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There’s something extra comforting about an old-fashioned banana layer cake made with buttermilk and only the ripest bananas. Perhaps it has to do with its familiar, homey flavors. Or the fact that it tastes just like Grandma’s irresistible banana bread in layer-cake form. This bakery recipe is soft and moist and is perfectly paired with a thick and tangy cream cheese frosting. It was a fan favorite at Amycakes Bakery, and I hope you enjoy my bakery-style take on it.
Only the Ripest Bananas
To make this cake we are using 2 1/2-3 very very very ripe bananas. Not very ripe. Not very very ripe. VERY VERY VERY RIPE! 🙂. They need to be overly ripe and nearly black all over. This cake just won’t have the same strong and sweet banana flavor without extra ripe bananas. I know it’s rare that your bananas are perfectly ripe the day you want to bake with them, so I recommend that once you have bananas that are past the point you’d want to eat them, allow them to continue to ripen until they are black like the photo below. Then stick them in your freezer until you are ready to bake with them.
How to Freeze and Thaw Bananas for Banana Cake
When your bananas look like the photo above, it’s time to freeze them (King Arthur Flour explains in more detail the best bananas for baking and when to freeze them). You can build up extra ripe frozen bananas this way so that you always have some on hand when you are ready to make banana cake, cupcakes, muffins, or bread.
- Seal your overly ripe banana(s) in a freezer bag.
- Label the bag with the date and quantity of bananas, and place the bag in an extra cold area of your freezer. The frozen bananas will darken all over once frozen–this is normal.
- When you’re ready to bake, thaw the bag of bananas in a bowl of hot water as described in the banana cake recipe instructions.
- Break off the stems of the bananas and delicately squeeze the thawed bananas from their peel into a strainer over a bowl (and save that flavorful banana juice because we’ll be using it in the banana cake, too!).
Old-Fashioned Banana Cake Ingredients
In addition to the extra ripe bananas, this cake is made very moist from buttermilk, vegetable oil, and Instant Clearjel (my favorite bakery ingredient that you can use at home. If you can’t get your hands on it, check out my recommended Instant Clearjel Substitutes). I talk about these ingredients in detail in Seven Secrets to Baking Incredibly Moist Cakes Every Time. I recommend using these ingredients to make soft and moist cakes that taste even better than they look. 🙂 We’ll be using the Two-Bowl Method to make this cake, which means no mixer is required to make the cake batter! With a whisk and two bowls, you’ll have the batter mixed in no time.
How to turn Old-Fashioned Banana Cake into a Bakery-Style Layer Cake
While you don’t have to bake it this way, I recommend baking this cake in a sheet pan and cutting out the cake layers with cake rings. I call this the Cut and Stack Method, and it’s how we layered all our cakes at Amycakes Bakery. Cakes baked in sheet pans will have an even and flatter bake (you can see in my cake video how the cake is not overly browned or domed). The cake will also bake faster without dark edges. You can cut out and layer three thick 6″ layers baked out of a 1/4 sheet pan. Or you can double the recipe by pressing the “2x” within the recipe, and make an 8″ cake in a 1/2 sheet pan as I do in my recipe video. You can get more details and see all the cake size options in How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro: 5 Easy Steps.
Homestyle Banana Cake Decor
If you’re able to resist eating the leftover banana cake scraps, you can use them to make delicious banana cake truffles to decorate the cake. I combined the cake truffles with banana chips and pecan pieces to create a little mountain of banana goodness on top of the cake. I wanted the cake to have a homey and rustic look, so I texturized the cream cheese frosting with a “homestyle texture” by making repeated “C” strokes with an offset spatula.
I hope you enjoy my latest Amycakes Bakery recipe! Let me know what you think in the comment section below! Or tag @amycakesbakes on social media–I’d love to see your creations! 🙂
Thanks for Reading. ❤️
Bakery-Style Old-Fashioned Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Watch the Recipe Video (I’m making a 2x batch):
- 1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour (I use Gold Medal)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon(s) Baking Soda
- ¾ teaspoon(s) Salt
- 1 Tablespoons + 1 ½ teaspoons Instant Clearjel (See Note #1)
- 1 cup(s) Sugar
- 2.5 large to 3 small overly ripe bananas (the peel should be mostly dark brown/ black) (I use bananas that I have frozen once they reach the perfect ripeness, see Note #2)
- ¼ cup Water &/or banana juice (if using frozen bananas)
- 2 large Eggs
- ¾ cup(s) Buttermilk
- ¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon(s) Vegetable Oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- 1 stick(s) (4 ounces) Salted Butter
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting (see Note #6)
Cake Truffles Ingredients and Decorations (optional)
- 1/2 cup White Chocolate Chips
- 1/2 cup “Bright White” or “Super White” Candy Melts (or substitute with more white chocolate chips—it just will be ivory in color)
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Vegetable Oil
- Pecan halves and pieces (optional–or use Walnuts)
- Banana Chips (optional)
Make Banana Puree
- Thaw the frozen overly ripe bananas in a bowl of hot water (If using fresh overly ripe bananas, see Note # 2). The bananas will be very soft to the touch once thawed. Remove the banana stems and delicately squeeze out the thawed bananas into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, reserving the banana juice.
