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

Banana Streusel Snack Cake

My 10 month old son, Alex, loves bananas, so I bought him a big bunch on my last shopping trip.  The next day, my parents visited and they brought us a bunch of fruit, which included more bananas.  As much as Alex loves them, a baby can only eat so many bananas…although he did give a valiant effort.  So, I have been staring at several very brown bananas the last few days and I finally decided it was time to use them or toss them.  I hate to waste food, so it was decided. I am baking something with bananas today.  I wanted to make something new and I was leaning toward bars.  But, after looking through the index under banana of about a dozen cookbooks, I couldn’t find a bar recipe.  But, when I got to Baking For All Occasions, the recipe for Banana Streusel Snack Cake made me forget the bar idea.  I had to make this cake.  I just love streusel, especially if it has cinnamon because it really is a perfect complement to banana.    The cake comes together easily, but you will need to drag out your Kitchen Aid on this one.  The cake is very tender from the addition of cake flour and the sweet streusel provides great texture.  It is very moist, with just the right amount of banana flavor with subtle cinnamon spice.  My parents stopped by again today at the perfect time.  Upon opening the door they were welcomed with the delicious smell of freshly baked banana cake.  And, I had just finished taking my photos.  So, the cake was still warm and ready to eat.  They loved it so much, I had to send some home with them.  There are definitely some advantages to having a daughter who loves to bake, especially to parents who love to eat!

Banana Streusel Snack Cake

Yield: one 9 x 5 loaf ( I used the Williams Sonoma gold bread pan which is a bit smaller – 8.5 x 4.5)  or one 8 inch square cake

Streusel:
6 tablespoons (50g) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons firmly packed (75g) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cake:
2 cups (225g) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (255g) mashed ripe bananas (2 medium or 3 small)-  mash by hand, do not puree
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) sugar       
1 large egg, lightly beaten, room temp

Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon with your fingertips until the mixture is lumpy; set aside.

Before baking:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly coat a 9 x 5 x 3 in loaf pan with nonstick spray (or an 8 in square pan) then flour the pan, tapping out excess flour. Or, butter and flour the pan.  I used Pam spray with flour. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

To make the cake:  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of wax paper; set aside. Put the mashed bananas in a medium bowl and stir in the milk and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-low speed until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until completely incorporated. Add the banana mixture (it will look curdled, but that’s okay) and beat until combined. Reduce the mixer to its lowest speed and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the batter.
Bake the cake until it springs back when gently pressed in the center and a round wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of batter, 40 to 50 minutes (35 minutes if you use an 8 x 8 pan). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Release the cake from the pan onto a rack, then invert onto another rack so it is streusel side up.  Let it cool completely before cutting.

The recipe states that this cake freezes beautifully.  Just wrap it securely in plastic wrap, overwrap with foil, and freeze up to 2 weeks.  To thaw, remove the foil and leave at room temperature for about 3 hours.

Source:  Baking For All Occasions

Banana Montana After School Snack Cake

Okay, so the name of this cake is kind of stupid.  But, the recipe is from a children’s cookbook called Sticky, Gooey, Messy, Chewy Treats for Kids.  While flipping through the book, I found a recipe for homemade marshmallows and fried doughnuts, so not really kids cooking to me. It seems more for moms to use to make fun, delicious treats for their kids.

Now that my 9 month old son is eating real food, I keep a bunch of bananas around.  They are easy for him to eat and he really likes them. I always try to buy extra, hoping that some will turn brown enough to use in baking.  This time it worked out.  I had three bananas on the border of what my husband would call disgusting.  Perfect. 😀  So, I really wanted to bake something with them so they didn’t go to waste.  But, I didn’t feel like my usual banana bread or banana muffins.  I found the recipe for this banana cake and I thought it would be perfect.  It is really moist and has a very delicate crumb due to the use of cake flour instead of all-purpose.  So, the cake tastes light, although unfortunately not in calories, because it is fluffy rather than dense like banana bread. I like that the cake is sweet enough that it doesn’t even need frosting, just a dusting of powdered sugar and it is ready to serve. It is a quick and easy cake to throw together, as the name implies for a delicious after school snack.

Banana Montana After School Snack Cake

Yield: an 8×8 or 9×9 cake

1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed very ripe banana  I used 3 medium bananas, smashed them and measured them in a 1 cup.  It was the perfect amount.
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup diced pecans, toasted and cooled (optional)  I omitted
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 8 or 9 inch square pan with cooking spray.   I used a 9 x 9.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Sift onto wax paper or into another bowl.

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugars on medium until light and fluffy, 3- 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then beat in vanilla, bananas, and buttermilk just until combined.

With mixer at low speed, beat flour mixture into the banana mixture in two additions. Beat just until combined. Do not overbeat! Using a rubber spatula, mix in pecans if using.

Spread the batter in prepared pan in an even layer. Bake until firm and golden brown and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Mine was ready in 40 minutes…I’d start checking at 35 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into 9 squares. Serve warm.

Source: Sticky, Gooey, Messy, Chewy for Kids

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Swirl

I have three super brown, almost black, bananas sitting on the counter.  My husband, Justin, has used almost all his willpower to not toss them in the garbage because he thinks they look gross and rotten.  While they may be gross for eating, they are perfect baking.  Justin threw my bananas away once and when I went to make some banana cupcakes, I was sad to see that they were gone. The problem is, it’s not like you can go to the store and buy brown bananas. No, you must wait a week for them to reach just the proper ripeness the browner the better.  So, I had to change my plans. That day we made an agreement that only I am to throw away bananas, no matter how brown, gooey, yucky they may look.  Problem solved.

So, I have these three bananas that are riding a thin line between baking perfection and rotten, so I must use them now or never.  Since I hate throwing food away, I decided to make banana bread using Todd English’s recipe from The Olives Dessert Table .  I always like recipes with melted butter for both great flavor and because 9 times out of 10 I forget to soften butter. I also love the addition of cinnamon to banana cake and bread, so I was thinking I would just add some cinnamon to the batter.  But, then I came across Lovin’ From the Oven‘s Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread, and I decided to add cinnamon sugar to the middle and top of Todd’s bread recipe.  The banana bread was really moist and full of banana flavor. I really liked how the cinnamon swirl looked and the crispy crust the sugar created on the top. Still to this day, my favorite way to eat banana bread is the same way my mom made it for me as kid and that is warm, slathered with butter and a sprinkle of sugar.  Have you ever tried this? If not, you should. It is delicious.

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Swirl:

Yield: one 8 or 9 inch loaf

Bread:

3 to 4 overripe bananas “the nastier the better”

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

Swirl and topping: (mix together in a small bowl)

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 8 or 9 inch loaf pan. (I used 9×5)

Beat bananas and sugar in mixer bowl with paddle or whisk attachment for 2 to 3 minutes. Add butter, eggs, and vanilla, beating well and scraping down sides with each addition. Add the flour, salt and soda, and mix just until combined.

Pour half of the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar evenly over the top. Carefully pour and spread the rest of the batter, sprinkling the rest of the cinnamon sugar on top. Bake until golden brown and firm in the center, about 1 hour. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, before inverting onto a rack.

Sources: Banana bread from The Olives Dessert Table and cinnamon swirl/topping from Lovin’ from the Oven

Helpful Hints:

  • Halfway through the bake time, I noticed the sides were browning too quickly, so I covered just the sides with aluminum foil.
  • Using a lighter colored loaf pan would also help to reduce browning.
  • I lined the bottom with parchment and sprayed the sides with Pam for baking for easy removal.
  • This recipe makes more cinnamon sugar than I thought was needed, but use as much as you want, according to your taste.
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