I really wanted this to be a “Lady and the Tramp” moment. This was supposed to be a petite, small-batch banana crumb cake, perfect for a pair of forks and two starry-eyed lovers. Although my initial intentions for this cake were not fully realized, we still wound up with a seriously good treat that you’ll want for breakfast, dessert and every snack in between. I’m going to call it a win.
Every once in a while, when a marriage rut leaves Brett and me more enchanted with “just one more” episode of “Chicago PD” than each other, I start trying to think of little things or activities to make our time together a little more special. Sometimes it’s a lowball filled with a bourbon old fashioned waiting for him when he gets home. Sometimes I’ll hire a babysitter for a night out, or we’ll opt to play cards instead of zoning in on our phones. If all of that fails, I usually just nag and sulk until it escalates to WWIII, although I’m finding this tactic hasn’t yielded the desired results so far. There’s lots of ways and opportunities to connect, but if we’re being totally honest here, sometimes it’s easier just to stay in the rut and pretend it doesn’t exist. I know you know what I’m talking about.
So this banana crumb cake was my attempt of hightailing out of a marital ditch. I liked the idea of producing a bitty treat that you guys read: I could make for a special someone and nibble on together with fluffy forkfuls straight from the pan. I envisioned something akin to a scene from a 1950s black-and-white show where the wife casually pulls a cake from the oven and the husband, proud and salivating at the sight of the piping-hot baked good, tosses his briefcase and trench coat on the floor to embrace her for a kiss. Let’s just LOL at my delusion, shall we?
My cake turned out giant. This big, honking loaf-like treasure was large enough to feed a small army — not exactly the cutesy treat I envisioned. Then the crumble on top ended up being so delectable, so sweet and salty delicious, that my hungry, pregnant self had nibbled most of it away before Brett even got home. Of course when I finally did offer him a slice, he took a skeptical glance at it and said he would eat Oreos instead.
Whatever. My banana crumb cake wasn’t the romantic gesture I had hoped it would be, but it was freaking delicious, so I’m sharing it here anyways. This small batch(ish) treat is the perfect way to use those dingy-looking bananas on your counter while simultaneously baking up something you won’t be able to resist. It’s moist, tender-crumbed and incredibly flavorful.
This banana crumb cake is super simple to make. First, we start with the crumble. This is a brown butter and brown sugar streusel that comes together quickly in a small bowl. If you need a little extra help on browning butter, you can check out my tutorial post here. Throw the crumble into the fridge while you preheat the oven and whip up the batter. Butter, sugar, banana and eggs are stirred together with milk and the dry ingredients. We dump all of that mixture into a small pan and crumble the streusel on top. Simple. The cake bakes in the oven until golden, puffed and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. The vanilla bean glaze on top is totally optional. If we’re being honest, that was my attempt at sexi-fying an otherwise simple-looking cake.
If you have a special someone to cook for, or even just a few forgotten bananas, you should give this banana crumb cake a shot. It’s humble in appearance but totally fab in taste.
Banana Crumb Cake
Total Time: 50 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
For the crumble
- ¼ cup (55 gm) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup (65 gm) brown sugar, packed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (155 gm) all-purpose flour
For the cake
- ¼ cup (55 gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (50 gm) sugar
- ¼ cup (50 gm) brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (60 gm) buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup (230 gm) mashed bananas
- 1 cup (140 gm) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
For the drizzle
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 2 tablespoons milk
To prepare the crumble
Dice the butter and place in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and, stirring all the while, brown the butter. You’ll remove the butter from the heat when you notice it becomes nutty in fragrance and auburn-colored flecks appear at the bottom of the pan. Don’t let the butter burn and see notes for more on this. Pour the butter into a bowl and add the brown sugar, salt, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir in the flour until large crumbles appear and then place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the cake.
To prepare the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and brown sugar for one minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl and then beat in the egg until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the buttermilk, vanilla and bananas and stir just to combine. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, and stir on low just until combined. Grease a small baking dish (I use an 8-inch-by-4-inch pan, but you can substitute whatever you have) and spread in the batter. Use your fingers to crumble the brown butter topping evenly over the top of the batter. Bake in the preheated oven until the cake has fluffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes depending on your pan. Allow to cool and then drizzle with the topping if desired. To prepare the topping, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk in a small bowl until smooth. Add a smidge more milk if the mixture is too thick. Drizzle over top of the cooled cake.
- For more on browning butter, check out the link to my tutorial in the post above.
- Note that if you use a glass or ceramic dish baking time will differ.
- Always trust the toothpick test to determine if the cake is done.