Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

As usual, I got a little overzealous buying bananas.  I mean, the baby likes bananas and all, but come on.  I don’t think I really needed twenty.  Although, this time it isn’t entirely my fault.  My parents gave me some when they visited last week.  Alex ate a bunch, but I still had 8 brown bananas to contend with now.  In the past,  I made some super delicious banana cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  But, they start with a box mix.  So this time I wanted to try to make a cake from scratch.  However, I don’t always have such great luck with homemade cake.  They can often be really dense and dry.  But, I figured with the bananas and sour cream, it should be okay.  So I pressed on… I was determined to succeed after a major cinnamon roll coffee cake fail this morning. 😦

The cake batter was easy to put together and it baked up perfectly.  Oh, this was looking promising!  After letting the cake cool, I mixed up the frosting.  Just 4 ingredients, but holy cow, this frosting is crazy delicious!  I almost said forget the cake, let’s just eat this frosting.  But, against my better judgment :D, I went ahead and frosted the cake.  Yeah, then it would have been a good idea to refrigerate it for a bit to cut perfect slices.  Did I? Of course not.  I just had to taste this cake.  The cake is so soft and tender and just bursting with banana flavor.  The frosting is thick and creamy, with a pleasant tang from the cream cheese and just the right amount of vanilla.  Wow!  I don’t know what else to say.  Hands down this is the best banana cake I have ever had.  I still have 6 brown bananas left.  Heck, I just might make another one….

Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 13 x 9 pan of bars, about 16 pieces

For the bars:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp banana extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas  Totally smooth or a little chunky..your preference

For the frosting:
8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar    I didn’t sift and it was fine
1 tsp vanilla extract          I used 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

To make the bars:  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter or spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch metal baking pan.  Place 2 pieces of parchment perpendicular to each other, with overhang, and spray/butter again. (This makes it easy to remove the bars from the pan for nice cutting.) In a large bowl: whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer,  with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, ~3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the sour cream, vanilla, and banana extract by hand with a spatula.  Fold in the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in the mashed banana.  Scrape the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Tap lightly on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.  Mine took more like 28 minutes.  Transfer the whole pan to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar.  Mix on low until combined.  Add the vanilla and mix again. Spread carefully on the cooled banana bars.  I found it easier to frost with the bars removed from the pan (by the parchment handles).

Source: Allrecipes  via Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

Flour Bakery’s Famous Banana Bread

It’s that time again where I have a bunch of brown bananas sitting on my counter, seemingly growing browner by the minute if I don’t finally go and bake something with them.  On most days I would look for a bar or cake recipe, you know, something different.  But, there is something comforting about plain old banana bread and I felt like I could use that today.  Hmmm…what recipe to try is always the question.  I have heard that Flour Bakery makes a mean banana bread.  After all, it must be called Famous Banana Bread for a reason, right?  Everything I have made from the Flour Bakery cookbook has been delicious, so I decided to go with it.

I love to make quick breads because, I guess as the name implies, they are quick. 😀 No yeast and no waiting for dough to rise.  Nope, you just mix your batter, pour it into the pan and pop it into the oven.  It is so easy, that I had the batter mixed and the bread baked while Alex took his morning nap.  Heck, I even had time to take pictures before he was woken up by our dog, who apparently decided Alex had slept enough and plowed through his bedroom door.  I mean, what the heck Walter?  You don’t even like the baby, unless he is eating and dropping food as you wait impatiently below his high chair.  Sorry to get off track, but I am still not happy about that.  Back to the bread. What you end up with is a delicious, moist (Ugh. I hate that word, but I can’t think of another word to describe it) bread packed with banana flavor, just waiting to be slathered with butter and sprinkled with sugar.  Delicious. I can see why it is famous. ;D

Flour Bakery’s Famous Banana Bread

Yield: one 9 x 5 loaf

1 1/2 cups  (210 grams) all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (230 grams) sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup (100 grams) canola oil

3 1/2 very ripe, medium bananas, peeled and mashed (1 1/2 cups mashed/340 grams)

2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream   I used sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup (75 grams) walnut halves, toasted and chopped   I omitted

Position rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 325 F.  Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat sugar and eggs on medium x 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

On low, slowly drizzle in oil.  Don’t pour it all in at once. You want to pour it in over 1 minute, to keep all the air you just beat into the egg-sugar mixture.  Add the mashed bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla. Continue to mix on low just until combined.

