Betty’s Banana Layer Cake Recipe – A Vintage Cake Loaded with Charm (2024)

This is the real deal retro-style. A classic banana layer cake from the 1940’s made in that simple old-fashioned style like Grandma used to bake. If you’re a vintage cake junkie, THIS is the one for you! Or…If you’re just a dabbler in the vintage arts and want a moist and vibrant cake loaded with charm, break out that Hobart mixer and some ripe nanners cause this one’s gonna scratch it right outta the park!

We served our little gem at Sunday supper with a Fresh Banana Buttercream Frosting that is sligtly oozing, just the way we like it, with a layer of sliced bananas tucked between the layers.

This Cake is Dedicated to Betty!I have a special family friend and her name is Betty. 🙂 I haven’t seen her in some time but I think of her a lot. Her daughter, Julie, and I grew up together in our hometown of Mercedand later in the San Francisco Bay Area through our college years. Because my mom was a way-working mom, I spent a lot of time at Betty’s home. She became my “other mom” role model and she taught me so many wonderful things about being a mom and keeping a home. She taught me how a stay-at-home mom cares for her family on the home-front (packing lunches, decorating, shopping, chore-ing) and about the special art of home crafts. She had been a professional seamstress so she stitched us up matching sundresses, took us “junking” to junk shops to buy chairs to recover or old trunks to refinish, taught us crafts projects, helped us transform the garage into an amazing kid space and cooked amazing meals for family sit-downs. She painted and papered and hammered her home into charming perfection and re-purposed everything from old and scrappy to fine and lovely. Even though I am now a busy working mom with 3 kids, I always think back to how Betty might enhance her home and how she might fill it up with love. So I’m dedicating this charming vintage cake with LOVE to Betty. 🙂

Here’s a photo of Betty in her “salad days” when she was a professional seamstress. Doesn’t she look glamorous?

Vintage Recipe! This cake comes to us via a special vintage cookbook called an Encyclopedia with a hard spine. It’s a giant and stately looking book. Whoa!

Book Secret! But the book has a secret! It’s not really a book. haha! It’s actually just a binder with 20 recipe pamphlets by various editors in collaboration with the Culinary Arts Institute all published in 1940 and all nicely attached inside with a neat little metal spine stirrup.This is the paper side of the “encycopedia”…

The subject pamphlets within the “The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia of Cooking and Homemaking” are plentiful…like: “500 Favorite Salads”, “250 Ways to Prepare Poultry and Game Birds” and “The Cookie Book” etc., emphasis on et cetera.

Check out Pamplet #3! Course, we always gravitate to the dessert section of a vintage cook book so we moved immediately to “Pamphlet #3”. It’s titled “250 Classic Cake Recipes” edited by Ruth Berozheimer, Home Counselor of the Washington Times-Herald, creator of “Radio Recipes” and editor of the 1938 “American Womans Cookbook”. This cake is listed under the category, ” Cakes With Fruit”.

Recipe note: We didn’t modify much of the original recipe. We substituted unsalted butter for shortening and upped the vanilla count, but otherwise, it’s pretty much “as is”. 🙂 The way we assembled this cake with slices of bananas in the center between layers of frosting should not be confused with a “Gold Nugget Cake” (which usually has no bananas in the batter and just slices of banana in the center filling. This cake (and the frosting) is loaded with fresh bananas!

Tools Needed for Banana Layer Cake:
Cooking spray or butter (for prepping pans)
2 Cake Pans 9″ diameter
2 Large mixing bowls (for dry ingredients and batter)
3 Small bowls or cups (for warming eggs and butter to room temp and for fork-mixing eggs)
1 Dinner plate (for mashing bananas)
1 Potato masher or fork (or other tool for mashing bananas)
1 Medium Bowl (for mixing mashed bananas with sour milk)
Electric Mixer
Whisk (or fork for blending dry ingredients)
Wooden Spoon and/or Spatula
Measuring cups and spoons

Ingredients for Banana Layer Cake:
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large spotted bananas)
2-1/2 cups cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
1/4 cup of buttermilk (or 1/4 cup milk with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar)

Okay! Let’s rock and roll !! We’re going to break it down for ya into a dozen easy steps.

1. Prep The Eggs:

As a prep step, let’s bring to room temperature in a cup of warm water:
2 large eggs (in their shells)

2. Prep The Oven:

Place an oven rack in center position and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

3. Prep The Pans:

Prepare two 9″ cake pans by buttering them and lining the bottoms with parchment.

Tip: Press 2 squares of parchment into the bottom of one of the cake pans, making a finger indent at the edges of the pan, then cut the circles from that template. 🙂 EEZY PEEZY!

Butter the tops of the parchment (just for luck, although I don’t think it’s necessary). 🙂

4. Prep The Bananas:

Get your hands on 3 (or maybe 4) large ripe bananas. The fruit should be ripe and spotted but not pure black (black is better for banana bread).
Tip: We want some speckles to show through in the cake but we don’t want a dark brown cake. 🙂
Double Tip: You can make this cake with regular unripe bananas, although the bananas will have to be mashed well and I would add a tablespoon of honey, noting that the cake will have a slightly different texture and the color will be a little different.
Triple Tip: To get bananas to ripen more quickly, place them in a paper bag with some apple slices (and maybe even set them in the warm sun for a bit).

