Yes, there is a difference between banana bread and banana cake.
They share many of the same ingredients, but the lesser amount of flour in proportion to the other ingredients in banana cake is probably the key factor here. It provides a lighter texture and it’s a bit sweeter, which helps bring out that great baked banana flavour. The difference between the two is very similar to the difference between a muffin and a cupcake.
I’ve decided that I am not that fond of banana bread, especially the more bready, dense-type ones. A perfectly executed banana cake on the other hand is a completely different story.
After finding Stephanie Alexander’s recipe for simple banana cake, with optional walnut and brown sugar topping, I have never looked at another banana cake recipe. It’s that good.
Another main difference between banana bread and banana cake is that one is traditionally baked in loaf tins and the other is traditionally baked in a round cake pan. However, banana cake batter is also quite versatile and will bake quite well in almost any shaped pan, yep, even loaf shaped pans…
As you can see, I prefer baking my banana cake in a brownie pan with an insert rack so I can have perfect little pieces. It also allows me to leave some of the portions free of topping, which are just as good (if not better, according to some).
Quick technical note: If the mixture looks like it’s curdling before you begin adding the flour DO NOT THROW IT OUT. I promise that you’ve done nothing wrong and that the mixture will come together.
Stephanie Alexander’s Simple Banana Cake
Recipe by Stephanie Alexander, as featured in The Cook’s Companion.
- 125g softened unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana
- Few drops of pure vanilla
- 250g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I tend to add a whole teaspoon…)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ cup buttermilk (or ½ cup milk mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice)
- Butter and flour a 20cm square cake tin, then line base with baking paper.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in eggs, banana and vanilla.
- Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture, alternating with buttermilk.
- Spoon into tin and bake for 45 mins – 1 hour or until a fine skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Cool cake in its tin on a wire rack for a few minutes before turning out. Cool completely before cutting and storing in an airtight tin.
Walnut and Brown Sugar Topping
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
- 3 tablespoons self-raising flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 100g softened butter
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
Combine all of the ingredients and scatter over the uncooked banana cake and bake as above.