Using a spatula, fold in dry ingredients and nuts (if using) just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible and the nuts evenly distributed.  Pour into the greased loaf pan and smooth top. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until golden on top and the center springs back when pressed.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then pop out of the pan to finish cooling.

The banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temp up to 3 days.  Or, it can be well wrapped and frozen up to 2 weeks.

Source: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe

Banana Bottom Pineapple Cheesecake Swirl Cupcakes

I had a pile of brown bananas on the counter, teetering the fine line between perfect for baking and perfect for the garbage. So, what could I do, but make some banana cupcakes?  But, not just any banana cupcake would do.  No, these ones have a pineapple cheesecake swirl.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  I hadn’t and it sure sounded amazing.  Besides, the recipe is from Flo Braker.  No doubt it was going to be delicious.  The banana cake batter and the pineapple cheesecake filling are both easy to put together. Just be prepared for lots of dishes.   You then layer banana cake batter, followed by pineapple cheesecake, and top with more banana batter and bake.   Because of the cake flour, these cupcakes bake up super light and fluffy.  I love how you can see the lighter swirl of cheesecake on the outside of the muffin, giving you just a hint of what’s inside.  The cheesecake filling is creamy and when you bite into a tiny chunk of sweet pineapple, you get a burst of flavor.  It is just perfect in combination with the light banana cake.

Are you trying to figure out what to do with your brown bananas too? I think you just found it.  😀

Banana Bottom Pineapple Cheesecake Swirl Cupcake

Yield: 15 cupcakes

Pineapple Swirl Filling:

One 8-ounce (225 gram) can of crushed pineapple
6 ounces (170 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt

Banana Cupcakes:

1 3/4 cups (200 grams) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (255 grams/9 oz) mashed ripe bananas (2 medium bananas or 3 small)
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature

Before baking:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly coat a 12-cup standard muffin pan with nonstick spray, then flour the cups, tapping out the excess flour.  I used Pam for Baking because it already has flour in it.  Or, butter and flour the cups. Or, line the muffin pans with fluted paper or foil liners.  Repeat with a second muffin pan, preparing only 3 cups and spacing them evenly around the pan. Spacing the cups promotes even baking when not all of the cups are filled.  Have all ingredients at room temperature.

To make the pineapple swirl filling:  Drain the pineapple in a sieve over a small bowl. Press the pineapple against the sieve with the back of a spoon to release as much of the juice as possible. Drain the pineapple further on a few sheets of paper toweling. Discard the liquid.  I put the pineapple into a clean, super thin dishtowel, closed it around the pineapple and twisted it until most of the liquid was gone.  

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer), beat the cream cheese on very low speed until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and salt, mixing just until the ingredients are blended and creamy.  Gently twist the paper towels around the crushed pineapple to absorb any additional juice, and then stir in 1/3 cup of the pineapple. Save the remainder if you have any for another use.  I saved the leftover juice and pineapple in a container and froze it to put in smoothies for the kids.

To make the banana cupcakes: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.  Put the mashed bananas into a medium bowl, add the milk and vanilla and mix together with a rubber spatula.  In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg just until incorporated. Add the banana mixture (it will look curdled but that’s okay; it won’t after you add the flour mixture) and beat on medium-low speed until it is incorporated. On the lowest speed, add the flour mixture in two or three additions, mixing just until smooth after each addition.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the cupcake batter into each prepared muffin cup, spoon 1 tablespoon of the pineapple filling over the batter and then top each with 2 more tablespoons of the banana batter.  If your oven is wide enough, bake 2 muffin pans side by side, spacing them about 1 inch apart. If not, put the second pan on a rack in the upper third of the oven. Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back without leaving an impression when gently pressed, 22 to 24 minutes.  I would start checking at about 17 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Gently tap the pan on the counter to see if the cupcakes release from the side.  If not, trace around each form with a small knife to free the cupcakes.  Invert a rack on top of the cupcakes, invert the cupcakes onto it, and carefully lift off the pan.  Place the cupcakes right side up on the rack and let cool completely.

According to Flo Braker, these freeze beautifully.  Place them in a sturdy covered container, label with the contents and date, and freeze up to 10 days.  Thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.  I put some in the freezer, so I guess I will have to test this.

Source:  Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker

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