I have a thing for banana in baked goods—any baked goods. Cookies, cake, muffins, quickbread, blondies, you name it. I’ve always loved bananas, and it’s possible that I like them even more when they’re folded into a bowl of batter. This old-fashioned vegan banana cake with creamy cashew frosting is my newest favorite, a happy marriage of traditional banana bread and something lighter, fluffier, and a little more festive.
The idea for a banana cake like this was originally inspired by an old Ina Garten recipe, the old-fashioned banana cake in How Easy is That? I loved the idea, but at the time, I didn’t have much savvy in veganizing recipes that weren’t very vegan to begin with. Since I’ve been flexing my muscles as a baker much more in the last few years, I have a better sense of how to use a non-vegan recipe as inspiration for my own baked good, and I’m having a lot of fun with the process.
The cake itself is pretty simple. I tried it a few ways, and my favorite version ended up using vegan yogurt to help create moisture and to serve as an egg replacer. Any plain vegan yogurt is fine—I used almond milk yogurt, but soy, cashew, or coconut will all work nicely.
The recipe calls for a level cup of mashed banana, which is ever-so-slightly less than I use for banana bread. The texture ends up being less dense, though this is still a more dense cake than some of the bundt cakes or birthday cakes I’ve made. I think of it more as “snack cake” than dessert, though it’s fine for dessert, too 😉
The cashew frosting will definitely add some sweetness to the recipe, but it’s sweetened with maple or agave, and I find that it’s not cloying the way a buttercream frostings can be. If you’d like your snack cake to be more like snack and less like a formal dessert, you can skip the frosting altogether.
I thought that adding some nuts would be a nice way to give a bit of crunch and texture to an otherwise very moist and soft dessert. Chopped walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or almonds would all be fine here! My local health food store has these maple walnuts that I love—they’re sweet but not too sweet, perfect for putting into oatmeal or snacking—and I used them. If you have a homemade recipe for vegan candied nuts that you’re into, that would work really well, too. You could also finish the cake with a sprinkling of toasted coconut.
Old-Fashioned Vegan Banana Bread with Creamy Cashew Frosting
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose light spelt, or whole wheat pastry flour (or a combination of these)*
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 medium sized very ripe bananas, mashed (1 level cup after mashing)
- 1/2 cup plain vegan yogurt
- 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil such as grapeseed, refined avocado, or canola
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 batch creamy cashew frosting below
- 1/3 cup chopped raw or candied nuts of choice optional
For the creamy cashew frosting:
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews soaked for at least 4 hours, drained, and rinsed
- 1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup non-dairy milk or water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- To prepare the frosting, place the cashews, syrup, non-dairy milk or water, salt, and extract in a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend or process until the mixture is mostly smooth; in a high-speed blender, this will be about 2 minutes once you get to high speed, and in a food processor it should take about 4 minutes, with a few breaks to scrape the bowl down. Then, with the machine running, drizzle in the coconut oil. Continue blending till the frosting is smooth and emulsified. Transfer it to an airtight container to chill for at least 2 hours. It will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9-inch, springform cake pan (I like to place a piece of round parchment in the bottom as well, to prevent any chance of the cake sticking).
- Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then stir it together with the salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar.
- In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the banana, yogurt, oil, non-dairy milk, lemon, and vanilla. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold them together until the batter is evenly mixed and no flour remains at the bottom. A few lumps in the batter is OK.
- Transfer the cake to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden and firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean (depending on your oven, it could take up to 45-50 minutes, but I recommend checking it after 35 minutes to see how far along the cake is). Remove the cake from the oven and the springform pan, then allow it to cool completely before frosting.
- Frost the cake, reserving any extra frosting for dipping pieces of fresh fruit, or for another frosted treat. Sprinkle the cake with the nuts, then slice and serve.
I always think of fall as baking season, a time when it’s finally cool enough to turn the oven on and greet the change in seasons with the smell of spices and sweets. This cake isn’t spiced like a lot of autumnal treats are—you’ll taste banana and vanilla most of all—which makes it a nice, all-purpose cake for any season. I hope you’ll like it as much as I have. And I’ll see you this weekend for the weekly roundup.