- Mash the strained bananas until they are a fine puree without any chunks. I find a wire pastry blender works best for this when mashing them in a bowl, but you could also use a fork and mash them on a plate. Measure out 130 g (around 1/2 cup + 1.5 Tbsp) banana puree to use in the cake.
Make Banana Cake
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 1/4 sheet pan with parchment paper, then spray the bottom (on top of the parchment) and sides of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Add enough water to the reserved banana juice to make 1/4 cup. Combine water/banana juice, reserved 130 g banana puree, and the remaining Wet Ingredients (eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract) in a large bowl and whisk until smooth and well-blended.
- Using a sifter or fine-mesh strainer, sift the Dry Ingredients into a separate large bowl. Whisk until well blended.
- Heat the Salted Butter in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish until just melted.
- Pour the Wet Ingredients into the Dry Ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Pour the Melted Salted Butter over batter and whisk in until incorporated and the batter looks uniform and shiny.
- Pour the banana cake batter into the prepared sheet pan and smooth out the batter until even (an offset icing spatula works well for this). The batter will be about 1/4 inch from the top of a 1" tall sheet pan. (You can also bake in round pans or sheet-cake pans–see Note #3).
- Bake in the middle or top rack (avoid bottom rack) of a preheated 325-degree oven for 16 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the temperature down to 300 degrees and bake for another 6-10 minutes. Check the cake at this point. See if it is done by lightly touching the top of the cake–try to avoid moving the cake pan or baking rack, which could cause an underdone cake to sink. If jiggly at all to your touch, bake for another 1-5 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick or small paring knife comes out clean when quickly stuck in the cake. A few moist crumbs on your knife are fine, but they shouldn't look wet.
- Allow cake to cool completely. To make a sheet cake, follow the Baker's Shortcut (Note #5), or choose your round cake size using the Cut and Stack method. Leave the cake in the sheet pan, and using a slight sawing motion, cut the cooled cake into your desired cake size with cake rings (You can use a knife and the cake rings as a guide for any halve pieces that you cut.) Brush lightly with simple syrup (optional, Note #4).
- If making the cake truffles for decorations, pull some of the extra cake scraps out of the sheet pan (leave a few extra scraps in the pan in case you need them when layering your cake.)
- Wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap and freeze cake in the pan for 2 hours or overnight. (You can even bake the cake up to a week ahead of time and freeze). The cake will be much easier to layer if it is cold or frozen. To wrap the cake, place another sheet of parchment on top of the cake (this will prevent the plastic wrap from sticking to the cake), and wrap the whole pan with plastic wrap. (I pull the plastic wrap out and place the pan on top of it. Then I wrap two ways horizontally and one way vertically so that there are two layers of wrap on all sides of the pan including the bottom).
Make the cake truffles (optional)
- Mash the reserved banana cake scraps into a smooth dough. Divide and roll the dough into 1" and/ or 1 1/2' balls (I made 2 sizes and used a 1/2 oz and 3/4 oz scoop to divide the dough). Place the rolled balls in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. Truffles are easiest to dip when refrigerated.
- Combine the white chocolate chips and candy melts, and microwave at 50% power until melted. (I like to use a microwave-safe container with square edges so that I can dip the truffles out of this same container. A square edge is easier to dip out of than a bowl, because you can tilt the container and dip more truffles as your chocolate dip gets low.)
- Once the chocolate is just melted, add the vegetable oil and whisk until combined. Avoid overheating the chocolate. If the dip is overheated, it tends to separate on the cold truffle.
- Using a toothpick, dip each refrigerated truffle into the white chocolate dip, lightly scraping the bottom edges of each truffle on the sides of the container after dipping. Place each truffle on a plate or tray with a layer of parchment paper, then immediately sprinkle some of the pecan pieces on the truffle so that they stick before the truffle dip dries. If you'd like to do a drizzle with banana chips instead of pecan pieces, after dipping your truffles, pour your remaining dip into a disposable piping bag with the very tip cut off (1/8" or less). Drizzle the melted dip onto dipped truffles that are firm to the touch, then immediately top with a banana chip or your desired topping so that it sticks.
- Place completed truffles in the fridge so that they may harden.
Make Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whisk the Powdered Sugar and Instant Clearjel together until well-blended. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer (preferred) or handheld mixer and a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until broken up and softened.
