Serves a Crowd

Banana Cake with Penuche Frosting

December 13, 2012
20 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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. —The Editors

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes one 2-layer cake
  • Banana Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 bananas, crushed
  • 1/2 cup sour milk
  • 1 2/3 cups pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • Penuche Frosting
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar (up to 2 cups)
In This Recipe
  1. Banana Cake
  2. Heat the oven to 350° F.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, and fold into the batter.
  6. 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.
  1. Penuche Frosting
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the milk, raise the heat, and cook until the mixture boils. Remove from heat, and let it cool until the mixture is lukewarm.
  4. Gradually stir in the powdered sugar, beating until smooth.
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