2 for 1 cake: honey banana {or applesauce} cake + crackly cinnamon topping

The recipe for the banana version of this cake comes by way of Bakesale Betty, a small bakery and sandwich shop in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood.  Betty, I’m told, makes a fried chicken sandwich that is nothing short of transcendent.  On the subject of this sandwich, one of my normally jovial and joking colleagues became suddenly very serious: “Oh hell.  That damn sandwich brings tears to my eyes.  I’ve tried to quit it, but I just can’t.”

Sadly, this particular chicken experience has yet to cross my lips.  Partly because Betty keeps strangely irregular hours, which she posts in hand-lettered butcher paper on her front door.  There’s some old world charm here, sure.  But that doesn’t stop me from harboring some resentment when I show up at what seems a completely reasonable lunch hour and find them closed.  And so the cat and mouse game continues…

Partly I’ve also avoided Betty because a friend of mine worked there for a hot second earlier this year.  Let’s just say it didn’t end well.  My loyal side wants to give Betty and her chicken the cold shoulder.  My curious and fried chicken loving side, however, she has one word for Ms. Loyal: bygones.

And speaking of loyalty, I’ve never before thought I needed a new recipe for banana bread, but somehow this week I found myself staring down my oven and feeling rather experimental.  Uncharacteristically Typically fickle, I cast aside my standby recipe in search of something new.  This all started when my lovely neighbor Greg, after a bout of guest-arriving driven apartment cleaning, passed a bunch of overripe bananas left over from a recent photo shoot, across the hall.  And we all know, banana bread baking is the only practical answer to overripe bananas.

Baking = a practical answer.  Let that sink in.

Orangette lead me to Bon Appetit, which led me to this charming little recipe from none other than Bakesale Betty.  It’s classic banana bread, but with the unusual addition of honey, and an addictive crackly cinnamon sugar cap.  Crazy-moist, it’s the kind of cake I found myself “evening out” all day in tiny wedges, until half a cake had somehow disappeared.

What little was left of the banana cake made its happy way into the office.  And the following day, I found myself wishing I had stashed a wedge somewhere.  So I made another cake.

Don’t judge me.

But out of Greg’s bananas, I reached for a jar of applesauce instead.  It is October after all.  Different fruit, same deliciously addictive results.

Two years ago, and very appropriate for Halloween  Pumpkin Creme Caramels with Chocolate Spider Webs.

Honey Banana {Or Applesauce} Cake + Crackly Cinnamon Topping

Adapted from Orangette, Bakesale Betty and Bon Appetit, September 2008 

Generally the two cakes here are the same, with the exception of the fruit, spicing, and topping.  The applesauce version in indicated in {parenthesis.} I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, though I haven’t put it to the test, I expect this cake would work well with pureed pumpkin or winter squash instead of the applesauce also.  

Clearly, you do not want to skip the topping here.  It’s the best part.

  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium) {for the applesauce cake, substitute with 1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce}
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or mild olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg {for the applesauce cake, substitute with 1 tsp ground allspice + 1/4 tsp ground cloves}
  • pinch of salt

For the Topping

  • 2 1/2 tbsp dark brown or muscavado sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar {for the applesauce cake, substitute with 1 tbsp granulated sugar + 3 tbsp ground walnuts}
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan or 9 inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas/applesauce, oil, honey, water, and eggs.  To this, add the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt.  Mix well and pour into the prepared pan.
Combine all topping ingredients in a small bowl and then sprinkle evenly over the cake.  Bake 50-60 minutes until set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.



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