Betty’s Banana Layer Cake Recipe – A Vintage Cake Loaded with Charm

Banana Layer Cake recipe on black plate with cake in BG BakeThisCake

This is the real deal retro-style. A classic banana layer cake from the 1940’s made in that simple old-fashioned style like Grandma used to bake. If you’re a vintage cake junkie, THIS is the one for you! Or…If you’re just a dabbler in the vintage arts and want a moist and vibrant cake loaded with charm, break out that Hobart mixer and some ripe nanners cause this one’s gonna scratch it right outta the park!

Banana Cake Recipe looking down BakeThisCake

We served our little gem at Sunday supper with a Fresh Banana Buttercream Frosting that is sligtly oozing, just the way we like it, with a layer of sliced bananas tucked between the layers.

Banana Layer Cake with fork2  on black plate Bake This Cake

This Cake is Dedicated to Betty! I have a special family friend and her name is Betty. :) I haven’t seen her in some time but I think of her a lot. Her daughter, Julie, and I grew up together in our hometown of Merced Betty current photoand later in the San Francisco Bay Area through our college years. Because my mom was a way-working mom, I spent a lot of time at Betty’s home. She became my “other mom” role model and she taught me so many wonderful things about being a mom and keeping a home. She taught me how a stay-at-home mom cares for her family on the home-front (packing lunches, decorating, shopping, chore-ing) and about the special art of home crafts. She had been a professional seamstress so she stitched us up matching sundresses, took us “junking” to junk shops to buy chairs to recover or old trunks to refinish, taught us crafts projects, helped us transform the garage into an amazing kid space and cooked amazing meals for family sit-downs. She painted and papered and hammered her home into charming perfection and re-purposed everything from old and scrappy to fine and lovely. Even though I am now a busy working mom with 3 kids, I always think back to how Betty might enhance her home and how she might fill it up with love. So I’m dedicating this charming vintage cake with LOVE to Betty. :)

Here’s a photo of Betty in her “salad days” when she was a professional seamstress. Doesn’t she look glamorous?

Betty younger days as seamstress

Vintage Recipe! This cake comes to us via a special vintage cookbook called an Encyclopedia with a hard spine. It’s a giant and stately looking book. Whoa!

Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia of Cooking BakeThisCake

Book Secret! But the book has a secret! It’s not really a book. haha! It’s actually just a binder with 20 recipe pamphlets by various editors in collaboration with the Culinary Arts Institute all published in 1940 and all nicely attached inside with a neat little metal spine stirrup.This is the paper side of the “encycopedia”…

Culinary Arts Vintage Pamplet Cook Books BakeThisCake

The subject pamphlets within the “The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia of Cooking and Homemaking” are plentiful…like: “500 Favorite Salads”, “250 Ways to Prepare Poultry and Game Birds” and “The Cookie Book” etc., emphasis on et cetera.

Check out Pamplet #3! Course, we always gravitate to the dessert section of a vintage cook book so we moved to “Pamphlet #3″: It’s titled “250 Classic Cake Recipes” edited by Ruth Berozheimer, Home Counselor of the Washington Times-Herald, creator of “Radio Recipes” and editor of the 1938 “American Womans Cookbook”. This cake is listed under the category, ” Cakes With Fruit”.

Recipe note: We didn’t modify much of the original recipe. We substituted unsalted butter for shortening and upped the vanilla count, but otherwise, it’s pretty much “as is”. :) The way we assembled this cake with slices of bananas in the center between layers of frosting should not be confused with a “Gold Nugget Cake” (which usually has no bananas in the batter and just slices of banana in the center filling. This cake (and the frosting) is loaded with fresh bananas!

