This cake is the stuff of legend. 

By Stacey Ballis
April 19, 2019
Stacey Ballis

I want to take this opportunity to say that if you have a freezer full of frozen overripe bananas, you should not necessarily be thinking about banana bread. You should be thinking about banana cake.

Banana cake is the desert-island, last supper, definitive favorite food of pretty much everyone in my family. Not just any banana cake, mind you, but specifically banana cake with chocolate frosting. Not just any banana cake with chocolate frosting, mind you, but very specifically the banana cake with chocolate frosting that is the peerless version made by my godmother, Susan.

Now, Susan is no one-hit wonder. She is an extraordinary and accomplished home baker of essentially everything sweet and yummy. Her brownies are fudgy and rich, her chocolate chip cookies haunt my dreams, she never puts raisins where chocolate chips would suit better. But of all the baked delicious she sends into the world, she is legitimately famous for her banana cake with chocolate frosting. I have never been alive and consuming solid food without her banana cake. It has been the birthday cake, celebration cake, holiday cake, comfort cake, and sympathy cake for my whole cake-eating 48 years. It is the stuff of legend.

Watch: How to Make Mama's German Chocolate Cake

On the surface, so simple. A moist, richly banana-flavored, two-layer cake with a dark chocolate frosting. No frills or fancies. No nuts, chocolate chips or chunks, no crispy bits or coconut. Just a basic banana cake with a simple chocolate frosting.

And yet, in the marriage of these two tastes something extraordinary happens. It is cake alchemy.

Susan’s cake ruins everyone I have ever served it to. I have made it for people who don’t really like banana, and they love it. Folks who aren’t really cake people, it converts them. My friends who either pick frosting off cakes or eat the cakes and leave the frosting? They clean their plates. Friends now know to request it if they are coming over for dinner, or if I offer to bring something to their house. And if I make you a banana cake with chocolate frosting, you know I love you. It is the first thing I baked for my husband when we started dating. I’m not saying it’s why he married me, but I’m not not saying it. And he? Isn’t a cake guy.

In one classic family moment some 35+ years ago, at a family gathering, a relative, an adult, bogarted the last piece of banana cake that my 8-year-old sister was saving for herself, and my sister? Never forgave the insult and continues to mourn the loss. In her mind, she will forever be bereft of that one piece of cake that should have been hers and she will leave this earth with a banana cake deficit on the books that can never be erased.

It’s that cake.

Not to say that there is anything wrong with banana bread. Banana bread is cake you can eat for breakfast or an afternoon snack. But banana bread is not banana cake. And banana cake is the thing that any self-respecting overripe frozen banana should aspire to. I share the recipe because Susan is very busy and cannot bake her banana cakes for all of you, and yet, you should all have this cake. I have not adapted or changed it in any way. My only requirement is that when you make it, which once you taste it, you will do often, give a little shout-out to Susan. And maybe save a slice for my sister.

Get the recipe: Susan's Banana Cake With Chocolate Frosting

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