Banana Caramel Cake with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Banana Caramel Cake with Caramel Buttercream FrostingThis.

This cake, right here.

We need to have a conversation about this cake.

Because it is amazing. As in, “this cake will change your life” amazing. “You’ll never want to eat another cake” amazing. “I don’t know how I’ve lived on this earth for 26 years and never tasted this cake” amazing.

I’m not kidding. Not even a little bit.

Banana Caramel Cake with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

This cake. This cake may, in fact, be my pièce de résistance. Because it is just. that. good.

I made this cake for my son’s first birthday party. I agonized for weeks over which cake would be my son’s first birthday cake. And I realize that I’m probably the only mother who makes a three-layer banana caramel cake with caramel buttercream frosting for her son’s first birthday. I also realize that’s a little crazy.

Banana Caramel Cake with Caramel Buttercream FrostingBut here’s the thing. To you, maybe a cake is just a cake. A birthday party formality. Just one more check in the box on your party to-do list. But to me, a cake is more than just flour and sugar and eggs. A cake is a carefully constructed thought. A meaningful gesture. An incredibly personal expression of love. When I give you a cake, I’m telling you “I made this just for you. Because I love you. And because I want you to feel loved today.”

And this wasn’t just any cake. This was my son’s first birthday cake. This was the first cake that I would make to celebrate the tiny human I brought into this world. This cake had to convey all of the love and joy that I had in my heart for this little boy I had come to know over the past year.

SONY DSCBanana Caramel Cake with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

I knew that my one-year-old wouldn’t appreciate the hours that I poured into this cake. But that wasn’t really the point.

This cake.

This cake had to be perfect.

And oh my, was it ever.

Banana Caramel Cake with Caramel Buttercream FrostingLittle man may have smashed it all over his face in under five minutes, but I hope that he can look back on these photos someday and realize just how much love was poured into this cake.

My life these days is a jumbled mess of playdates and Duplos and Cheerios and wet, slobbery toddler kisses. Lots of things get lost. Or misplaced. Or flushed down the toilet. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I can think of no better way to usher in the toddler years than with this cake.

If you need to show someone just how much you love them today, make them this cake. It won’t disappoint.

Little man's first birthday

Banana Caramel Cake with Caramel Buttercream Frosting
Recipe courtesy of The Kitchn

Active time: 1 1/2 hours
Start to finish: 3-4 hours
Serves at least 12

For the caramel sauce
2 cups cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the banana caramel cake
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas, from about 4 to 5 medium bananas (1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups caramel sauce (recipe below)

For the caramel buttercream frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup caramel sauce (recipe below)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

For the caramel sauce
Warm the cream in a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Don’t let it boil; just keep it warm.

Stir the sugar and water together in a large, heavy, high-sided pan over high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then stop stirring and allow it to boil until it reaches a deep amber color. This will take anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes, depending on your pan and your stove. You will see pale yellow streaks, then darker ones appear in the center of the bubbling sugar. When you see these, swirl the pan carefully by the handles and be attentive. At the very first sign of smoke from your caramel, turn off the heat. By now it should be very dark amber. (You are looking for a dark caramel here, because you will be adding cream, so don’t flinch and take it off the heat when it’s still just pale gold!)

Immediately pour in the cream. Use a long-handled whisk to whisk it vigorously. Be very careful — the caramel is going to steam and bubble up violently! Add the butter and salt and whisk smooth. Return to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced.

Let cool then pour into a jar and refrigerate. This will keep in the fridge for at least two weeks.

For the banana caramel cake
Heat oven to 325°F. Grease three 9-inch cake pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the white and brown sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat one by one until silky and lightened.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt. Whisk the milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas in a separate measuring cup and add to the eggs and butter, alternating with the flour. Beat until smooth.

Pour batter into the prepared pans. Pour 1/2 cup caramel sauce into each pan, and swirl with a knife.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the centers are set and a knife comes out clean. Cool pans on a rack and run a thin knife between the cake and sides of the pan before trying to release.

For the caramel buttercream frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer) cream the butter with the caramel sauce, vanilla, and salt until smooth and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat for 3 to 5 minutes until very smooth and lightened.

To assemble the cake
Wait until the cake layers are completely cool. Position the bottom layer of the cake on a plate or cake stand. Spread or pipe a thin layer of buttercream on the bottom layer. Repeat, and spread a swirled layer of buttercream on top. Drizze the whole cake with caramel sauce and top with sliced bananas, if desired.

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