Banana Bread – Banana Cake

Banana Bread/Banana Cake

Can someone could explain to me what the difference between Banana Bread and Banana Cake is? I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with an explanation, any explanation…and I just can’t think of one. If you presume that because Banana ‘Bread’ is made in a loaf pan, whereas a cake is usually baked in a round pan—by that same logic, Pound Cake would be Pound Bread, which doesn’t sound quite as inviting. So you’re going to have to try harder.

Take muffins, for example. It’s funny when people eat a muffin thinking they’re being so ‘healthy’. The word ‘muffin’ is just the Latin derivative of ‘deceptive baked-good’. (Go ahead…look it up.) Swapping oil for butter, which often happens in muffins is fine, but you’re not fooling anyone, folks.


You can make them in little molds, and you can eat all the muffins you darn well want for breakfast, but I had an intern once who was in culinary school and she told me they were making something called ‘Health Muffins’ in their classes which had a whopping 900 calories each. Add a big, tall caramel latte with a crown of whipped cream and a sqiggle of caramel and that’s one, um, healthy way to start the day, I tell you. I’ll stick with a croissant, or a slab of Banana Cake, merci.

Banana Bread/Banana Cake

Since I was on the subject of using up leftover egg whites a bit back, I was thinking about this Banana Cake, or Banana Bread, which uses up one of them. Hey..it’s a start. And that’s the kind of logic goes through my brain.

So I’m also the kind of person who if I have one egg white leftover, I’ll go out and buy bananas, sour cream, chocolate chips and more eggs just to make a Banana Cake.

Bananas

But why not try making one yourself? For one thing, it’s easy as pie to put together. For another, it actually really does fall into the ‘healthy’ and low-fat category—there’s just a smidge of butter added and just a bit of sour cream, low-fat or regular can be used, which you could probably swap out with yogurt and be just as healthy and happy. And speaking of nuts, you could add a handful of toasted walnuts or pecans if you’re so inclined.

This is a recipe I’ve been making for years and I love it. It’s a variation of my Banana Upside Down Cake with Chocolate Chips, but I thought it was time to revisit it. And that one egg white was driving me nuts! You’ll notice I didn’t do the caramelized banana topping like on the original, which you’re welcome to do. Now stop loafing around and make it. It’s so simple—in fact, it’s a piece of cake. Or bread.

Banana Bread/Banana Cake

Banana Cake or Banana Bread

Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) cake

Be sure to use very ripe bananas, whichever you choose: the skin should have black speckles on them and be soft to the touch. I often add a shot of hyper-strong espresso to the batter, which is positively delicious. People often raise an eyebrow when I tell them how good coffee is with bananas, but since coffee is a tropical fruit (or berry), as are bananas, the combination makes sense.


  • 1½ cups (210g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (I always use Rumford)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup (150g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) melted butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (250ml) banana puree, made from about 2 very ripe medium-sized bananas
  • ½ cup (125ml) sour cream, regular or low-fat
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (60g) chocolate chips or 3 tablespoons (30 g) cocoa nibs


Butter a 9-inch (23cm) square pan and line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350F (180 C).

1. Sift together in a bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix in the sugar.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, egg white, egg, banana puree, sour cream, vanilla and espresso, if using.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and stir in the wet ingredients with a spatula until almost mixed. Add in the chocolate chips or cocoa nibs and stir until just combined, but don’t overstir: stop when any traces of flour disappear.

4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until the center feels lightly-springy and just done.

5. Cool on a baking rack.


Storage: This cake will keep well for 3-4 days, or can be frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap, for a few months.



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70 comments

  • I’m glad to see that even native-speakers are confused with the cake/bread distinction. Now, can anybody explain the cake/pie/tart distinction to me, please?
    I love banana cakes, and I’ve made a banana-coffee-yogurt-toastedalmonds dessert before, so I’m gonna try your espresso-in-banana-cake tip next time!