Tools Needed for Banana Layer Cake:
Cooking spray or butter (for prepping pans)
2 Cake Pans 9″ diameter
2 Large mixing bowls (for dry ingredients and batter)
3 Small bowls or cups (for warming eggs and butter to room temp and for fork-mixing eggs)
1 Dinner plate (for mashing bananas)
1 Potato masher or fork (or other tool for mashing bananas)
1 Medium Bowl (for mixing mashed bananas with sour milk)
Electric Mixer
Whisk (or fork for blending dry ingredients)
Wooden Spoon and/or Spatula
Measuring cups and spoons

Banana Layer Cake #recipe with Vintage Ceiling Light BakeThisCake

Ingredients for Banana Layer Cake:
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large spotted bananas)
2-1/2 cups cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
1/4 cup of buttermilk (or 1/4 cup milk with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar)

Okay! Let’s rock and roll !! We’re going to break it down for ya into a dozen easy steps.

Banana Layer Cake Cutaway Recipe Bake This Cake

1. Prep The Eggs:

As a prep step, let’s bring to room temperature in a cup of warm water:
2 large eggs (in their shells)

Eggs in Warm Water Tip for Room Temp Eggs Bake This Cake

2. Prep The Oven:

Place an oven rack in center position and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

3. Prep The Pans:

Prepare two 9″ cake pans by buttering them and lining the bottoms with parchment.

Tip: Press 2 squares of parchment into the bottom of one of the cake pans, making a finger indent at the edges of the pan, then cut the circles from that template. :) EEZY PEEZY!

Parchment Pan Press Tip BakeThisCake

Butter the tops of the parchment (just for luck, although I don’t think it’s necessary). :)

Parchment Cut to Pan Size BakeThisCake

4. Prep The Bananas:

Get your hands on 3 (or maybe 4) large ripe bananas. The fruit should be ripe and spotted but not pure black (finding that black is better for banana bread).
Tip: We want some speckles to show through in the cake but we don’t want a dark brown cake. :)
Double Tip: You can make this cake with regular unripe bananas, although the bananas will have to be mashed well and I would add a tablespoon of honey, noting that the cake will have a slightly different texture and the color will be different.
Triple Tip: To get bananas to ripen more quickly, place them in a paper bag with some apple slices (and maybe even set them in the warm sun for a bit).

This is what the bananas for this cake should look like…

Ripe Bananas recipe for Banana Layer Cake Bake This Cake

Grab your favorite nanner masher and mash 3 or 4 large bananas to produce:
1 cup hand-mashed banana puree
Tip: I like the potato masher, although a fork will do just fine — and some of our friends think a ricer is best while others even use their hands for this process. haha!

Banana Mashing Tool Potato BakeThisCake

Mash the bananas so that there are no large white clumps of fruit (but not a purely smooth puree).
Tip: Whatever fruit shows in the mashed lumps will show in the cake for the most part (so we want some tiny fruit morsels in the cake but not large white lumps of the fruit). :)

Mashed Ripe Bananas for Banana Cake Bake This Cake

5. Prep The Dry Ingredients:

Measure out into a large bowl all the dry ingredients:
2-1/2 cups cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Dry Ingredients for Banana Layer Cake Recipe Bake This Cake

Whisk all ingredients until thorough blended. (You could sift everything but I’m lazy bout that.)

Whisked Dry Ingredients Banana Cake Recipe Bake This Cake

6. Cream The Butter And Sugar:

Microwave for a few seconds until room temperature:
1/2 cup (1 cube or stick) unsalted butter

In a large bowl (or the stand mixer bowl), measure out:
1 cup sugar
the prepared room temp butter

Room Temperature Butter and Sugar for Banana Cake Recipe Bake This Cake

Using the mixer, beat the sugar and butter on high for about 3 minutes until light and creamy.
Tip: There will be some granules still showing that will soon disappear. :)

Creamed Butter and Sugar Banana Cake BakeThisCake

7. Adding The Eggs:

Fork beat in a small bowl or cup and then beat into the creamed sugar-butter mixture on high:
2 large eggs
Tip: The original recipe calls for the eggs to be cracked and beat one at a time (and you can do that too, no biggie). We just think it gets a little fluffier when you pre-mix the eggs before adding them to the batter.

See how creamy and smooth the batter has become? Nice!

