Is it cheating to actually submit what is inarguably coffee cake to a post about banana bread? Why am I asking when the answer doesn’t really matter because this cake is SO GOOD that no one will complain about the lack of banana bread. It also gets my Mum’s stamp of approval for being a recipe that even non-bakers can embrace, which I know because for most of my childhood it was one of the two cakes that she was willing to bake (the other being a most wonderous one-bowl chocolate cake that will eventually also come your way). I suspect that tracking it down and typing it up was perhaps the most complicated thing about this recipe – the actual carry-out could not be simpler or more foolproof. One stipulation I will make is that you avoid using very cold bananas (e.g. just thawed ones), which means you may need to give them a very gentle warming in the microwave prior to using, but just until they hit about room temperature.
Adapted from the famous UBC Ponderosa Cake
Makes 1 8x8-inch cake
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup white sugar
1 egg, at room temperature (place in a bowl of warm water to speed this up)
½ tsp vanilla
2 large overripe bananas, mashed (~ ¾ cup)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
½ cup full-fat sour cream
¾ tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
¾ cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly grease/spray an 8x8-inch cake pan and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using electric beaters) cream together the butter and white sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes – or until pale and fluffy – scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula partway through beating. Add the egg and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl after beating in. Add the vanilla and bananas, then beat until combined, scraping down the bowl once again when finished.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the beaters/stand mixer running on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture to the banana batter alternately with the sour cream, doing 3 additions of flour to 2 additions of sour cream. If you are confused by this instruction, you are basically just doing the following: add 1/3 flour mixture (beat just to incorporate), add ½ sour cream (beat just to incorporate), add 1/3 flour mixture (beat just to incorporate), add other ½ sour cream (beat just to incorporate), add remaining 1/3 flour mixture (beat just to incorporate). This addition of dry and wet where you start and finish with the dry ingredients is a common form of mixing when it comes to things like coffee cakes. It’s one of those instructions that’s simple to actually do, but challenging to write out coherently.
Once the batter is all mixed up, pour half of it into the prepared cake pan, ensuring that you spread it out to touch all four sides of the pan. I find that this is always quite a thick batter, so it needs a bit of help to seep into every inch of the tin. In a small dish, whisk together the cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle half of this sparkling magic dust over the cake batter along with half of the chocolate chips. Scrape the remaining batter into the pan, covering your existing layer as best you can (this is easier said than done – just try your best, but don’t fret if you smear the bottom layer in the process). Cover the top layer of batter with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture and chocolate chips.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out relatively clean (though perhaps with some fudgy smears of chocolate on it). Set the pan to cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack. You can then run a knife along the edges of the cake and invert the pan to release the cake (quickly flipping it back upright once released) or just cut squares of it directly from the pan. This cake is delightful either warm or cooled, but cannot be eaten without a glass of cold milk/mylk alongside it. Relish the crunchy flecks of brown sugar that cling to your fingertips long after your slice has disappeared into your waiting gullet.