  • This looks delicious. I’m gonna say cake is light and fluffy and bread is moist and dense.

  • So what do you do with all the bananas that start to go brown….freeze ‘em for later? (my forgotten frozen ones from last year have mummified…good “science” project?)

    The trouble with baked goods is that unless you’re Ferran Adria, no matter what you do, you still have to make them from SOMETHING–if not fat, then starches. Unless you make them all with gelatin foams. Or celery. Figuring sugar and flour at about 400-425 cal/cup (125 g) each, I guesstimate your full recipe at about 2000 calories total–not too bad if it serves more than 10, but not the diet food of the century.

    The “healthy muffins” probably
    used a lot of sugar syrup or glucose to compensate for the fat and keep the moisture in. They could have subbed in applesauce for most of that…but that’s too easy…

  • Coincidence? On the 24th of September I wrote something about banana cake on my foodblog (in Dutch).

    And I concluded the banana cake I made is something in between cake and bread. It was Clotilde’s banana pecan cake. I’m very fond of it.

  • Hm…cake and bread. Two different pans :) That would be my distinction. Actually…more the consistency of the final product would be the determinant for me, but they are pretty much the same! :)

  • Like Pille, I’m glad to see that the confusion concerning bread/cake affects native-speakers as well. How about the muffin/cupcake question? I have yet to find out the difference….

    I’m not overly fond of banana cakes, but I’ll definitely try the combination with espresso – it might make me a convert!

  • You are too cute that you would buy all that stuff when you have one leftover egg white. Banana bread/cake/muffin–whatever–I love the smell of bananas baking in the oven.. If someone could invent a room spray that would smell like that… Oy.

  • hi Debbie: Those 3 slices shown represent about 1/15th of the cake, so by those calculations, it’s hovering just over 100 calories. Which I think would be fine by most diet standards.

    Except I ate the rest of the cake as well!

    (I freeze banana pulp in 1 cup containers. I get what you mean about freezing whole bananas, they get really goopy and are hard to peel.)

  • I think of banana cake as being made with butter and banana bread with oil. And I think of cupcakes as being fine-grained and dense and made with butter, but muffins as having a coarser texture and possibly relying on oil or yogurt or even sour cream for their fat content. Ok, shoot me.

  • I think of Banana bread as a loaf and having heavier consistency. Banana cake is lighter. I love them both which is unfortunate for my waistline.

  • Thanks a lot for converting ingredients in grams ;) I thought that Banana bread was more sticky than Banana cake and the consistency more “wet” (sorry for my English). Whatever, I like baked bananas (with cinnamon, mmh !)

  • David, are you going to the donut factory? See you sunday!

    Jeremy

  • It’s all about the alliteration.

    Banana Bread.

    Chocolate Cake.

    Pound Puppies.

    See?

  • This is outrageously Off Topic.

    I’ve just enter Culinary School and the other day the Food Chemistry teacher was talking about invert sugar in ice creams.

    Have you had any experiemce with using invert sugar in ice creams? How does it affect flavor and texture?

    Thanks!

    NR

  • If you think that’s a hard distiction, try explaining the definition of “salad”. Add in German hot potato salads and it becomes impossible.

    Are you familiar with Alton Brown? His definition is that a muffin is barely mixed, leaving a coarse, uneven texture. Quick breads, like banana bread, are similar to muffins. Cakes and cupcakes have well creamed butter and a tender, even crumb. He talks about this at length in “I’m Just Here for More Food”.

  • Sorry everyone, but I’m not convinced…

    Jill: My argument with Alton’s definition is that Carrot Cake is made with oil, not creamed butter (at least I’ve never seen a recipe like that.) And since you’ve got me riled up : ), Black-Bottom Cupcakes and Devil’s Food Cake often have oil instead of creamed butter too.

    Sara: Yes, but that still doesn’t explain Pound Cake. Nice try!