Eggs Beaten into Banana Cake Batter Recipe Bake This Cake

8. Adding The Vanilla:

Beat into the batter on medium speed until fully incorporated (about 30 seconds):
2 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
Tip: You can use the original solo teaspoon of vanilla, but we doubled it for extra goodness.

Beating Vanilla into Banana Cake Batter BakeThisCake

The batter now has a little golden gloss to it…

Batter before Bananas Banana Cake Recipe BakeThisCake

9. Sour Milk Or Buttermilk:

Let’s make some “sour milk” old-school-style (or just use 1/4 cup of buttermilk, or you may even use dry cultured buttermilk mixed with warm water according to the dry buttermilk directions):

Making Sour Milk:

In a small bowl or cup, mix together and let sit on the counter for 5 minutes:
1/4 cup milk (we used 2%)
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Milk with White Vinegar for Soured Milk BakeThisCake

10. Mixing Bananas With Sour Milk:

Place the prepared mashed bananas in a bowl and, using a fork, stir in the sour milk (or buttermilk) until thoroughly blended.
Tip: We’re following the original recipe that calls for mixing the mashed bananas with the sour milk although there are lots of other banana cake baking techniques that skip this segregated sour milk and banana step — but since the cake turned out great, we’re keeping this step in place just as written.

Mixing Soured Milk with Mashed Bananas BakeThisCake

11. Adding Mashed Bananas & Flour Mixture to Batter:

Add the banana-sour milk mixture and the prepared flour mixture in partial batches to the batter and blend with the electric blender on low-speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Mixing bananas with batter Banana Cake recipe BakeThisCake

The final batter will be a little golden color and be mostly smooth with tiny little chunks of fruit.

Finished Batter Banana Layer Cake Recipe BakeThisCake

12. Batter Up The Pans, Bake & Cool:

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth the top of the batter with a spatula if needed.

Batter in Cake Pans BakeThisCake

Bake the banana cakes at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes until the tops are golden brown, the center springs back slightly when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake returns clean.
Tip: Always check the cake 5 or 10 minutes before the buzzer sounds to make sure things are running smoothly and the cake is rising nicely and isn’t getting overly browned.

Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in the pans before removing to continue cooling for an additional 30 minutes to an hour before frosting.

Cakes Cooling Banana Cake BakeThisCake

Cut off any mound on the top of bottom layer.
Tip: We left the top layer of cake in its natural slightly mounded state to give it that old-fashioned homemade look but you can go either way with a perfectly flat top or not.

Traveling With Cake! This cake travels well covered with plastic wrap in the original pans and should be frosted on site if you’re going to be giving it as a potluck cake for using it for a celebration cake away from home (or for Sunday Supper Cake at Mom’s). This cake is best served the day it is baked or within 2 days max, storing it wrapped on the counter. I’m not sure how it does for freezing so let us know in the comments section if you freeze and defrost your banana cake for a party and we’ll follow your lead. :)

Banana Layer Cake Ready to Travel BakeThisCake

Some folks like this cake filled with whipped cream and bananas and frosted all over with whipped cream.
Tip: If you go the whipped cream route, frost and fill the cake just before serving it for best results since the whipped cream is delicate and may not hold storage well.

In our next post, we will be prepping for you the step-by-step recipe for a loverly Fresh Banana Buttercream Frosting recipe (that has been kicked down a notch for sweetness with some fresh lemon juice and a little cream cheese). :)

We’ll also run you through the process of filling this cake with the “golden nuggets” of banana slices.

Spreading Frosting on Banana Layer Cake Recipe BakeThisCake

Join us for this special Fresh Banana Buttercream Frosting recipe next up…

Banana Slices  in center of Banana Layer Cake BakeThisCake

Vintage cake testing time!

Banana Layer Cake Close Up2 Slice BakeThisCake

Thank you for stopping in to Bake This Cake! for this little trip down history lane!

I hope you’re able to join us on Facebook to see photographs of the vintage cakes in the triple-testing process. :)

Check out our Pinterest site (those “pins” are so inspiring and fun)!

Happy vintage cake baking to you!

