Baking Banana Bread

Everyday or so I get an urgent call or e mail from a family member or friend who needs a recipe, or cooking help or a quick menu suggestion RIGHT NOW! Yesterday it was a favorite cousin beseeching me for our grandmother’s banana bread/cake recipe. So naturally I said, “which banana bread/cake recipe of grandma’s do you want? The one with the chocolate chips, the one with the raisins or the one with sour cream?”

            After a second or two of silence she said “grandma had more than one banana cake recipe?”

            It was at that moment that I realized I actually had about 2 dozen different variations of the classic banana bread/cake recipe (only 3 from my grandmother) and that each and every one of them was really great. I love it when a column idea is this easy.

Before we get to those great recipes I thought you might like to know that bananas don’t grow on trees. They are part of the lily family, a cousin, if you will, to the orchid and they grow on stalks that can grow up to 25 feet high. They are, in fact, the largest plant on earth without a woody stem.  The banana is thought to have originated in Malaysia and spread throughout Asia, India and Africa long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Bananas came to the New World in 1516 when a Spanish missionary brought over the first root stocks.

A banana has less water, four times the protein, and half the fat, twice the carbohydrate, almost three times the phosphorus, nearly five times the Vitamin A and iron as an apple. They are also rich in potassium and vitamins B and C.

The good news is that there is an International Banana Association.  Yes, this does sound strange but they are located at 1101 Vermont Ave., N.W., Suite 306, Washington, D.C. 20005 and you can write and ask them for a free brochure (which includes free recipes) all about bananas. Just send them a stamped, self addressed business-size envelope with your request and have a banana-rama good time.

NOTE: Very ripe bananas give the best flavor in the following recipes.

Buttermilk replaces nearly all of the oil.

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup smashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2-inch pan; dust the pan with flour. Using an electric mixer; beat together the eggs and sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 5 minutes. Mix in the smashed bananas, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt over mixture; beat until just blended. Pour the batter to the prepared pan.  Bake until the bread is golden brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Turn bread out onto rack and cool. 1 loaf


The rich full flavor of the banana is enhanced by the density of this cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease (1) 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch pan; dust the pan with flour. Using an electric mixer; cream the butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and eggs. Add the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add the bananas, sour cream and nuts. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. Makes 1 loaf.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans – chopped
3 eggs – beaten
1 cup oil
2 cups mashed bananas – (about 5)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can crushed pineapple – (8 oz) drained
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease (2) 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch pan; dust the pan with flour. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well and then stir in pecans. Set aside the flour mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, oil, banana, vanilla and pineapple. Mix well to combine. Pour the wet mixture into dry mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into 2 prepared loaf pans.  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the bread from pans to finish cooling. Do not try to cut the bread until it is totally cooled.  Makes 2 loaves. NOTE: You can use macadamia nuts or walnuts instead of pecans if you like.


2 3/4 cup sifted flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 2/3 cup mashed bananas
2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease and flour 2 8 inch round cake pans. Sift the flour, baking powder, and soda, salt and spices together. In a mixing bowl cream the shortening with sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat thoroughly. Alternately add the sifted dry ingredients and bananas to the egg/sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then pour into prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes. Makes 2 (8 inch) layers. This cake is great with a sour cream or cream cheese frosting.


3/4 cup margarine (you can use butter for a richer taste)
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 to 5 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup toffee bits (such as crumbled Heath Bars)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour 2 loaf pans.  In a mixing bowl cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix until creamy. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. blend the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Fold in the mashed bananas and the toffee bits. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour.
Makes 2 loaves.


1 package (18 1/2 ounces) yellow cake
4 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 1/3 cups mashed bananas (about 4 medium)
1 package (3 3/4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in large mixer bowl. Mix until blended then beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Turn batter into greased and lightly floured 10 inch bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour or until done. If desired, dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.  Serves 12.


2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 can rushed pineapple, drained
1 jar strawberry jam
4 or 5 bananas, sliced
3 cups whipped topping or sweetened whipped cream
1/2 to 1 cup Maraschino Cherries, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup chopped Pecans

In a bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted margarine and pecans. Pat the mixture in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Let chill 30 minutes. In a mixing bowl cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Spread the mixture over the cold crust. Layer the pineapple, jam and bananas over cream cheese layer. Top the fruit layers with the whipped topping. Sprinkle the top with cherries and pecans on top. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.


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