    La Rêveuse: Hmm…will take that point into consideration…

    nyc: I think this version is a bit easier on that, unless you make it twice—and eat them both!

    NR: If you use invert sugar, like trimoline, glucose, or corn syrup, the texture will be less-icy and smoother, but all of those have kind of a ‘gunky’ taste that I don’t care for. If you were using them, you could substitute a portion (say…one-quarter) of the amount of sugar. Since people can’t easily get most of them, except corn syrup (which everyone is suspicious of these days), I don’t use them.

    I do make honey ice cream, which is lovely and smooth.

    (Be aware that invert sugars, by volume, are sweeter than sucrose so the amount should be reduced by 25%.)

  • i think it’s just a matter of mood. you say bread when you’re feeling healthy. and when you want to eat it for breakfast. you say cake when you’re feeling decadent. and want it as a dessert. or in bed. or somesuch goodness.

  • PRETZEL CROISSANTS??????????

    I am having difficulty picturing it…..

  • Weird, I’ve had the same conversation with someone recently, when describing the banana *bread* recipe I’ve been using for years. It’s much less healthy than yours and has rum infused raisins in it – so I have no idea why it’s still a bread, not a cake, apart from two things – one, it’s absolutely delicious hot straight from the oven (umm, wouldn’t that make it a pudding?), and two, it’s one of those things like malt loaf which people like to spread generous amounts of butter on, whether hot or cold and despite how moist it is on its own. The same applied when I used chocolate chips instead of raisins.

  • Oh, and sorry to spam, but talking of muffins, when did American muffins become muffins, as opposed to cupcakes? And why did they (if they did) take this name from the English muffin – which is just a kind of roll which is fried instead of baked?

  • …whoa…whoa..whoa…everyone.

    Hold it right there. What’s this ‘Malt Loaf‘? Now that’s something that sounds fabulous, with or even without generous amounts of butter smeared on it.

    I Googled it and found a recipe which is going right into my ‘to make’ list when I get a minute. Now I know what to do with that can of treacle!

    (And Flavia, the pretzel croissant is a-m-a-z-i-n-g…it even has it’s own web site…)

  • I think pinknest has it. You say bread (or muffin) when you want to eat it for breakfast or pretend it is healthy. You say cake (or cupcake) when you want dessert/something decadent.

  • After I got over giggling how funny you are, I came to these conclusions:

    There is a definite difference between banana cake and banana bread.
    From the age of 3 to…well for a good long time, I requested that my mother make me banana cake for my birthdays. She used sour cream. This many years of experience has got to be good for something. Anyway…..To me banana cake is lighter (not necessarily in calories, but in texture and in color). Banana bread is more dense and not as sweet as B. cake. The stuff you generously shared with me was B. cake according to my own standards of judgment.

    Next time I am at your house, I am so checking behind your fridge.

  • “Deceptive baked-good”? All are very nice words in-and-of-themselves…who is actually deceived? I never have been, even when they try to ‘health’ them up with Bran…I say, go all the way with Banana and chocolate.

    Too funny what a little language ‘memory-loss’ can do..

  • Cupcakes have icing; muffins don’t. Does that work?

    (Yes, I am sidestepping the cake/bread conundrum.)

  • I agree with Keri–cupcakes have frosting.

    How many readers clean behind their refrigerators? Are people supposed to do that? If so, I have failed.

  • The Delia malt loaf is good, but the yeastless Gary Rhodes one is my favourite: Recipe here

    …because it tastes like the Soreen one I was brought up on – really chewy texture. I think that if I was to make the Delia one I’d still soak the fruit in hot tea first.

  • There also is a cultural difference in the use of cake vs bread. When I was living in Britain, I remember hearing what we in the US would call zucchini bread referred to as a courgette cake…

  • I have to agree with Alisa.

