Banana cake with caramel buttercream frosting – Why I love to bake

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Banana cake with caramel buttercream frosting

When I was growing up, no one in my home really used to bake. My father used to buy these frozen pies and crumbles that my brother and I would beg for him to warm in the oven for dessert. They were delicious, and (perhaps more importantly) they were simple. I remember the very first time I snuck a leftover sliver of pie from the fridge the next day — a habit that I carry on to this day.

At the time, I conceived of all dessert as something that came from elsewhere, was made by other people. Baking was a task that could only be performed effectively by other people — or perhaps there were baking robots? I knew it wasn’t a pursuit for me.

Banana cake with caramel buttercream frosting

Flash forward a few years — which included many lessons from patient friends, family members, and at least one employer — to where baking is now one of the great sources of joy in my life. I use it to unwind at the end of a long day or week, and often as a source of distraction and comfort. What’s more, I love being able to create something that is simultaneously beautiful and practical. A cake does more than just look good on the platter — it fills you, too, and I feel that a sweet treat should always mark the end of a sweet occasion.

But on another level, there is something enormously satisfying about being able to see a recipe through from start to finish. I love to cook too, but I find that cooking’s discourse is heavy with narratives of innovation, independence, and individual taste; by contrast, baking always feels like a community effort. Success depends on your ability to trust another’s recipe, or the notes that someone has made in the margin of your cookbook — and if all works well, you pass the recipe on to family members and friends, sharing the wealth. It’s an act of communion.

Banana cake with caramel buttercream frosting

Things won’t always go the way you expect them to. For a good friend’s birthday last year, I was pressed for time, and iced her cake before it had fully cooled. The result? A full-on cake explosion, with the top layer sliding off the bottom one, and bursting into a dozen pieces — icing oozing all around. And what did we do? We ate the whole thing anyway. In fact, in the spirit of dessert being (pardon my French) a complete shitshow, we held a hands-free cake-eating competition and laughed the whole way through.

Banana cake with caramel buttercream frosting

If you’ve never made a cake from scratch before, or if you haven’t in a long time, I think this one is well worth a try. The cake crumb is nothing like the dense, chewy loaves of banana bread I also suggest you try sometime; instead, it’s airy and fluffy — enough so to easily justify eating seconds. The caramel buttercream is every bit as decadent as you can imagine, and a wonderful pairing for the lightness of the cake. It’s sweet, but also a little bit dark and smoky tasting from the caramel sauce. It won’t be factory-perfect like a dessert that comes ready in a box; if anything, it will be even more delicious — and every last crumb will be devoured, I promise.

Banana cake with caramel buttercream frosting

Adapted from The Flourishing Foodie and Faith Durand for The Kitchn


For the cake:

  • 3 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1 cup thick, plain yoghurt, thinned with 1/2 cup milk)

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce (store-bought works fine, but if you want to make your own, feel free to check out Faith Durand’s instructions!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered/icing sugar


For the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease (or line with parchment) two 9-inch round cake pans and set to the side.

2. Peel and mash the bananas with a fork in a small bowl and set to the side.
3. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
4. Using an electric mixer on medium (or a hefty amount of arm power), in a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light in color, and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, until just incorporated.
5. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, alternate adding in in the flour mixture and the buttermilk — about three batches of each. Once all is combined, stir in the bananas.6. Pour the batter into your baking pans, and tap on the counter to remove any bubbles. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place onto a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting:
1. While the cake is baking, make the frosting! In a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter with the caramel sauce, vanilla, and salt until smooth and fluffy.
2. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat for 3 to 5 minutes until smooth and lightened. Do not overbeat.
To assemble the cake:

Place one of the layers on a serving plate or stand. Dollop with roughly 1/3 of the frosting, and spread evenly over the cake layer. Top with the second layer of cake. Place another massive dollop of the frosting on top, and spread out evenly. Take a large spoon and heat it in a glass of hot water. Remove the spoon, quickly wipe off any excess water, then use the back of the spoon to create swoops and swirls in the frosting, re-heating the spoon as necessary.

Best eaten the day it was made, though there is a distinct pleasure in slicing a cool sliver from the fridge the next morning for breakfast.

Until next time.



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13 Responses to “Banana cake with caramel buttercream frosting – Why I love to bake”

  1. Sherie Broekema January 1, 2017 at 1:19 AM #

    20 ish years ago Duncan Hinz made a burnt sugar frosting for

    A cake. Do you have a recipe for burnt sugar frosting.
    Would love to eat again

    Thx. Sherie

  2. Alanna October 10, 2013 at 1:46 PM #

    Ohhhh that frosting looks SO good! I’ve been looking for a fluffy banana cake for some time now – thanks for posting!

  3. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies October 4, 2013 at 2:55 PM #

    My mom always baked, but I ended up being more of a cook. 🙂 I haven’t ever made a cake myself, but this one makes me want to try because it looks delicious!

  4. Claire September 23, 2013 at 4:30 PM #

    This looks amazing! And (at the risk of sounding like a spam robot) your post was really well written. It made me feel all squiggly inside. The cure? Cake. I think you are definitely right about baking being a community thing – that the whole process is infused with sharing both before the final product is done as well as once it is out of the oven.

    • onetoughcookie September 23, 2013 at 10:13 PM #

      Thank you so much, Claire! You are, of course, one of my favourite members of my personal baking community. Can’t wait until we can bake together again! xoxoxoxo

  5. julia September 23, 2013 at 12:32 PM #

    I am taking credit for the hands-free eating contest. But that cake WAS delish, even if it was messy, and this one looks AMAZING too!

    • onetoughcookie September 23, 2013 at 10:12 PM #

      Julia, I still have a video of that contest and it is truly fantastic. Miss you, lovely lady! xoxoxo

  6. Dadaa September 23, 2013 at 12:23 PM #

    Parental Warning Advisory Disclaimer: Pre-fab baked goods may be gateway drug to your child’s baking addiction. Best of luck.

    • onetoughcookie September 23, 2013 at 10:11 PM #

      I had a good laugh remembering how Blake and I would devour all those samples at M&Ms while waiting for you to choose the savoury stuff! Thanks for all the *sweet* memories!

  7. Rebecca September 23, 2013 at 12:23 PM #

    This looks yummy!
    I love banana bread, but never thought about turning it into cake with frosting!!!

    • onetoughcookie September 23, 2013 at 10:10 PM #

      Thanks Rebecca! Those squidgy fudge brownies on your blog look absolutely divine!

  8. Elsa September 23, 2013 at 11:09 AM #

    Sounds easy enough! And tasty enough! Think I’ll try it.

    • onetoughcookie September 23, 2013 at 10:08 PM #

      Please do! It’s really, really yummy.