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slice of banana layer cake on a light blue plate with a fork

Happy eclipse day!! Doing anything special for the big event? Did you get your hands on those coveted eclipse glasses? My answers: no and no. I’m so boring. I’ll just stay inside with the pups and feel weird for those few minutes when it’s a little dark out at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Come back and tell me how cool it was to see, ok?

banana layer cake on a plate with brown butter cream cheese frosting and chopped pecans on top

Let’s get into the good stuff. I’ve been meaning to bake my favorite banana cake as a banana layer cake for the past year. Do you remember when I shared my love/obsession for this banana cake? You know, the cake recipe I stalked Kevin’s cousin for like a complete lunatic? Turns out, it’s just as moist/perfect/unbelievable as a layer cake too.

Here’s why it’s my favorite banana cake:

  • Front-and-center banana flavor.
  • Buttery and cakey.
  • Cinnamon-spiced.
  • Dense without tasting too heavy.
  • Soft crumb that holds its shape.
  • Easy to make, very basic ingredients.

Just read the reviews– banana cake is phenomenal.

Baking the banana cake as a layer cake changes the frosting to cake ratio. More layers = more frosting in each bite. That’s certainly something we’re all OK with. Also, aren’t layer cakes a bit more fancy? I don’t know about you, but I always feel more accomplished/fancier serving a layer cake vs a sheet cake.

La-di-da look at my tall masterpiece sort of thing.

banana cake batter in a glass bowl with a metal whisk

But we’re not only changing the shape and presentation of the banana cake today. We’re also serving it up with THE BEST FROSTING TO EVER HIT YOUR LIPS. Dramatic? Who… me?

And the frosting is what I really want to focus on today.

I’m not sure why I waited over 30 years to turn regular cream cheese frosting into brown butter cream cheese frosting? Learn from my mistake and don’t waste any more time. It’s everything you love about cream cheese frosting– tangy and sweet, but not as tooth-decaying sweet as buttercream. Creamy, thick, silky, smooth. Yep, all of the above. But this version has brown butter hiding inside. Those specks of nutty toasty buttery goodness bring cream cheese frosting up about 700 notches on the delicious scale. Do you want to upgrade a great dessert into the mega-watt billionaire of desserts? Add brown butter. I wrote an entire tutorial on how to brown butter so you can learn exactly how it’s done!

2 images of brown butter in a skillet and frosting in a glass bowl with a hand mixer

Let’s break it down.

√ Brown butter on the stove. (above left)
√ Refrigerate it until solid. Cream it. (above right)
√ Add cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla ,and salt.

brown butter cream cheese frosting in a glass bowl with a spatula

Time saving tip: Browning the butter and refrigerating it until solid is a whole extra step, but do this before you even start the cake. By the time the baked cake has cooled, the brown butter is ready to be whipped into frosting.

Have I mentioned how creamy this stuff is?

spreading brown butter cream cheese frosting onto layer of banana cake on a plate
zoomed in image of brown butter cream cheese frosting with chopped pecans on top

I brought this cake over to our friends and it was like I gave them a block of gold or something. They were impressed by the cake’s flavor and texture, but kept enthusiastically raving about the combination of banana/cinnamon/cream cheese frosting/brown butter.

I promise you’ll understand what all the fuss is about after 1 bite.

banana layer cake on a plate with a slice of cake on a dessert serving utensil being removed showing the layers
slice of banana layer cake on a light blue plate with a fork
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slice of banana layer cake on a light blue plate with a fork

Banana Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 55 minutes
  • Yield: serves 1012 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Want to serve the most impressive homemade dessert? This banana cake with brown butter cream cheese frosting is loved by all!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 large ripe bananas (about 1 and 1/2 cups mashed)
  • 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 8-ounce blocks (12 ounces) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease three round 9×2 inch cake pans. Set aside.
  2. **Time-saving tip** Brown the butter in step 8 now, then place into the refrigerator to solidify as instructed below. This will save time when you’re ready to make the frosting.
  3. Make the cake: Mash the bananas. I usually just use my mixer for this! Set mashed bananas aside.
  4. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Set aside.
  5. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the mashed bananas. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. The batter will be slightly thick. A few lumps is OK.
  6. Divide batter evenly between 3 pans. Bake for 22-26 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
  8. Make the frosting: Slice the butter up into pieces and place in a light-colored skillet. (Light colored helps you determine when the butter begins browning.) Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Keep stirring occasionally. After 5-8 minutes, the butter will begin browning– you’ll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will have a nutty aroma. See photo above for a visual. Once browned, remove from heat, and immediately pour into a heat-proof bowl. Refrigerate until solid.
  9. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the solid brown butter on high speed until creamed. Add the cream cheese and beat on high speed until combined, smooth, and creamy. Add 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add the extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar.
  10. Assemble and frost: Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and evenly cover the top with frosting. Finish with the third cake layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Garnish with chopped nuts. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before slicing or else the cake may gently fall apart as you cut.
  11. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare cake through step 7. Wrap the individual baked cake layers tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature, make the frosting, frost, and serve. Frosted cake freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature or serve cold.
  2. Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute. Add 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 and 1/2 cups. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  3. 9×13 Cake: Here is that recipe.
  4. Cupcakes: For about 2 dozen cupcakes, fill the cupcake liners halfway and bake for about 20-22 minutes. Same oven temperature.