    Speaking on the end result of banana bread and banana cake, the bread is always darker in color and more dense in texture. I associate banana bread with some gooey uncooked parts and some dry parts (of course you can overcook it but that’s how it should be), while cake seems consistent and dry throughout. I know this is no technical distinction, as I’m not sure what ingredients are used in each to distinguish them, but from the looks of it along, I would classify your fantastic creation as a…

    banana cake.

  • David, I just split the difference and call it… Banana Cakebread!

  • I am intrigued by the malt bread recipe. Hopefully that will be the next post, and you can tell me where you can find sultanas, malt extract, and treacle, which until now I thought was a J.K. Rowling invention, much like polyjuice potion. (sorry if my dorkiness overwhelms)

    Also, I am going to NY this weekend, so thanks for telling me about City Bakery! their website is chouette.

    PS Shameless plug for David’s book The Great Book of Chocolate- his chocolate chip cookies, which I made this weekend, because I had flour to use up (I laughed, because I relate to being sad about a leftover egg white too), were so simple and delightful.

    and the Banana Cakebread (kudos Leah) sounds good.

  • funny, because i just made that banana loaf cake (“loaf cake”?) with nick m’s recipe which you posted a while back (which turned out a little too dry and rubbery after it cooled, unfortunately) in a round cake pan. and when i was giving a slice to my colleague yesterday couldn’t decide what to call it because to me it looked more like a slice of bread.

    anyway, i love malt loaves. it reminds me of …england.

  • What a coincidence. I have just made some banana nut muffins…be it banana bread, banana cake, or banana muffin, I am nuts for bananas. :)

  • Rasa Malaysia: They sound suspiciously like Banana Cupcakes to me…

  • One of my friends just calls them “mufcakes.”

  • I’d have to agree with Alisa too, the banana cake I make has sour cream in it, butter instead of oil that I’d use in banana bread, and it feels lighter than banana bread (ha). Lots of chocolate icing helps to make the distinction too.

  • breads are denser while cakes are cakier? consistency is always the key :) in my world, breads aren’t sweet while cakes go all for the sweetness. on a side note, i read your write-up on Jean-Charles Rochoux a while back which inspired me to visit his shop and have a chat with him. I am now doing a stage there and love it! thanks for the initial inspiration!

  • I always thought a cake had more eggs and that banana bread was called that because it is technically a “quick bread” which means baking powder, baking soda or both are used for leavening. But what the hell do I know? You’re the pastry chef.

  • It is very simple actually.

    If you don’t have banana bread, eat banana cake!

  • oooh, that recipe sounds delightful :)
    especially the shot of espresso! i used to work in an office that had a coffee bar just for employees. we requested that the baristas make a special drink for us that consisted of coffee, ice, milk, chocolate powder and banana. it was a terrific breakfast shake!

    also, while you are in NYC, check out kossar’s bialy’s, a few blocks from katz’s. the best!

  • Banana cake is CAKE and it has frosting between the layers. You know the difference between carrot cake and zucchini bread?

    Enough said.

  • Perfect timing – I have some bananas rotting away just waiting to be turned into banana cake!

  • Hmm, Jamie Oliver has a recipe for real banana bread on his site (with yeast). I made it with whole wheat flour, and it didn’t turn out. Next time I’ll actually follow the directions.

    I also have a recipe for a real banana cake with creamed butter.

    You could make the same argument about zucchini bread. There’s also zucchini cake, which is the same recipe made in a round pan.

    Maybe they call it pound cake because there’s no way you can say it’s “healthy,” with all that butter in there.

  • Not so fast, Jane!

    Here’s a recipe for Zucchini Cake, but there’s no frosting between the layers!

    But it looks like a cake to me : )

  • To me banana bread is baked in a loaf pan and is dense and moist. Banana cake is lighter, baked in cake pans and frosted. I love both. My husband hates bananas unfortunately and I can’t remember the last time I had either.

  • For me, cake is all about frosting. If you call it cake and there is no frosting…well, its not quite cake. Similarly, a muffin is not the same a s a cupcake because there is no frosting.

