Banana Cake with Penuche Frosting

By • December 13, 2012 • 55 Comments


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Author Notes:
The correct name of this frosting as it has been known in my family for at least 4 generations is panocha frosting. Panocha is a spelling variant of penuche that was once popular in Hawaii, and was localized from penuche to panocha. Panocha is also a type of cane sugar and a type of fudge-like candy.

I think of this as my grandmother's recipe, but it's actually her mother's or her mother-in-law's...either way, it was a special cake that she would make for my father's birthday, as it's his favorite cake (and mine too). It's a simple seeming cake (no vanilla?! not a spice to be found?!), but it's like your favorite banana bread, only lighter and fluffier, and the frosting truly makes this cake.

If you're into presentation, you'll want to follow my grandmother's lead and double this recipe, a four-layer cake is much more impressive. I never add the nuts, and I've had no problem substituting all-purpose flour. I've even been lazy and not separated the eggs, and it has turned out just fine, albeit with a bit denser crumb.
Lindsay-Jean Hard

Food52 Review: WHO: Lindsay-Jean Hard is a contributing writer and editor at Food52!
WHAT: The lightest, purest banana cake you'll ever meet, dressed up in a caramelly frosting.
HOW: Make a simple cake -- mix your wet ingredients and dry ingredients, bake in two layers -- then frost.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We've had great banana breads before -- but never banana cake. This has a light, airy crumb, one that lends itself well to a layer cake. But the real star here is the frosting; its brown sugar-milkiness shines through, a perfect complement to the banana. We're now adopting this into our own family canon, too.
A&M

Makes one 2-layer cake

Banana Cake

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 bananas, crushed
  • 1/2 cup sour milk
  • 1 2/3 cup pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar, then one at a time, mix in the egg yolks, bananas, and sour milk, stirring after each addition until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients (and the nuts if using) to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, and fold into the batter.
  5. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans, divide the batter evenly between the pans, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

Penuche Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cup powdered sugar
  1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add the milk, raise the heat and cook until the mixture boils. Remove from heat, and let it cool until the mixture is lukewarm.
  3. Gradually stir in the powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Comments (55) Questions (1)

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1 day ago KelsoKitchen

fragrant & moist but too sweet for my (admittedly sweet averse) taste. Think I can cut back the sugars without compromising the cake or frosting too much? My sweet-tooth wielding daughter will adore it, though.

Pict1821

about 21 hours ago Lindsay-Jean Hard

Lindsay-Jean is a Contributing Writer & Editor at Food52.

I think you could cut back on the sugar in the cake, but for the frosting, you might want to just try a different one. Perhaps a cream cheese frosting, as another commenter suggested.

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about 19 hours ago KelsoKitchen

thanks for the suggestion. it does go perfectly with morning coffee. Made waking up to snow this morning bearable.

Dscn0274

2 days ago Lorrainesfav

Wonderful,simple banana cake. After tasting this cake, I decided vanilla and spices only complicate the flavors of banana cake or bread. This cake bakes up light and airy; not a big rise but perfect for cupcakes to frost. I used King Arthur cake flour blend (easy to find in the supermarket) and it worked perfectly. I did rearrange the steps in the recipe a bit. I had everything ready to add to the batter. I first soured the milk with lemon juice and set that aside to curdle (about 20 minutes), then whipped the egg whites and set them aside, then mashed the bananas and set them aside. The recipe then came together very quickly. The batter made 11 jumbo cupcakes so I will figure out how to up the ingredients to make 12. Thanks for a great recipe Lindsay!

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2 days ago tamater sammich

I used unbleached white, and so the cake was a little heavier, but not too heavy at all…. really good, in fact. I'll make it with pastry flour and unbleached white again. It's gonna be a go-to, that's for sure. The icing was too sweet for our tastes, so I'll find a cream cheese icing for it.
thanks for this keeper!

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2 days ago Jessica

Any chance of providing the weight measurements of the dry ingredients? I find that weighing them out leads to a good, consistent result when baking.

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3 days ago karen capehart

Have been looking for a light, fluffy banana layer cake. Memories of one from The Jolly Roger on Balboa Island (Newport Beach CA) albeit with a light, fluffy shiny white frosting and English walnuts. Will try this cake but after reading comments I'm not sure how to proceed. Should I follow your recipe exactly?

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3 days ago Roberta

Plenty of leftover bananas. This recipe is great with pastry flour; nice and light. For the other end of the spectrum try our spelt flour in banana bread: http://daisyflour.com/recipes...