This is what the bananas for this cake should look like…

Grab your favorite nanner masher and mash 3 or 4 large bananas to produce:
1 cup hand-mashed banana puree
Tip: I like the potato masher, although a fork will do just fine — and some of our friends think a ricer is best while others even use their hands for this process. haha!

Mash the bananas so that there are no large white clumps of fruit (but not a purely smooth puree).
Tip: Whatever fruit shows in the mashed lumps will show in the cake for the most part (so we want some tiny fruit morsels in the cake but not large white lumps of the fruit). 🙂

5. Prep The Dry Ingredients:

Measure out into a large bowl all the dry ingredients:
2-1/2 cups cake flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk all ingredients until thorough blended. (You could sift everything but I’m lazy bout that.)

6. Cream The Butter And Sugar:

Microwave for a few seconds until room temperature:
1/2 cup (1 cube or stick) unsalted butter

In a large bowl (or the stand mixer bowl), measure out:
1 cup sugar
the prepared room temp butter

Using the mixer, beat the sugar and butter on high for about 3 minutes until light and creamy.
Tip: There will be some granules still showing that will soon disappear. 🙂

7. Adding the Eggs into the Sugar-Butter Mixture:

Fork beat in a small bowl or cup and then beat into the creamed sugar-butter mixture on high:
2 large eggs
Tip: The original recipe calls for the eggs to be cracked and beat one at a time (and you can do that too, no biggie). We just think it gets a little fluffier when you pre-mix the eggs before adding them to the batter.

See how creamy and smooth the batter has become? Nice!

8. Adding The Vanilla:

Beat into the batter on medium speed until fully incorporated (about 30 seconds):
2 teaspoon vanilla extract, fine quality
Tip: You can use the original solo teaspoon of vanilla, but we doubled it for extra goodness.

The batter now has a little golden gloss to it…

9. Sour Milk Or Buttermilk:

Let’s make some “sour milk” old-school-style (or just use 1/4 cup of buttermilk, or you may even use dry cultured buttermilk mixed with warm water according to the dry buttermilk directions):

Making Sour Milk:

In a small bowl or cup, mix together and let sit on the counter for 5 minutes:
1/4 cup milk (we used 2%)
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

10. Mixing Bananas With Sour Milk:

Place the prepared mashed bananas in a bowl and, using a fork, stir in the sour milk (or buttermilk) until thoroughly blended.
Tip: We’re following the original recipe that calls for mixing the mashed bananas with the sour milk although there are lots of other banana cake baking techniques that skip this segregated sour milk and banana step — but since the cake turned out great, we’re keeping this step in place just as written.

11. Adding Mashed Bananas & Flour Mixture to Batter:

Add the banana-sour milk (or buttermilk) mixture and the prepared flour mixture in partial batches to the batter and blend with the electric blender on low-speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.

The final batter will be a little golden color and be mostly smooth with tiny little chunks of fruit.

12. Batter Up The Pans, Bake & Cool:

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth the top of the batter with a spatula if needed.

Bake the banana cakes at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes until the tops are golden brown, the center springs back slightly when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake returns clean.
Tip: Always check the cake 5 or 10 minutes before the buzzer sounds to make sure things are running smoothly and the cake is rising nicely and isn’t getting overly browned.

Baking Time Tip: One of our readers (thank you, Robin!) reports that her fresh banana cake took only 20 minutes to bake so be sure to check your cake early to see how your cake is coming along.

Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in the pans before removing and then continue cooling for an additional 30 minutes to an hour before frosting.

Cut off any mound on the top of the bottom layer.
Tip: We left the top layer of cake in its natural slightly mounded state to give it that old-fashioned homemade look but you can go either way with a perfectly flat top for both cake layers or not.

Traveling With Cake! This cake travels well covered with plastic wrap in the original pans and should be frosted on site if you’re going to be giving it as a potluck cake for using it for a celebration cake away from home (or for Sunday Supper Cake at Mom’s). This cake is best served the day it is baked or within 2 days max, storing it wrapped on the counter. I’m not sure how it does for freezing so let us know in the comments section if you freeze and defrost your banana cake for a party and we’ll follow your lead. 🙂

Some folks like this cake filled with whipped cream and bananas and frosted all over with whipped cream.
Tip: If you go the whipped cream route, frost and fill the cake just before serving it for best results since the whipped cream is delicate and may not hold storage well.

In our next post, we will be prepping for you the step-by-step recipe for a loverly Fresh Banana Buttercream Frosting recipe (that has been kicked down a notch for sweetness with some fresh lemon juice and a little cream cheese). 🙂

We’ll also run you through the process of filling this cake with the “golden nuggets” of banana slices.

Join us for this special Fresh Banana Buttercream Frosting recipe next up…

Vintage cake testing time!

Thank you for stopping in to Bake This Cake! for this little trip down history lane!

I hope you’re able to join us on Facebook to see photographs of the vintage cakes in the triple-testing process. 🙂

Check out our Pinterest site (those “pins” are so inspiring and fun)!

Happy vintage cake baking to you!


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Leslie and Julie, Betty’s daughter, with our newborns

Sunday Supper at Mom’s

Betty’s Banana Layer Cake Recipe – A Vintage Cake Loaded with Charm (2024)
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