There's this old picture that sits on my parents' mantel. The picture is a bit wrinkled from many moves and the right corner has a small jagged tear. But there's no mistaking that it's a picture of four-year-old me, gleefully reaching for another piece of cake with one hand while shoving a giant piece of cake in my mouth with the other. I'm wearing a frilly pink dress with a pink bow headband perched precariously on my head. And I have the biggest grin ever on my face. It's clear from that picture alone that I have a deep love of birthdays (and cake)!
My family moved a fair bit when I was younger. But regardless of where we were, we celebrated birthdays in style. Granted "in style" meant something different thirty years ago, and in my case, it most often meant grocery store cakes (which my immigrant parents deemed fancier and more special than homemade ones), balloons, and family. Not helium balloons mind you, plain ol' "we blew these up with our own blood, sweat, and air" balloons. I've gone to some crazy birthday parties for kids over the years with everything from fully laden candy buffets to personalized cookies bearing the likeness of the birthday child, but to this day, I'm convinced a bunch of non-helium balloons and a simple yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles are really all you need to celebrate.
I'm not sure how my parents conveyed that sentiment but I promised myself I'd do the same for my family. For the hubster's first birthday after we got married, I proudly proclaimed that I'd make a homemade banana cake with cream cheese frosting. I envisioned carrying it proudly to his giant family gathering. Except well, when you melt butter in the microwave instead of letting it come to room temperature, you get a crepe instead of a cake. You heard it here first, people. To this day, that "cake" haunts me.
When Little Man was born, I figured it was finally time to fix the grand cake debacle. The first year, I planned on making a giant cupcake cake only to completely underestimate the batter needed. We rolled with a lopsided not-so-giant cupcake. And sleep deprived me thought it the best, most ridiculous looking cake ever.
Until this year when Little Man turned two. This cake was going to be, legen, wait-for-it... well, you get the point. It was banana cake with cream cheese frosting redemption time! I envisioned a three layer cake, standing proudly, all decked out in homemade frosting. Oh, and sprinkles of course, because it just ain't birthday cake without sprinkles.
So at midnight the night before Little Man's birthday, I busted out my room temperature butter (fool me once...) and cake supplies and got to baking. I couldn't find my two small round cake pans but figured it'd be no big deal with one larger round pan. Until the cake came out much wider and not nearly as tall as I'd envisioned. I guess the bigger pan mattered after all.
And then, I did what any self respecting mom would do. Slathered that big, flat cake in homemade (delicious) cream cheese frosting, dumped on a boatload of sprinkles and called it a raging success.
The next day, we presented the cake to Little Man and from the elated look on his face, I knew he'd never care if his birthday cake was too short or too big or too flat so long as it was made with love (and frosting, obviously). So we sang Happy Birthday fifteen times like he ordered, and we clapped like we'd never clapped before. And we ate cake. With sprinkles, of course.
1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed, ripe
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 1/8 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
- Preheat oven to 275°.
- Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.
- In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla.
- Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
- Stir in banana mixture.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. This will make the cake very moist.
- For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
- Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
- Add icing sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.
- Spread on cooled cake.
- Sprinkle sprinkles or chopped walnuts top of the frosting, if desired.