    Now, I am admittedly quite a frosting nut. Cake often just being a frosting vehicle.

    Caramel nut frosting on banana cake. Yum!!!

  • I love banana bread, I make variations of it all the time, and you’re right, it’s cake disguised as bread and put in a loaf pan. Mine is full of butter though, I think I’ll experiment with yours! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Technically speaking the difference between cake and bread is crumb structure. The extended creaming (or foaming depending on type) process for cakes gives the product a very small and uniform dispersal of air pockets and a light crumb. In contrast, quick breads have more limited creaming, or, as in your recipe, none at all. Thus, your cake is leavened chemically and has uneven air pockets and a more toothsome quality.
    A lot of muffins nowadays are actually cupcakes, as muffins are technically supposed to be small quickbreads.
    Yes, I’m a nerd and this is the stuff I read about for fun :)

  • No bialy’s in Paris, nor in Houston an I am a bialy nut so there is only one thing to do bake them myself and there is nothing like a fresh out of the oven bialy.

    And you don’t have to worry about calling it a muffin or a cake or a bread. Just eat it!

    Have fun in NY

  • I’m coming late to this discussion, but I’ll add a distinction that may be relevant: these “breads” often seem to be based around leftovers or ingredients that one is trying to use up: overripe bananas, excess zucchini from the garden, the pumpkin or cranberries that weren’t needed for the pie or sauce… “Cake” on the other hand, seems to involve ingredients that were bought just for the purpose of making the baked good in question. That said, it would clearly be worth investing in a few bananas to make David’s cake, even if we call it bread.

  • Peel the bananas before you freeze them. Keep adding to zipper bag until you’re ready to bake bread/cake. Seems like most of my recipes call for a number of bananas, mashed. As opposed to a volume of mashed bananas.

  • good enough cook: In spite of Aarons descriptors, call me crazy, but for some reason you description makes the most sense….

  • To me, ‘bread’ in banana bread is an abbreviation of ‘quickbread’, under which catagory muffins also fall.

    They are both made with quick and simple mixing styles: muffins are made by combining the wet and the dry ingredients and then roughly combining; they are leavened with chemical leaveners rather than sponge cakes which are traditionally leavened by whisking air into the batter (even if we cheat sometimes these days!).

    Banana bread is also traditionally made this way (my favourite recipe, which is far from healthy, involves putting everything into one bowl and mixing until smooth! And people used to order this for breakfast, too, probably telling themselves it was healthy…). People might now make versions which involve creaming the butter and the sugar, for example, but while the method has evolved the name has stuck, perhaps for alliterative purposes, as mentioned above…

  • I just made banana muffins for my kids this afternoon – full of chocolate and nuts and there is nothing cake like or light about them (the muffins, not the kids ; ) ). They are heavy and moist and delicious. I even give them a nice sugary crust on top. The perfect afternoon snack on a rainy day.

    I am going to try your recipe though David, lets see how it goes with my little gourmands.

    I spent this whole summer in NY and I am so excited for you. Of course I didn’t get to spend too many evenings enjoying fun restaurants and clubs. NY in fall is fab so enjoy the sun cause you aren’t getting anymore here in Paris.

    BTW – Aaron – who ever you are, you turn me on! I love it when you talk about uniform air pockets, I am a geek for this stuff too. David, of course I am also way into you too!

  • Yummmmmm!!! And when you’re done eating the whole pan you can join my challenge and work ‘em off. LOL!

  • Make divinity candy from the egg whites and bananas foster from the bananas, and while you have the liquor bottles out for the bananas foster, have a shot or two.

  • Cake, bread – who cares? Just pour me a glass of milk and I’m in. Thanks for the recipe – I have a nice set of bananas I hate to go to waste.

