Bake

Weird & Wonderful Banana Cake From Lucy Cufflin

November 12, 2021
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Photo by James Ransom.
Author Notes

This is not the kind of baking project that will transport you to a calmer place, like massaging cold butter into pie dough or smoothing frosting over the top of a cake.

Instead, you’ll turn your head and hold your breath as you scrape a cup of wobbly mayonnaise onto a pile of mashed banana and brown sugar, and then stir it in as fast as you can. But that mayo—a secret ingredient that you might actually want to keep secret—is what makes this the fluffiest, softest, moistest banana cake you’ll ever have. Just remember that mayonnaise is essentially emulsified egg yolks and oil (which this recipe otherwise lacks), plus a little vinegar and salt— all perfectly reasonable things to put in a cake.

In fact, mayonnaise cakes have been around since at least the 1920s, though usually made with chocolate or spices. With the gooeyness of bananas, this one from Lucy Cufflin is even more puddingy and rich. Cufflin, a caterer, former ski chalet cook, and author of books on baking shortcuts, serves it warm with toffee sauce or cold from the refrigerator. I keep it at room temperature and pull it off in big, soft palmfuls, because I know I won’t be keeping it long.

GENIUS TIP: GIVE STALE CAKES A NEW LEASE ON LIFE
Any cake that’s starting to dry out and lose its luster on day 3 or 4 will be gloriously restored with a quick blast of heat. You can either toast slices in a toaster oven or under the broiler, or sizzle them in a skillet with butter to warm and soften their middles and crisp up the edges. Top the toasted slices with jam, fruit, yogurt, or pumpkin butter, and they’re fancy enough to serve to company.

Recipe from Genius Desserts: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Bake (Ten Speed Press, September 2018).

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  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (250g) well-mashed, very ripe banana (from about 3 bananas)
  • 1 cup (200g) lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (250g) mayonnaise (preferably Hellmann’s or Best Foods)
  • 3 1/2 ounces (105g) freshly brewed strong coffee or water
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • Big pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons raw sugar
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C), with a rack in the center. Line a 9 by 5 by 2 1⁄2-inch (23 by 13 by 6.5cm) loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch (2.5cm) overhang on the long sides. (Note: This cake will fill the loaf pan to the brim, so if your pan is smaller, scrape some of the batter into the wells of a muffin tin and bake them alongside the loaf pan, checking them for doneness after 20 minutes.)
  2. Stir together the bananas, brown sugar, and mayonnaise in a large bowl until well combined, then stir in the coffee. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and stir until well combined. Scrape into the pan and sprinkle the top with raw sugar.
  3. Bake until risen and firm to the touch or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out with just crumbs clinging, 50 to 60 minutes. Lift up the overhanging ends of the parchment paper, turn the cake onto a rack, and peel off the parchment. Let cool completely, sugar side up.
  4. Store in an airtight container in a cool place. It will stay deliciously moist for up to 5 days, though the sugared top will lose some of its crunch over time.

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