was bacon fat or drippings)
    4 t salt
    1 C sugar
    2 C bran flakes

    Mix the above and pour 2 C boiling water over and stir until dissolved.


    2C cold water
    2 pkg yeast in 1T sugar and 1/2 cup water
    8 - 10 C flour

    Form 4 loaves and let rise
    Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes


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