image of banana cake batter and old recipe

When Greg’s grandmother died almost five years ago, I became the keeper of her recipe box. I’m not sure why, given my general lack of interest in cooking – which was even less existent five years ago – but I’ve treasured it.

Dorothy was a woman of infinite banana cake. It was her go-to contribution to any family dinner, large or small. Greg’s parents always seemed to have at least a couple in their freezer, such was the abundance of the cakes.

The recipe for it, written in blue ink on a stained and yellowing index card, was at the top of the box when I first opened it, and for years I intended to adopt it as my own.

It’s a sour-cream cake, but we have dairy issues in my house, so it took till I became more proficient in non-dairy baking for me to finally give the iconic cake a shot. It quickly became a household staple.

I made a pair of the cakes – for the recipe is for two loaves’ worth – for Rosh Hashanah dinner, and when I posted a photo, a couple of people requested the recipe. So here it is, as written and with my mods.

Great-Gramma Dorothy’s Banana Cake

Yields two loaves.
You’ll notice this recipe would be a pain in the ass to halve, but it’s very forgiving in all the best of ways, so if you want only one loaf, by all means round up or down as you see fit. (But I recommend making two and freezing one if you don’t have use for it now; you’ll thank yourself later.)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (I use half whole-wheat and half white)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup margarine (for Dorothy was of the margarine generation; I imagine butter would work fine, softened so you can mix it in; I use vegan margarine so it’s non-dairy)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream or buttermilk (I use cultured coconut or cultured soy – sometimes half of each – and I may go up to 3/4 cup for moister cake)
  • 2 bananas mashed (the riper the better)
  • chocolate chips (to taste; I probably use about a half cup so they don’t overtake the taste of the cake itself)
  • cinnamon (to taste, for sprinkling on top)

Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and grease two loaf pans (I wipe them with vegan margarine using my fingers or a paper towel).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Whisk well to distribute the baking powder and soda.
  3. In a smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients and mix. I use a fork. The margarine looks gross mixed in with the yellow of the egg yolks and the slimy bananas, but it all works out fine in the end.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and combine thoroughly.
  5. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  6. Pour evenly into two loaf pans, and sprinkle cinnamon on top.
  7. Bake for 35-45 minutes depending on your oven. Use a toothpick to see that it’s done. (Mine cook for 36 minutes.)
  8. Cool, then remove from pans. In homage to Dorothy, wrap heavily in plastic wrap; freeze one loaf and enjoy the other with people you love.

Great-Gramma Dorothy's (Non-dairy) Banana Cake