Cake

This Genius, Ultra-Fluffy Layer Cake Is B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Thanks to the craziest magic ingredient yet.

October 10, 2018
Photo by Jenny Huang

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

What looks like a banana cake, tastes (kind of) like a banana cake, has the same ingredient list as a banana cake—but comes out lighter and bouncier, and makes you feel really weird while you’re making it?

This incredible, ultra-fluffy layer cake, made with zero bananas and two banana peels. Don’t run away! Trust me, trust this cake’s adoring fans on our staff, and especially trust Lindsay-Jean Hard, who was an editor here at Food52 for six years and has just written her brilliant first cookbook called Cooking with Scraps (out October 30th—go preorder it now).

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I made this recipe before I read the comments regarding buying organic and worries about pesticides and I must say that I’m glad I did. The cake is delicious and it is easily the lightest, fluffiest, best tasting banana cake I’ve ever made or tasted. Sure, when I make it again, I will probably use organic and give the bananas a better scrub before peeling them, but notice I said when, not if. The “genius” of this recipe is in the banana peel. If you’ve ever wished for a better banana cake, one that wasn’t dense, one that doesn’t leave you full after the first bite, using banana peels is genius. I probably won’t tell everyone why my cake is the way it is...and theirs just isn’t. However, I will tell the friends that appreciate my love for baking, those that love to learn as much as I do, and especially every aspiring baker/little kitchen helper (my nieces and nephews) I know because while using banana peels sounds “ew gross!”, the resulting cake will be “the best” and “so cool!””
— Neil S.
Comment

In her many years writing a column about scrappy cooking at Food52, Lindsay-Jean became an expert at harnessing the more texturally challenged (but, most of all, reputation-challenged) parts of fruits and vegetables to become delicious, economic, no-waste ingredients.

Like potato peels, coffee grounds, and artichoke leaves, banana peels only seem like inedible castaways because that’s how we’ve always treated them. But they’re loaded with moisture and lightness and even some banana flavor, if you simply chop them up, simmer them for 10 minutes, and blend them smooth.

Every kitchen trick like this in Cooking with Scraps is simply a matter of education, not effort—of having a trusted friend to tell you what to do with the things that every other recipe has told us, unequivocally, discard.

“Learning that they're edible was enough for me to assume that they could be cooked, blended, and used like any other fruit purée in a baked good,” Lindsay-Jean told me, when I asked how the heck she figured out she could bake with banana peels. “And I already knew that my grandmother's banana cake is perfection, so I decided to start there.”

I completely understand if your mouth is still hanging agape from four paragraphs ago. To be honest, we first tested this recipe mostly out of morbid curiosity, while also trying some sure things: Lindsay-Jean’s utterly delicious leek top (leek tops! finally!) cacio e pepe and everything-spiced pumpkin seeds. But after I tasted the fluffiness, hugged by Grandma G.G.’s brown sugar frosting, for myself—then saw the wild crowd reactions from every taster at Food52 HQ—I knew that we needed to get the word out about this cake.

We should probably stop being surprised by how many odd characters can blend seamlessly into cakes and make them richer, lighter, better. In this column alone, beets, eggplant, and quinoa have all done good work, and in my research for Genius Desserts, I saw just about everything else you could imagine: lettuce, jicama, potatoes, sauerkraut. (Got any more?)

As with all unexpected secret ingredients, it’s a bad idea to keep this one really secret, just in case someone has an allergy—in this case, folks with latex allergies can also have reactions to banana peels, among other things. But I’m not sure how you’d stop yourself from singing this from the rooftops anyway.

Photos by Jenny Huang

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.

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13 Comments

Carmen October 14, 2018
The recipe calls for simmering the peels. Wouldn't that assist in the removal of any residual pesticide on the peels? I can't wait to try this recipe, banana cake is my favorite!
 
Neil S. October 12, 2018
I made this recipe before I read the comments regarding buying organic and worries about pesticides and I must say that I’m glad I did. The cake is delicious and it is easily the lightest, fluffiest, best tasting banana cake I’ve ever made or tasted. Sure, when I make it again, I will probably use organic and give the bananas a better scrub before peeling them, but notice I said when, not if. The “genius” of this recipe is in the banana peel. If you’ve ever wished for a better banana cake, one that wasn’t dense, one that doesn’t leave you full after the first bite, using banana peels is genius. I probably won’t tell everyone why my cake is the way it is...and theirs just isn’t. However, I will tell the friends that appreciate my love for baking, those that love to learn as much as I do, and especially every aspiring baker/little kitchen helper (my nieces and nephews) I know because while using banana peels sounds “ew gross!”, the resulting cake will be “the best” and “so cool!”
 
Tj T. October 10, 2018
Shouldn't you be playing Donovan's 'Mellow Yellow' in the background ? I plan on trying this as soon as I have some banana peels ....
 
jonah October 10, 2018
The peels would have to scrubbed really well to remove all of the monkey peepee...and if you have the bananas anyway why not just use them for cake?
 
Jaye B. October 11, 2018
:D :D :D
 
Penny H. October 10, 2018
I thought that bananas were sprayed with a potent insecticide that poisoned a particularly nasty spider and had to be sprayed in order to be imported to the US. Seems like that would apply to even "organic" bananas. Don't think that I'll be trying this recipe.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2018
Hi Penny, if you have a resource to point to, please do share. In my research, it seems that though conventionally grown banana peels do typically have pesticide residue, it's not notably more than other conventionally grown fruits or vegetables (and has never been listed in the "Dirty Dozen" of worst offenders for pesticide residue). But I would definitely recommend springing for organic and washing the peels. This article points to some good resources: https://www.livestrong.com/article/462010-are-banana-peels-toxic/
 
Eileen October 10, 2018
Not to be a wet blanket but... why? What could this possibly add to the recipe?<br /><br />I'm a fan of eating the peels and using the cores of practically everything. I cannot imagine what the peels add - flavor, nutrition, texture? <br /><br />Bananas are cheap. The peels are excellent for roses and tomatoes and other plants. I never waste mine.<br /><br />I would worry about chemicals in the peels. So you have to buy organic. Which sacrifices any economy. <br /><br />I've an open mind. Someone please tell me why I should do this. I love Food52 and they know more than I do, so I'm sure I'll get the answer.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2018
Hi Eileen—I get it! I was hesitant, too. The why for me, as I mentioned in the article above, is that you get a different result: a lighter, bouncier texture than denser banana cakes. For other people, it might be more about the satisfaction of throwing less away, or getting more out of the food they buy. Other cultures around the world eat banana peels—it's just ingrained in us to throw them away. Regarding the pesticides, I discussed with Penny above and linked to this article for more resources: https://www.livestrong.com/article/462010-are-banana-peels-toxic/
 
Babs October 10, 2018
What a crazy exciting idea! But it wonder what kind of pesticides and chemical these peels have picked up on their journey, even organically grown ones.
 
jpriddy October 10, 2018
Exactly.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 10, 2018
Thanks for asking—in her banana section opener, Lindsay-Jean does mention that you should buy organically grown and scrub them well, as with anything where you're eating the peels. I'll add that note to the recipe.
 
Sharla October 10, 2018
Non organic bananas are sprayed with a preservative made from shellfish- so be very careful with allergies!