‘Back to School’ Banana Cake with Caramel Frosting

‘Back to School’ Banana Cake has been a tradition in my home for almost 35 years.  On the night of the first day of school each year, we celebrate the new start with a home cooked meal and this delicious banana cake for dessert.  Why my Mom originally chose a banana cake with caramel frosting, I have no idea (and neither does she).  But in our family this cake is made once a year and it signifies everything good about the beginning of a new school year and the excitement for and the anticipation of the coming fall;  Ohio State football games, cool weather, raking leaves, picking apples, birthdays, Halloween, comfort foods like chilis, soups, casseroles and everything pumpkin!  A few years ago I was at a church meeting about this time of year and we did a go around and everyone had to answer the question, “What is your favorite memory having to do with school starting?”  I shared about this tradition and how excited I would be to have dinner with my family on the first night of school and share about my day, my new teacher, new classroom, new friends etc.  I know it sounds very ‘Leave it to Beaverish’ but it is a great memory.  My fellow church members loved the idea of this and asked me to send the recipe.  I know of a few families who have already started this tradition and look forward to it each year.  My Mom made this cake for my family until I left for college (and even then she would sometimes hand deliver a little one to me at college sometime during the fall).

My brother and me circa 1980

My brother and me circa 1980


I started this tradition with my own family when my oldest daughter started Kindergarten two years ago.  True to the tradition that my Mom began, we decorate the cake with little flags on toothpicks that say what school and grade each child is starting.  As I sit here and write this blog, my youngest daughter (who’s preschool doesn’t start for another few weeks), is making the little flags……precious.  Not only is this a great tradition, it’s a really tasty, moist cake and the frosting is heavenly so no matter when you make it or for what reason, ENJOY!

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Banana Cake with Caramel Frosting (Serves 8-10)


½ c. shortening (margarine)

1 ½ c. sugar

2 eggs

2 c. flour

½ tsp salt

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

1 c. mashed bananas (3 medium ripe bananas)

¼ c buttermilk (or regular milk with ½ tsp vinegar)

1 tsp vanilla


3 Tbsp butter

6 Tbsp milk or cream

9 Tbsp of dark brown sugar

3 cups powdered sugar

dash of salt

Directions for Cake:

1.Cream shortening (margerine) with sugar.  When this is light and creamy, add well beaten eggs.

2. Dry Ingredients:  Combine sifted flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

3. Banana Mixture:  Combine mashed bananas (about 3 medium bananas) and buttermilk

4. Alternate dry ingredients and banana mixture into the creamed mixture.

5. When all cake mixture is well blended add vanilla.

Two round cake pans – Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees (line bottom with wax paper)

9×13 pan — Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees (test with toothpick)

Directions for Frosting:

Bring butter, milk/cream and brown sugar to rolling boil and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Add powdered sugar (sifted — I know it’s a pain but the icing will be so much smoother!) until it becomes a spreadable thickness (2-3 cups).  Add a dash of salt (makes everything sweet a little better!)

Let cake cool, ice it and decorate it (my Mom always made little “flags” with toothpicks and index cards with stickers for the school(s) that my brother and I were attending that year).



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