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3 days ago Regine

Dwayla, thanks. 0). But do try it again. I am convinced you inadvertently added too much it or too little of something, or maybe you did not grease the pan. I admit I bake all that time so I consider myself an amateurish experienced baker, but usually if you are careful with the ingredient measurements and the pan size and oven temperature indicated, anyone can successfully make a cake. I too ate most of the cake on Sunday after church, with some help of course. I am now back on my usual Monday diet. LOL

Stringio

3 days ago Bev Burton

both sticks... of butter

Stringio

3 days ago Bev Burton

when I went to make the frosting I realized I had used both sticks in the cake. I guess I got lucky it's moist but not soggy. Will probably be a little over buttery tasting with the frosting but still really good. I'll definitely try it again.

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3 days ago Kathy Hodson

Cake was definitely moist. Not sure I'd make in springform pan again. Directions are made to be followed. Hah! Frosting is really sweet. Will make again, however, will only put frosting in the middle. Too sweet for my tastes, but the cake is delicious.

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2 days ago EatsMeetsWest

This is probably a little late, but if you thin the frosting out with a little water until you get the desired consistency, you'll end up with a nice glaze that is easy to paint onto the loaf and will give that shine you're looking for. You'll probably have to use less frosting, but it will be much easier to spread the frosting on the loaf this way.

Stringio

3 days ago Bev Burton

I used 1:1 cake flour to APF, turned out great. Only had 2% milk so used that for sour milk. Hi Alt. adjustments: reduced baking powder, increased flour 2Tblsp, reduced sugar by 2Tblsp. increased baking temp to 375. Made a loaf and cupcakes with the remaining. Cupcakes turned out perfect...not sure about the loaf. It had to cook quite a bit longer. Loaf is awkward to frost so trying to decide if it needs frosting. Any ideas on frosting?

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3 days ago dwayla

Or maybe you are just a good baker, Regine! :) It was not so forgiving of me, and I went to church and ezzerything today!

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3 days ago Regine

Oh, i forgot to say i used storebought low fat buttermilk.

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3 days ago Regine

Made this cake. Excellent. I did not have pastry flour so I decided LOL to try my never fail formula for using all purpose flour in lieu of cake flour and it worked perfectly. One cup cake flour equals 3/4 cup (12 tbsp) all purpose flour and 2 tbsp cornstach. So i used
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour + 3 tbsp & 1 tsp cornstarch. Cake turned out excellent and so did the icing. I will make this again, and if i find pastry flour, i may try it next time. However, i think this cake is forgiving in that pastry flour or all purpose flour or cake flour or my formula above will all work.

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3 days ago dwayla

Waaah! Mine broke and stuck to the pan. Is extremely moist--maybe didn't bake long enough? Tasty, but very sweet. Nice texture for baby.

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3 days ago mj

sour milk?? substitute sour cream?

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3 days ago EatsMeetsWest

If you read the comments a little below here (I've copypasted for ease of viewing):

LittleFrier wrote:
"Admittedly Novice Cook Here…there seems to be an endless debate online about sour milk. What do you use for sour milk in this recipe? (1) Buttermilk (2) Do you add vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk (3) Do you let milk creep to the edge of the spoiled line?"

Lindsay-Jean Hard replied:
"I add vinegar to regular milk (or soy or almond milk). If you want to be precise, you can follow the steps outlined in this post: http://food52.com/blog... . I use a healthy splash of vinegar (without measuring) and then fill to the line with milk."

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3 days ago Christine

1/2tsp vinegar top off with milk to 1/2 cup

Stringio

3 days ago Bev Burton

can I use cake flour instead of pastry flour?

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3 days ago dwayla

I did--and I think I otherwise followed directions, but maybe undercooked. Stuck to pan and broke. I like the idea of blaming the flour but cake mixes do the same type of devilry on me. So cake flour did not work for me--but consider the source.

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3 days ago Kathy Hodson

Made this cake today in a spring form pan. Much longer to bake then the time posted in this recipe. I'm a fairly good cook and I love to bake. Not sure why (initially), I chose not to read directions re making the frosting. Duh, had to remake after I totally messed up. Fortunately, I had enough ingredients to remake. Anxious to try a piece. I've already emailed this to my daughter-in-law who loves anything banana.

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4 days ago Prudence Gallo

What is pastry flour?

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3 days ago Kathy Hodson

Sometimes difficult to find. Go to specialty stores. Worth the effort. Low in gluten for a lighter cake.

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4 days ago Tish

Mmm, gonna try these for sure.