Leslie Macchiarella photo by Julie Macchiarella

Leslie

Leslie w Lindsey & Julie w Ashley

Leslie & Julie (Betty’s daughter) with our newborns

Sunday Supper at Mom's BakeThisCake

Sunday Supper at Mom’s

20 thoughts on “Betty’s Banana Layer Cake Recipe – A Vintage Cake Loaded with Charm

  1. I made this yesterday. I followed the directions to a T. I baked the cake for 25 minutes & the knife came out clean when I checked it BUT my cake turned out very dense. So disappointed :( Still eating it though!

    • Hi, Jessica, Thanks for your comment. I’m so sorry your cake didn’t turn out. I can’t actually guess what went wrong with your cake at this point since I’ve made this cake SO many times over the years and it turns out a light and lovely cake each time. The closest I can guess is that the bananas were perhaps overly ripe. They should be lightly ripe with a few spots as in the photo shown. Just curious: Did you use buttermilk or vinegar milk (although either one works for me)? I worried originally that the banana size might vary but we covered that with a description by volume. Let’s see if we can solve this mystery.

      • My bananas were about 2 days shy of being ripe enough. I used all purpose flour instead of cake flour. I used sour milk (vinegar) mixture. I may have mixed too long. Those are the only differences I believe :) thank you!

      • Thanks, Jessica, for further details. This was a good try. Don’t give up on your cake baking! I substitute things all the time but sometimes changes in the ingredients and method can change the outcome. I think the cake flour in this recipe is key because cake flour is a finer grind and contains more protein and makes the cake nice and light. Also the final mixture of flour should be very brief (you could even mix with a spatula instead of an electric mixer) and using spotted, ripened bananas is key because the fruit actually changes consistency and sugar levels when properly ripened for the specific recipe. Room temp eggs and fresh leaveners also work wonders. When I get some extra time, I’ll try making a video to help you put out a perfect little vintage banana layer cake. Best regards, Leslie

  2. I made this layered with Peanut Butter Mousse and Chocolate Sauce, encased in Peanut Butter Buttercream …. YUUUMMMMMMM!!!!!!! I did add a little bit of cinnamon to the batter, because I like cinnamon in my banana stuff :)

  3. This recipe unfortunately didn’t work out for me :( my cake rose strange and it was dense with holes and tunnels in it. Upon further research I believe I may have over mixed it… I also used a substitute for cake flour (1/4 cup corn starch for every 2 cups AP flour) because that is what I had on hand… so maybe that didn’t mesh well with the recipe. The frosting, while delicious… was a bit thin and didn’t spread well, I resorted to pouring it over the cake like a glaze instead. I think you could have used the whole 8 oz. of cream cheese to thicken it up a bit. I may try again after I get to the store for cake flour and see if that was my issue. The cake was yummy if it weren’t for my baking mistake!

  4. Hi;
    Maybe I have just had a senior moment, but for the life of me, I can’t find the step in the cake instructions that join together the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.
    I’m assuming it is somewhere after step 11 – Adding mashed bananas to batter.
    At the beginning of the recipe, in Tools Needed, it is mentioned that 2 bowls are needed (for dry ingredients and batter), so I assume (again) that when batter is mentioned, it does not contain the dry ingredients.
    The picture in Step 11 on this page (but not in the print-out), shows the mashed bananas/Buttermilk mixture being added to a flour mixture.
    Again, I assume that what is missing in Step 11 is the Mashed Bananas/Buttermilk mixture being added to the creamed butter/sugar, eggs and vanilla mixture and then this mixture being mixed into the dry ingredients.
    Please correct me if I’m wrong!

    WRA

  5. What a great story! And I really got a lot out of the step by step instructions. This looks so perfectly delicious! I am not a baker but I think I might attempt this for next special occasion. I will let you know how it turns out. I love the photo of you guys with your babies!

    • Thank you ShePausedForThought! You are so thoughtful (sorry, had to). But you are! For real. And I agree with you that everyone should have a Betty in their life. I hope I get to be someone else’s Betty. I’m gonna work on that. :)

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