This delicious and tender Banana Walnut Cake is layered with a silky cream cheese frosting. Ripe bananas make for a moist, perfectly sweet cake. The cake is flavored with cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla too. It's begging to be frosted with cream cheese icing, which adds a luscious and tangy finish!
This easy, yet impressive, cake is perfect for celebrating with friends, family, or office colleagues. It pairs well with a cozy cup of tea or coffee too!
Why you'll love this recipe
- Crowd pleaser: The irresistible combination of banana, cinnamon, and toasted walnut cake—topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting—is always a hit!
- No fancy decorating skills required: This cake doesn't need any fancy decorations. Just cover with cream cheese frosting and it's ready to serve! You can sprinkle some extra walnuts on top if you'd like, but it's totally optional.
- Make ahead friendly: You can split up the prep by making the cakes (and icing) in advance if you'd like. Then just assemble right before you need it.
- Freezer-friendly: You can actually freeze extra slices of iced cake if you need! The banana walnut cake is quite moist and sturdy, so it holds up well in the freezer. Same goes with the cream cheese frosting! (See detailed instructions below).
Here's what you need for Banana Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Bananas: Use brown, speckled, over-ripe bananas. This will add more banana flavor, sweetness, and moisture to your cake. We like to store over-ripe bananas in the freezer until we have enough for baking!
- Light Brown Sugar: Brown sugar adds more complex flavor and more moisture, compared to white granulated sugar. Using "light" brown sugar will keep the cake batter golden in color.
- Cream Cheese: For cream cheese frosting, we recommend using a block of cream cheese, rather than spreadable or whipped varieties.
- Powdered Sugar: The frosting is made with powdered sugar. We usually skip the step of sifting to save time. But, if your sugar is very clumpy, give it a quick sift.
How to make
The cake batter is a cinch to pull together—and while the cakes bake, you can quickly whip up the icing! Here's how to make this banana cake recipe:
- Avoid over-mixing the batter: Stir just until the dry ingredients are incorporated, but no more, to keep your cake light in texture.
- Line cake pans with parchment, instead of greasing and flouring: We tested both methods and much preferred the parchment-lined cakes. Greasing and flouring the pans resulted in a tougher cake exterior due to the extra flour.
- Make ahead tip: You can bake the cakes in advance. Let them fully cool then tightly wrap them and store on the counter overnight—or freeze for longer storage.
- Freezing cake and frosting: This high-moisture cake makes it a good candidate for freezing. And, cream cheese frosting is one of the best icings to freeze too! You can freeze individual cake slices by wrapping them in plastic wrap, then storing the slices in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
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Banana Walnut Cake
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1⅓ cups mashed ripe banana (see note 1)
- ⅔ cup melted butter (see note 2)
- 2 large eggs (room-temperature)
- 1¼ cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup milk (room-temperature, see note 3)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (more for garnish optional, see note 4)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 (8.8 oz/250g) block cream cheese (room-temperature)
- ½ cup salted butter (or unsalted butter + ⅛ teaspoon salt, room-temperature)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 to 3½ cups powdered sugar (see note 5)
- Preheat: Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Mix dry: In a large bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
- Mix wet: In a medium bowl, mix together banana, butter, eggs, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla.
- Combine: Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Gently stir until there are only faint streaks of flour showing. Gently fold in walnuts just until flour is incorporated. (Do not overmix!)
- Bake: Divide batter into 2 (8-inch/20 cm round) parchment-lined baking pans (see note 6). Bake until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the cake, comes out clean (20 to 25 minutes). Let cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Frosting: Add cream cheese and butter to a stand mixer (or use a large bowl and electric beaters). Whip until completely smooth. Mix in vanilla. Slowly add in powdered sugar in increments, mixing on low speed until incorporated. Use immediately or refrigerate.
- Assemble: Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate. Evenly cover with Cream Cheese frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting over top and sides. Garnish with more walnuts on top, if desired.
- Bananas: About 4 bananas. Use brown, speckled, over-ripe bananas for the best flavor and moisture. The riper the better! If your bananas are frozen, allow to come up to room-temperature by defrosting before using.
- Butter: You can use salted or unsalted butter for the cakes. We've tested both.
- Milk: Whole (full-fat) milk recommended. If you must substitute for a reduced-fat milk, opt for 2% milk.
- Walnuts: For extra flavor, you can lightly toast the walnuts before using. To toast the nuts, spread them on a sheet pan and put them in the oven while it preheats. Bake until the walnuts are pale golden and fragrant (about 5-10 minutes, but watch carefully). Avoid roasting them too much, because they'll bake again in the cakes. If toasting, ensure the nuts have fully cooled before adding to the batter.
- Powdered sugar: If your powdered sugar is clumpy, either sift it or run a whisk/fork through it to break up any clumps before adding. Powdered sugar is difficult to measure by volume (weight is more accurate)—so fluff it up before measuring, and add in small increments so you can adjust to taste.
- Lining cake pans with parchment: Parchment paper resulted in a more tender exterior, compared to using the greasing and flouring method. To line a round cake pan with parchment, cut out a circle for the bottom of the pan (you can trace it using a pencil). Then cut a strip to run along the sides of the pan. You can help the parchment stick to the pan by using a few dabs of butter, water, or batter like "glue".
- Baking by weight: For the most reliable results, we recommend measuring by weight when baking. Ingredient weights are provided in metric. If you must go by volume (measuring cups), make sure to fluff, spoon, and level the flour to avoid adding too much.
- Storage tips: Cover and refrigerate cake for up to 4 to 5 days. This cake can also be frozen. You can freeze individual cake layers by wrapping in plastic wrap, then putting each layer in a freezer bag. Frosting can be frozen in an airtight container. This cake also freezes once iced. Our preferred method is to wrap individual slices, then put them in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.