Here’s a conundrum: I hate bananas…but I love banana bread. Love is actually a strong word because I don’t think love is supposed to come with so many strict requirements. For one– I cannot absolutely cannot have any sort of “amplification” of banana flavor in my banana bread. No banana glaze, no roasted bananas on top, no banana pudding packet mixed in to the bread….nothing of the sort. Two– In no way shape or form should the banana bread I love have CHUNKS of banana inside of it. No thanks, not for me. The banana bread I love is a uniform, homogenous, borderline store-bought banana bread. I remember once at work in college someone had made a loaf of banana bread into the office and I was pretty excited to enjoy a slice with my morning coffee. I sliced into it and took a bite and what was I met with? Oh just a mouthful of the slimy tropical fruit known as the banana. If I want a piece of fruit, I will look for it in the produce section. Not inside my quickbread.
Unfortunately, something about the density and sweetness those terrible devil fruits impart in a quick bread is so good. I have since set out to find my own Banana Bread I can be in true love with. This snack cake (I love this designation because it means you can eat it literally any time of day) is uniform in texture, is topped with a delicious brown butter frosting, and I believe it will please those with banana bread conflicts (like myself) and maybe even true banana bread fans.
The recipe is a combination of banana bread recipes I’ve found over the years and then tweaked to my own likeness (aka mostly just cut down on the bananas and tweaked other ingredients to make up for the loss of moisture). The frosting inspiration comes from my childhood. My mom would make banana bread coffeecake and would make a thick cooked butter and powdered sugar glaze to pour on top like a Jackson Pollack breakfast painting. As a kid I remember pulling off the hardened glaze and just eating it straight for the sheer sugar impact, but as an adult it’s a delightful topping for this bread.
Not-so-Banana-y Banana Bread Snack Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
Makes 1 8X8 inch square cake
Ingredients for Banana Bread
2 very ripe bananas
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 C All Purpose Flour
Ingredients for Brown Butter Frosting
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla
2 Tbsp Milk/Cream/Half & Half, whatever will do.
pinch of kosher salt
For the Cake:
This cake is bracingly simple. I don’t use a stand mixer, instead opting to bust out the hand mixer, and it comes together in about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then get out your 8×8 cake pan. I prefer to use the straight sided metal version of a cake pan as opposed to an 8×8 glass pan, but you can use that if that’s all you have! Prepare the pan by spraying with nonstick spray, and creating a parchment sling to fit into the pan.
Gather all your ingredients and plop those two slimy overly ripe bananas into a large bowl. Take the mixer beaters and kinda stomp on the bananas to break them up. Pour the melted (slightly cooled) butter over the top of the bananas and turn the mixer on low to incorporate the butter and bananas together. One pet peeve of mine as far as overly banana-y banana breads is when people leave CHUNKS of bananas in the banana bread. Might be a delight to some, but not this baker, so I prefer to pulverize the bananas into a homogenous banana/butter mix. The less evidence of bananas the better!
Once the bananas and the butter are combined, toss the sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and beaten egg into the bowl. Use the mixer on medium speed and mix until well combined. Swap your hand mixer for a rubber spatula and fold in the flour until combined. Do not overmix.
Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick entered comes clean and the top is golden brown.
When the cake is done, pull from the oven and let it cool completely while you prepare the frosting.
For the Brown Butter Frosting:
If you haven’t ventured into the world of Brown Butter, you are in for a real treat. Brown butter is food science at its finest. By cooking down the butter and browning the milk solids, regular sweet cream supermarket, unsalted butter turns into a multi dimensional, nutty, savory flavor that works really well with both savory and sweet applications. Fun fact, the French call Brown Butter Beurre noisette, which literally translated means “Hazelnut butter!”
To brown the butter, pull out a 10-12 inch stainless steel pan (you can use a non stick but the dark color might make it hard to see how dark the butter is– which can quickly turned into black butter. Not sure the French have a word for that..probably ruiné… #badfrenchjokes ). Turn your burner to medium heat, and put the butter in the pan. After the butter is completely melted, start swirling the pan making sure the butter doesn’t stay in one place for too long. The butter will start to brown in 3-5 minutes. Keep swirling until you are knocked out by the nuttiness and the butter is a really pretty medium brown color. Pour hot butter into heatproof bowl, scraping the pan to make sure you get any of the stubborn/tasty milk solids stuck to the pan, and set on the counter to cool for 10 minutes. Once cool– place in freezer for 30 minutes. You’ll want the butter to firm up again so you can make buttercream with it. While the butter is chilling you COULD do dishes…or you could watch TV. Your call.
Once the butter has gone through it’s melting-browning-cooling-freezing stage and it’s cold and firm but not frozen, sit it out on the counter for a minute or two, and affix your beaters (that you washed while you were not watching Bravo) back onto your hand mixer.
Beat the butter until it is workable and smooth. Slowly add about half of the powdered sugar and SLOWLY mix until sorta combined. It will be dry. After that, add 2 Tbsp milk and 1 tsp of vanilla, and a pinch of kosher salt. Mix again on low-medium speed until combined, and add the remaining powdered sugar. Mix until combined, and then crank it up to high and whip until fluffy and amazing.
Icing this little cake is easy. Just flop it on top and spread it around to your liking. Enjoy with a cup of coffee for breakfast, afternoon snack, dessert….or anytime!
All Images & Text © Reba Toloday / THE PROPER BINGE