Once, I my friends and I decided (as we do) that it would be a great idea to take on our local creamery’s famous ice cream challenge.
15 minutes, one sundae. Doesn’t sound that bad, right?
Wrong. Three pounds of ice cream and a quarter-hour later found each of us sunken into a comatose stupor–something between sugary crash-and-burn and uncontrollable (but lackadaisical) giddiness. I vaguely recall laughing a lot about cherry stems, but that’s about it.
Of the twelve of us there, I was third to finish. Weirdly, as I looked around at my struggling companions, I had the strangest craving for more ice cream than I had already inhaled–yes I am a shameless bottomless sugar pit–but then again, I was always an ice cream fanatic. In fact, the heavy, sloughing weight on my belly was coming from an altogether different source of revulsion…
It was the banana.
Yes, folks–I almost lost an ice cream challenge to a banana. Three pounds of ice cream were no problem–even a whopping pound of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry couldn’t deter me–and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the whipped cream piled on top, or the three syrups in which the entire sundae was slathered, it wasn’t until I hit the innocuous-looking yellow fruit that I seriously considered giving up.
Of course, Mama didn’t raise no quitter, so in my final minute I sucked it up and shoveled down that banana with a mountainous scoop of strawberry ice cream, gulping it down as fast as I could to rid myself of that sickening scent of sweet rotting garbage (which is exactly what bananas taste like to me).
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t intensely dislike bananas. There was a brief period when my grandma, meaning well, told me that I had to eat them for potassium, so I would begrudgingly swallow one down for show before running away and hiding, heaven forbid anyone followed me waving another five to be eaten. (I’m really bad at refusing food from my grandparents. Once, I forced down an entire tuna sandwich for breakfast [and I HATE tuna] because my grandma had made it for me, bless her heart–I also recall vomiting quite heartily half an hour later in the workplace bathroom.)
After I went away to college, however, my taste buds began to shift. No, I never experienced that miraculous transformation in which I suddenly grew to like lifetime edible antagonists like tuna, avocado, or heavily spiced curry–but I did begin to discover the resourcefulness of using banana in new ways. First came banana bread, then bananas foster, followed quickly by other banana baked goods–these days I’ll eat part of a frozen banana and a spoonful of peanut butter every morning for breakfast. As long as it’s not an unadulterated raw banana, it turns out I can stomach the fruit after all–if only the folks at the creamery had the foresight to make mine a bananas foster!
After frozen bananas, this banana crumb cake is hands down my favorite way to enjoy those pesky bananas now. Aside from using 4 regular (or 3 large) ripe bananas, what keeps this recipe so insanely moist for days on end is the freezer trick! When you pull this cake out of the oven, transfer it straight to the freezer for 30 minutes before pulling it out again. Trust me, you don’t want to skip this step: I now use it on all of my cakes, it’s so easy and lengthens cake shelf life by days!
Did I mention that topping I decided to throw on top at the last minute? Don’t judge me by my bad life choices (cough ice cream challenge cough), because this crumb topping was an amazing life choice. Texture, spice, moisture, flavor–this cake has it all!
And okayyy, Grandma was right: I guess bananas are all right, after all.
I mean, come on…just look at that!
What about you: do you hate or love bananas?
For the cake:
- 3 large bananas or 4 regular VERY ripe bananas, mashed
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups and 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
For the crumb topping:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan and set aside.
- Place mashed bananas in a bowl and drizzle with lemon juice. Set aside.
For the topping:
- Combine flour, both sugars, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in the butter with a fork until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on top of cake before baking.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in eggs and vanilla.
- Alternate mixing in flour mixture and buttermilk (I divided them each into 3 portions). Gently fold in bananas.
- Pour batter evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with crumb topping (recipe below). Bake in preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it (not from the crumb topping, but from the cake itself). Transfer directly to freezer and store there for 30-45 minutes. Remove from freezer and cut yourself a slice for a job well done!