The idea for this cake was inspired by my beautiful momma. I make her a cake for her birthday every year and this last year she requested a cake that her mom used to make for her growing up, a banana cake with whipped cream frosting. My moms mom aka my grandma used to make a homemade banana cake and then top it with whipped cream frosting aka “Cool Whip”. If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know I despise Cool Whip and refuse to use it. (Hello chemicals!)
So for her birthday cake I came up with my own banana cake recipe. Banana cake differs from banana bread in that its a lot softer and fluffier. It has a cake texture rather than a bread texture. For the whipped cream frosting, I made a stabilized homemade whipped cream by adding softened cream cheese. The frosting has a subtle taste of cream cheese but its light and fluffy, more like whipped cream.
The first rendition of this cake didn’t include the “crunch” element. My mom hadn’t requested any sort of topping for the cake. She just wanted it plain and simple. Now, if you know me, you know I’m not exactly a plain and simple kind of girl! After tasting her birthday cake, I knew it needed a crunchy element added to it. I am all about textures in my cakes and firmly believe every cake needs a crunch element. I knew a pretzel/walnut “crunch” would be amazing on this cake so a few weeks later I made the banana cake again but this time with the “crunch” and it immediately became one of my top 3 favorite cakes of all time!
Tips & Tricks:
- As you can tell in the pictures, I used walnuts and pecans this particular time, mostly because I didn’t have enough walnuts and I didn’t want to run to the store. I suggest using all walnuts but if you get in a pinch like me, pecans work too!
- If you have a nut allergy or are not a fan of nuts, substitute the nuts for an equal amount of crushed pretzels.
- Don’t add your “crunch” until right before serving the cake to avoid it becoming soggy.
- I like to break up this cake into 2 days. I make the frosting and “crunch” on day one. I store the “crunch” in a gallon sized bag on the countertop and the frosting in an airtight container in the fridge. On day two I’ll make the cake and then assemble everything.
- Your “crunch” mixture may seem soupy when it comes out of the oven because of all the butter. That’s okay, just let it cool completely and it will all come together.
Banana Pretzel Crunch Cake
For the “crunch”:
- 2 cups crushed pretzels (make sure you measure your pretzels crushed and not whole)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (can substitute for more pretzels if needed)
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 2 1/2 sticks salted butter melted
For the cake:
- 1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
- 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk (room temp)
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup butter softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 large eggs (room temp)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the whipped cream frosting:
- 1-8 oz block cream cheese softened
- 1 cup packed powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
For the “crunch”:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine crushed pretzels, walnuts, brown sugar and melted butter. Mix until brown sugar is no longer dry and is completely mixed in.
- Line a half sheet pan with tinfoil. Spread mixture in an even layer and bake for 9-10 minutes until starting to bubble. At this point turn your oven to high broil, don’t walk away from the oven, watch your mixture the entire time and let it broil for 30-60 seconds until its a toasty caramel color. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- Once completely cool, break it into chunks and set aside.
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Add 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice to your milk and the other tablespoon to your mashed bananas. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer or with a hand mixture beat together butter and sugars on medium/high speed for 3-4 minutes.
- Add eggs and vanilla and beat on high speed for 5 minutes, no less. This step is important!
- In a separate medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt.
- Alternate adding the flour and milk mixture to the egg mixture, always starting and ending with the flour. Don’t over mix.
- Fold mashed bananas into the batter until combined.
- Spray a half sheet pan liberally with cooking spray and pour batter evenly onto the sheet pan.
- Place pan in the oven and then lower the oven temp to 325 degrees.
- Bake for 29-32 minutes or until a knife entered in the center comes out clean or moist crumbs.
- Immediately place sheet cake into the freezer or fridge to cool. This will help with the texture of the cake. Meanwhile start the frosting.
For the frosting:
- In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla on medium/high speed for 3-4 minutes until completely smooth.
- With the mixer on medium/high speed, slowly pour the 2 cups of cold heavy whipping cream into the cream cheese mixture.
- Once all the cream has been added, turn mixture to high and beat for another 30-60 seconds until stiff peaks are formed.
- Frost cooled cake with whipped cream frosting.
- Right before serving, top the cake evenly with the pretzel crunch. Cut into squares and serve. Do not add the pretzel crunch until right before serving or else there’s a chance it could get soggy.