  • LOL, there’s nothing like getting caught up reading a zillion comments regarding banana bread vs. banana cake at 5am! Loved your post, and your banana whatever looks good, though I have to admit that, while I’ll rearrange an entire day just to deal with some Ready To Use NOW bananas, I never save egg whites. In fact, if I were to make your recipe, I’d just toss in two whole eggs. ; )

    Growing up we always called what my mom baked in a loaf pan banana bread. Now that I make my banana b baked good in a 9×13 pan and smother it with cream cheese frosting, I figure I’d better call it cake.

    As for that whole muffin thing. . . I look at recipes and can’t believe they have the nerve to call them muffins–they’re cupcakes through and through! Don’t get me wrong, I love cupcakes at least as much as the next sweet freak, and I love muffins, too, but I think some people are in serious denial about what they’re actually baking. : )

    Rats. Now I want a cupcake. And all I have around are carrot raisin zucchini bran muffins. Hey, there’s a term you never hear: Bran Cakes! I think there’s a good reason for that.

  • I don’t know about the rest of you, but my favorite muffin recipes only use about 1/4 cup of oil and a couple tablespoons of sweetener-the focus is on other ingredients, like oats or raisins, spices, carrots or bananas.

    These muffins are about 170 calories apiece-nothing like those 500 plus calorie monstrosities that you can buy at cafes here in the USA. They taste great, but they most definitely are NOT cake, or cupcakes-regardless of what pan you baked them in.

  • I made the recipe in loaf pans..definitely bread: post here

  • Looks wonderful! How does one adjust for the shot of espresso? Just a little more flour? Thanks!

  • Eliz: Just add it in and don’t worry. Go for it—Live on the wild side! (And enjoy…)

  • Hello David,
    I just placed your Banana Cake/Bread. I have to say that it is a breeze to put together and the batter tasted divine. I’m sure it’s going to be great. I’m curious, do you use pre-cut pieces of parchment or do you trace and cut as I do? Also, when you said this cake can be baked in a loaf pan, what size would be best? Or doesn’t it matter that much?
    I loved the almost healthy ingredients in here and I’m giving it as a love offering to my daughter tomorrow who is on a diet. Hey, one hundred calories is not bad at all.
    Thanks for your lively and interesting blog. You do attract some very interesting people and I thoroughly enjoy stopping by.

  • Frozen bananas are a good basis for smoothies. Peel the ripe bananas and put them in a big zip-lock bag. Then put a couple of frozen bananas in a blender, add any other fruit, like berries, and a little orange juice, blend it and you have a great cold smoothie that doesn’t have any ice in it. Simple and refreshing!

  • Thanks for this recipe David. I baked banana bread this weekend (I made sure to buy extra bananas so I can have extra that I HAD to get rid off..hehe)

    Next time, I might use brown sugar instead. Would I need to add more flour?

  • Oh YEAH! bananas, chocolate and espresso– I forgot about that possibility. Now I have some great ideas for that banana rum that’s been sitting unwanted on the top of my fridge for months. Thanks for the brain spark!

  • Would adding instant espresso powder such as Medaglia D’Oro to the Banana Cake/Bread recipe work? If yes, how much? Thanks.

  • I would imagine that it is called banana “bread” because of it’s loaf shape, although in France all loaf-shaped “cakes” are called just that : Cake. And as someone else posted, I have seen recipes for banana cake and they are round, filled and iced. Since we often have ripe bananas lying around (tennis) I often make “cake aux bananes”, or banana bread, lol. BTW, ripe bananas are delicious sauteed in butter and brown sugar, flamed or not with rum… ;)

  • Oh…these seem to have a beeeeeeautiful crumb. How creative to add cocoa nibs! I’ve been putting them (nibs) in everything these days…they’re perfect in banana bread.

    Your blog is inspiring!! David, you were given wonderful gifts and talent….thank you for sharing your knowledge, time and recipes. (Responding to your posters takes alot of your valuable time. How nice of you!!)

    Dolores

  • I’ve made this several times now and I’ve found it just gets better the next day! It’s really delicious and so easy to put together.