Mostly because our local supermarket gave kids free cookies in the bakery if you asked politely. They were sprinkle sugar cookies, and they were amazing because they were free, smothered in sprinkles, and because you didn’t need your parents permission to eat a giant sugar cookie before dinner.
(However, in later years I would try this as a teenager and unfortunately, they had an age limit. I suppose teenagers aren’t as cute begging for cookies as toothless, innocent children are).
I loved grocery shopping because my parents were so hell-bent against cooking dinner that we’d head to the store practically five times a week and pick out dinner there. It was usually something like frozen pizza or Lean Cuisines or fried chicken from the deli, but it was awesome since we could each pick what we want. And if you’ve ever grocery shopped when you’re hungry, whatever you get instantly looks like the most amazing food ever. Frozen meatloaf? OMG, gourmet! Deli-fried chicken that’s been under heat lamps since 2pm? COME TO MAMA. Pre-made deli sandwiches that are usually ham and American cheese with those mayo packets? Delish with a capital-D, yo.
Or maybe that’s just because I never really had a decent home-cooked meal. Whatevz.
When my mom and I would shop at Smart & Final, they had this Sara Lee Banana Cake in the fridge section that was to-die for. Anytime we’d shop there, I’d beg her to pleeeeaaasseee buy one for us to have after dinner, and without fail, she always said yes. It became our family’s favorite store-bought cake for its moist banana cake layer and the sweet banana frosting on top. It was positively perfect!
Yeeeears had passed since I’d had a slice of the beloved cake. And when I went to remedy this recently at Smart & Final, I was so saddened to see they’d done away with it. It was basically a blasphemous slap in my banana cake lovin’ face if you ask me. But it also motivated me to make this magical cake at home – and folks, I have officially succeeded.
This cake is SO impossibly moist and light, with sweet banana flavor swirled in every bite. The frosting is thick and rich and made with actual mashed banana, lending an authentic and world-class flavor to this phenomenal cake. If you’re a banana fan, you’ll love this cake! We like it as is since it’s identical to our beloved Sara Lee version, but if you’d like, feel free to jazz it up with chocolate chips, Nutella drizzle, or walnuts or pecans.
Now let us have cake!
- FOR CAKE:
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 2-3 medium-sized bananas, the blacker the better)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup oil
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp banana extract (you could also use banana liqueur if desired)
- FOR BANANA FROSTING:
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup ripe banana, peeled and mashed (about 1 medium banana)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tsp banana extract (more if you prefer a stronger banana flavor)
- 1 tsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- About 3.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally grease a 13x9" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, brown sugar, mashed banana, cinnamon, water, oil, eggs and banana extract with a handheld electric mixer for about 2 minutes or until blended.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for approx. 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Cool the cake completely.
- Once the cake has cooled, prepare your frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, mashed banana, vanilla, banana extract and lemon juice with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add in the powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until the frosting is light and fluffy but still kind of soft. You don't want it as stiff as you normally would for say, frosting cupcakes, but it should hold its shape relatively well.
- Spread the frosting on top of the cake in an even layer. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before cutting into squares and serving. Store leftovers airtight in the fridge for up to 4 days.
You guys. Scouts honor, but this is seriously one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. I’ve made it about four times since I originally whipped it up and my family and I have gobbled it up every single time. It’s so moist, rich, and jam-packed with banana flavor, which we cannot get enough of! As I mentioned before, try adding chocolate or peanut butter chips to the batter for a different flavor twist, or top with chopped nuts if you’d like!