- Add the room temperature salted butter and continue to beat, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat and scrape until there are no lumps.
- While the mixer is on low, slowly add the powdered sugar mixture.
- Add the pure vanilla, then beat on high for a few minutes to add air into the buttercream. The Instant Clearjel will cause the buttercream to thicken slightly during the next 10 minutes as it sits.
Layer, Decorate, and Serve
- The easiest way to layer the cake is to layer the cake from frozen the day before you plan to serve it. If serving the cake the same day you are layering it, use refrigerated cake layers instead of frozen.
- Use your two half-circles of cake to make the bottom cake layer (fill in with scraps if needed to make a level surface). Fill your cake layers with a little over 1/4 inch of frosting. An offset icing spatula (I use the small and medium-size on all my cakes) helps with this. I recommend frosting a thin crumb coat of buttercream on the outside of the cake which will catch all the crumby edges, then allow it to set up in the freezer for about 10 minutes until the buttercream is firm. Read more in my article: How to Bake and Layer Cakes Like a Pro: 5 Easy Steps. The Remaining cake scraps can be used for cake truffles to decorate the cake if desired.
- Spread a final layer of buttercream over your set-up crumbed cake, and decorate as desired. I used a small offset icing spatula to make a homestyle texture, then topped the cake with prepared banana cake truffles, banana chips, and pecan pieces.
- You can let the cake set up in the fridge, but remove it from the fridge 2-3 hours before serving so it can come back to room temperature (avoid warm temperatures). This cake has the best texture at room temperature. Enjoy!
3 tsp= 1 Tbsp
4 Tbsp = 1/4 cup
- Read my article Instant Clearjel: a Magical Little-Known Bakery Ingredient to see why I think this ingredient is worth having in your pantry. Instant Clearjel must always be whisked thoroughly with other dry ingredients before being added to wet ingredients to avoid clumping. I have tested this recipe with the following Instant Clearjel brands: Hoosier Hill Farm, Prepared Pantry, and Ingredion (Make sure what you purchase is labeled as “Instant.” Cooktyle Clearjel is a different product that does not work the same in cakes).
- I prefer to stock up on overly ripe bananas by freezing them once they turn a dark brown/black. Simply freeze the bananas in their peel in freezer bags, then thaw under hot water as described in step 1. If using overly ripe fresh bananas instead of frozen, it is unlikely that you will need to strain them or have any “banana juice.” I recommend going by the listed number of bananas instead of the measured quantity, as the weight will differ with fresh bananas. With fresh bananas, you can use just water instead of banana juice/water.
- When baking cakes in a sheet pan, the cake bakes more evenly (flatter on top and with no dark edges), and you get to choose your cake size after baking! With a 1x batch in a 1/4 Sheet Pan you can make a three-layer 6″ cake (two full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles) or several little cakelets. With a 2x batch in a 1/2 Sheet Pan you can make a three-layer 8″ cake (two full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles), an extra tall six-layer 6″ cake (5 full rounds, one pieced round from two half-circles), TWO 3-layer 6″ cakes (eat one now and freeze one for later. 🙂 Or have a baking party with a friend and you each get a cake!) or several little Cakelets using a 4″ cake ring or 3″ or 2″ round cookie cutters. You can also choose to bake in sheet-cake pans or round pans. View the pan chart in the article Half-Batches and Cake Pans: Everything You Need to Know.
- Simple Syrup is optional, but I use it to seal in the moisture for cakes that will be refrigerated or frozen. While the cake cools, make a simple syrup by combining 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until the sugar is dissolved after whisking, about 20-30 seconds. You can also make a larger batch of this (1 part sugar to 1 part water) and keep it in the fridge if you’re doing a lot of cake baking. Always cut the cake with cake rings before brushing the cake brush simple syrup, to avoid the cake being too sticky when cut.
- BAKER’S SHORTCUT:
Make a sheet cake or little Cakelets instead! Once the cake is fully cooled, spread the buttercream on top for an easy sheet-pan cake. For Cakelets, cut the cake into 4″ or smaller rounds using cake rings or cookie cutters. Stack two cakelets together with a layer of buttercream in between and on top (I use a piping bag and 1M star tip for this). The cake will be soft and delicate when at room temperature, so if you have the time I recommend that after it cools, stick the cake in the freezer 10 minutes before cutting your Cakelets. Serve at room temperature.
- At Amycakes Bakery we often paired this cake with our House Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. You can use that buttercream recipe instead if you’d prefer a lighter cream cheese flavor.
9-16-21: The original recipe made an 8″ cake in a 1/2 sheet pan. All my recipes now start with small batches, so it now makes a 6″ cake in a 1/4 sheet pan. Press the “2x” if you’d like to double the recipe for an 8″ cake in a 1/2 sheet pan.