Keywords: banana cake, brown butter cream cheese frosting

You might also like my hummingbird cake!

slice of hummingbird cake on a teal plate

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Wow! This is a killer. I’m not a huge fan of frosting. Most of it is too sweet for me. As a kid I was really popular at birthday parties because I gave away my frosting. This one however is amazing – the combination of sweet, salty and umami made it hard to stop licking the bowl. And the cake is a great consistency – moist without being heavy. Thank you for another wonderful recipe!

    1. I made this cake yesterday but I made it with Ermine frosting. I hope in the future Sally will include some different Ermine frosting flavors. I’m retired and new to baking
      and this has been my go to site for recipes.

      1. lol Carl. At first I thought you were talking about the critter – the stoat, which didn’t sound appetizing at all, and then looked up ermine frosting. The frosting here is really the most special part of it for me although the cake is also lovely.

  2. Hi Sally! Can I use honey / syrup instead of sugar? Also, would food colour work for the frostinh? I need to make my frosting light blue for my daughter’s birthday and was hoping to use this frosting still. Thanks for the wonderful recipes!

    1. Hi Liz, we haven’t tried honey or syrup in place of the sugar here — that would require some additional testing before we could guarantee results, as the swap would change the taste, texture, and structure of the cake. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, how about our whole wheat banana bread? You could top that loaf with this frosting if you wish. You can color the frosting if you wish — gel food coloring is best. Hope the cake is a hit!

  3. This cake was AMAZING! I’ve never tried a three-layer cake before! It turned out incredibly, I love how carefully your recipe pies are written, it makes it so easy to push myself to try new things! This cake was moist, light, and THAT ICING!!!!! Thank you!

    1. Absolutely! It’s hard to give a specific bake time, but make sure you bake it in a large 10-12 cup Bundt pan. Same oven temperature.

  4. Sally- I made this frosting recipe and thinned it a bit with milk to spread/drizzle on fresh-baked banana cinnamon buns this morning. I will never use another cream cheese icing recipe again!! Brown butter is totally next level. Thanks for another great recipe.

  5. Hi Sally! I have made this cake in the 9x 13 pan and loved it. I’d like to make it as a three layer 10” cake. Should I 1.5x the batter? I prefer thicker slices.

  6. Hi Sally which other icing recipe can I use with this cake, I’m not that found of the burnt butter taste.
    Do u have a chocolate banana icing recipe?

  7. Hi Sally!
    Should the bananas for this recipe be banana bread ripe? Do ones that have been in the freezer work?

    1. Hi Marlee, yes, you’ll want ripe bananas for this recipe same as for banana bread. Frozen ones should be just fine. Simply thaw the frozen banana at room temperature and drain off the excess liquid.

  8. I now want to use brown butter frosting for any cake that calls for cream cheese frosting. Oh, it is SO GOOD!!! Thanks again, Sally.

  9. I made this recipe for my husband’s birthday and it was a big hit! Excellent recipe and easy to follow instructions. Thank you so much- I will definitely make this again. We topped with mini chocolate chips because why not?!

  10. hi Sally, I would like to make a two-tier birthday cake. One tier using this recipe and the other tier with your triple chocolate cake recipe. Which cake will hold the second tier best? So my question is should I make this one as the bottom or the chocolate cake will hold the weight?

    1. Hi Rita, Our chocolate cake recipe is not strong enough for a bottom tier, but this combination sounds delicious and the banana cake would be great on the bottom. Let us know how it turns out!

  11. Hi! So excited to make this cake! I want to make it into a 9×13 two layer cake. I checked the other recipe and seems that the quantities are the same. But I want two layers, should I just double the recipe?

    1. Hi Anna! When making cakes and cupcakes, it’s best to make two separate batches rather than doubling. Doubling can make it hard to incorporate the ingredients evenly and the excess of ingredients makes it more likely to over-mix the batter, which can lead to dense cake. Hope it’s a hit!

  12. Thank you for this recipe!! My now three-year-old requested banana cake for her birthday, and Google led me to you. Despite only having baked a few cakes in my life, I made it as directed and it was a hit with my whole family, very experienced bakers mom and grandma included. Everyone loved it. I will definitely be making this again! It was moist and not overly sweet. The frosting is extra special as well! Thanks again.

