This banana bread is a recipe that’s a tradition in the Jackson family, although there’s some disagreement among the kids as to which parent made the bread, often, from the bananas sitting too long on the countertop. Everyone agrees that credit for the recipe goes to an unnamed old friend, but the making of it is the important part. The re-told and confused lore attached to this recipe is probably the second best reason to keep it around.
Stories from my husband’s childhood on Moana Street have a similar feel to the vintage-colored photographs of kids with bowl cuts and chubby faces and smiles that have half-given up on the moment and say “Last picture, Mom.” Even the Hawaiian foliage in the background takes on an orange tone, emphasizing its surreal quality.
I like the version of the story that says that Jake’s dad made this banana bread. In the short time I had knowing him I saw the matter-of-factness he took on when tackling a cooking assignment. He was as equally interested in following the right of the recipe as he was in spicing it up. If the recipe turned out well due to exactness or experimentation he would be pleased with his result and excitedly offer a piece to every person at the table, proving his usefulness in the kitchen. He was definitely one that would see the recipe as a story rather than his own. I can easily insert a piece of banana bread into this memory. So for me, it is his, and I will stick with that memory. Maybe now that it has been 6 years since his passing that thinking of him is similar to paging through those orange tinted photographs. A feeling of simpler times. A time when coming home from school meant a slice of banana bread.
I went ahead and reinvented the wheel, because the second my sis-in-law introduced me to this moist, chewy, banana-laden quick bread, I saw its true intention:
This should have been the cake at our wedding. It should have been an heirloom recipe rather than a fondant-covered, dry-crumbed centerpiece. Not as pretty, but definitely the kind of cake you would want smashed in your face. Definitely the kind of cake you would hang on to in your memory. Definitely the kind of cake you can pass on to your kids.
Best Banana Bread made into a cake
- 1 C butter
- 1 C sugar
- 1 C brown sugar
- 12 bananas (mashed if not using a kitchen aid) (the riper the better)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 4 C flour (Jill said she loves half wheat here)
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- Optional: 3/4 C walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cream sugars and butter. Add eggs and mix again. Add in bananas and mix thoroughly. Add in dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- If making a cake, divide batter between two prepared cake pans. Bake for 55 minutes.
- Cool cake completely on a rack. With a sharp serrated knife, cut each layer into two (creating 4 layers).
Peanut Butter Ganache
Heat 2 cups chocolate chips (dark or milk as desired), 1/4 Cup milk or cream, and 2/3 Cup peanut butter (natural) over a double boiler. Mix until combined and chocolate is melted. Remove from heat. Pour ganache in a thin layer on each section of cake as you assemble. It is not necessary to cover the whole cake with the ganache as it is strong tasting. This ganache is not stiff—just slightly fudgy to lend flavor to the rest of the cake. The cake is really delicious on its own, however, and maybe you’ll be glad to pretend it’s a healthy snack as banana bread.