    1. Hi Jessica, We are so glad this turned out well for the birthday!

  13. Hi Sally,
    Going to make this cake for my daughter’s first birthday party and I’m wondering if it’s 3 bananas per layer or for the entire cake?
    Thanks a lot 🙂
    Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew, There are three bananas in the entire batter recipe. Then you take the batter and divide it between 3 pans. Hope she has a great birthday celebration!

    1. Hi Gail, we don’t recommend using self rising flour in this recipe. It would take additional recipe testing to ensure accurate results.

  14. This is just a comment on the brown butter cream cheese frosting (which I used with a different cake recipe)—it is THE BEST FROSTING I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. No exaggeration. The nuttiness, the tang, the vanilla, the just-right-sweetness, ohmygoodness. It is literally perfect.

  15. I have yet to be disappointed by one of your recipes! (Strawberry cake, lemon yogurt cake, alphabet vegetable -soup all delicious and particularly recommended). Made this as directed but added mini chocolate chips to the cake as I still have a kid who doesn’t consider it desert if it doesn’t have chocolate. Raves from everyone. Thanks again for a great recipe!

  16. Hi Sally,
    I love this recipe! I made the cupcakes a few months ago and they were a hit. I was wondering how you feel the icing would pipe? I have some character cupcakes and was thinking about using this recipe but would have to use a small star tip and a grass tip. Do you think it would pipe okay or should i go for a buttercream?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Samantha! It would be best to stick with buttercream for intricate piping like that – this cream cheese frosting won’t hold the shape.

  17. If I wanted to do a layer of your banana cake and a layer of your Triple Chocolate Layer Cake (so it’s a chocolate banana cake) would I just half each recipe? Would that work? If you think these two recipes would be best kept separately as is let me know!

    1. Hi Ann! You would want to reduce this cake batter by 2/3 since it’s written for three layers. We would also make sure to keep the chocolate cake layer on top since it’s a more delicate texture. Let us know if you give it a try! You may also love this Chocolate Marble Banana Bundt Cake recipe 🙂

      1. I made it and it came out AMAZING!! Though I do have leftover brown butter cream cheese frosting and buttercream chocolate frosting. Can I freeze them? They’re so good I don’t want to waste them!

      2. Hi Ann, you can freeze the frosting for up to 3 months. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again.

  18. Hi Sally! I want to try and make this cake on one layer and then your Triple Chocolate Layer Cake on the second layer (so it’ll be like a banana chocolate cake). Would I just half both recipes? Also, would you recommend I use your Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting or Chocolate Buttercream with this combo?
    If you don’t think these 2 cakes would mesh well together please let me know!

    1. Hi Ann, this sounds like a delicious combination and either of those frostings would be great. If you cut the recipe in half for one layer, the bake time will be a little longer. Let us know how it turns out!

    1. Hi Theresa! This will be too much batter for two pans. If you only have two, you can bake the first two cake layers and leave the last 1/3 of the batter covered at room temperature until one of the cake pans is available to use again.

  19. Sally need your help! Just made your Banana cake. The layers came out only about 1/2 inch tall. The 3 pans were my Mom’s, realized after the fact they are 9 1/8 x 1 1/2 inches. Each pan holds around 4 cups of water, at the 2/3 full. What to do? Can I do 1 and 1/2 recipe? Double? Thanks for the help.
    Christie

    1. Hi Christie! Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes. Hope you love this banana cake!

    1. Hi Diane! 9 inch pans are generally more common for home bakers. You can use either with this recipe (and with most recipes) – just add a few minutes to the bake time to account for the thicker layers 🙂

  20. Thank you so much for this recipe! I baked it yesterday and it turned out so well. I’m not generally a big fan of icing, I usually find it too sweet, but I do love a good cream cheese icing and this one took the cake. (Excuse the pun). I baked it for some friends and praise was quickly forthcoming!

    Maybe a tip for others- I don’t have three same sized tins so I cooked it in one pan. It took around 45 minutes to bake but I kept a close eye on it. I was a bit nervous slicing it but it was pretty stable. I sliced it chilled which I think helped.

  21. I loved the idea of this cake and it’s structural integrity, but it was so sweet it hurt my teeth.

    I’m making my friend’s wedding cake and she has asked for banana. Any suggestion on how much sugar I could drop from this recipe before compromising it?

    1. Hi Katrina! You can try reducing the sugar, but like you mentioned it will change the texture of the cake. These ratios are what we found to be best for texture and taste, but let us know if you try anything else.

    1. Hi Vanessa, You can try it, but the texture may be dense in this already heavy cake. Let us know how it turns out if you do try this!

  22. Hi Sally. Would I be able to bake thia cake in a square pans and create a “1” shape for my daughters 1st birthday? Will the cakes manage to keep they’re form when slicing into shapes?
    Sonja

    1. Hi Sonja, This cake should be fine to carve into a shape. Enjoy!

  23. I’ve made this recipe a few times. Spectacular! I would like to make the cake erase and turn it into a banana rum cake with drizzle on top for mini bundt cakes. How can I do that?

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