As obsessed as I am with traditional banana bread (aren’t we all after lockdown?), a banana walnut drip cake is like next level of banana-flavored deliciousness.
It’s got a soft moist banana sponge filled with crunchy walnuts, frosted with vanilla cream cheese buttercream and topped with a decadent chocolate ganache drip! It’s also a beautiful banana cake recipe without buttermilk so you can make it even if buttermilk isn’t readily available where you live (like in the UK).
I first made this cake when a friend asked for banana bread in the form of a birthday cake, and this is what I went for – she loved it! It’s the perfect easy cake for celebrations as it looks pretty cute but isn’t crazy difficult to make.
✏️ Making a tasty and easy recipe
I love banana cake, and what I really wanted to create was an easy banana cake recipe that would still have that wow factor for a birthday cake or other celebration. This banana walnut drip cake is tall and impressive, but actually quite simple to make – the best of both worlds!
This is one of the best banana cake recipes because it’s a really simple yet soft and delicious. This banana layer cake also doesn’t use buttermilk, like other traditional banana cake recipes.
Instead, the recipe I’ve used here is adapted from my favourite banana bread recipe. It uses oil alongside the mashed bananas to keep it moist, and the chopped walnuts add a delicious extra texture. I’ve added a bit extra lift as well to this recipe. It’s not as fluffy as your typical sponge cake, but it’s not a dense cake either.
This recipe calls for cream cheese icing, which is one of my favourite tasting frostings but is kind of my nemesis.
If you’re in the UK, you’ll know what I’m talking about – the cream cheese here is SO soft and much more liquid than in some other countries. This cream cheese frosting is almost like a buttercream, for a no-fail solution with delicious results!
🥘 Ingredients notes
- I recommend starting with room temperature ingredients for banana cake. This will improve the ease at which your ingredients mix together.
- Always sieve your flour, baking powder and powdered sugar (also called icing sugar). I used to be a bit lazy and skip this, but it really does help to give you less lumpy cake batter and frosting!
- When measuring your ingredients, it's best to use weights rather than cups where possible for greater accuracy. This is especially important for the amount of flour.
- For a luscious cream cheese frosting, it’s important to use full-fat cream cheese. I’m in the UK and it’s difficult here to get firmer cream cheese. If you’re in the UK, I recommend using Philadelphia or the Aldi brand of cream cheese.
- I prefer to use a high-quality vanilla extract rather than vanilla essence, as it has a better stronger flavour. It’s a purer vanilla taste as it’s less processed than vanilla essence.
- I’d also recommend using unsalted butter where possible, rather than salted butter, so you can control how much salt goes into your cake. I like mine to be low salt so I don’t add much, but you can omit it altogether or add more depending on taste.
- Your banana cake will taste much better using overripe bananas, rather than unripe bananas. See my note below on how to quickly ripen your bananas if you’ve not got some on hand.
How to quickly ripen bananas
For this recipe, you need to use ripe bananas. This is where your unpeeled bananas are yellow or brown. The more brown or speckled and spotty bananas are better!
If you’ve got unripe green bananas, you can ripen them quickly by baking them on a low heat in the oven for 15mins.
Alternatively, you can put your unripe bananas in a paper bag with other ripe ethylene gas producing fruit, such as ripe apples or other ripe bananas, for 1-2 days to ripen them.
Check out my blog post on how to ripen bananas quickly for all of the information and instructions needed to get your bananas perfectly ripe and ready to use for baking banana goodies with a deliciously strong banana flavor!
🔪 Equipment notes
- I prefer digital scales for weighing my ingredients as it's easier and more accurate than other types of scales. I'm like these KitchenAid and Salter ones.
- It’s good to use measuring spoons for your teaspoon and tablespoon amounts, as your standard teaspoon and tablespoon that you use to eat with won't be the correct volume. Make sure you level off any heaped scoops before adding the ingredient to your mix.
- If you're planning to use a stand mixer, I would recommend using the paddle attachment to make both your banana cake batter and cream cheese frosting.
- When using a stand mixer, I usually use a low speed for the cake batter so I don’t overmix it by accident. For the frosting, I use a medium speed.
- For both your cake batter and frosting, I'd recommend that you scrape down the sides of the stand mixer bowl and the bottom of the bowl to ensure a more even mix.
- You can also get great results by using a mixing bowl and hand mixer or even by hand using a wooden spoon or a fork if you don’t have an electric mixer.
- Even if your cake pans are non-stick, I’d always recommend greasing and lining your tins with parchment paper or greaseproof paper before you use them.
- In order to decorate your banana cake, it's much easier if you have a cake turntable, tall cake scraper and an offset spatula. That way you can create smooth sides to your cake much easier. Give this video by Cupcake Jemma a watch for how she makes perfectly crisp corners and smooth edges on her frosted layer cakes!
- To get smooth tops on your cake layers, I recommend using cake baking belts, sometimes called cake strips, when baking your cakes. You may need to bake for an extra 5-10mins if using these, as they slow down the process.
It’s best to store your completed banana cake in an airtight container in the fridge. This should keep for up to 3 days stored like this.
It’s important to note that your cake will start to dry out over time, so it’s best to eat it fresh where possible!
If you want to freeze your cake, you can wrap the unfrosted banana cake sponge layers individually in plastic wrap / cling film and then a layer of aluminium foil and freeze them.
Your cream cheese frosting can also be frozen, sealed in an airtight container.
Both the cake and frosting should keep for up to 2 months in the freezer. Defrost and use as normal per recipe. The frosting may need to be beaten again to whip up to nice and fluffy before use.
I’m a pretty busy person, and I’m sure you are too! So, if you’re short on time, I recommend making the banana walnut cake sponges in advance. You can bake the sponges 1-2 days before use and keep them tightly wrapped up individually in cling film / plastic food wrap in the fridge. This is a pretty moist banana cake recipe so your sponges shouldn’t dry out before you’ve added your icing.
💭 Top tips
- Mixing your banana cake ingredients by slowly adding the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients helps to reduce the lumps in your mixture giving you a smoother cake batter as it’s beaten together gradually.
- When making a cake with raising agents (i.e. using self-raising flour, baking powder, baking soda, etc.) such as this one, try to not over-mix your cake batter. The texture of your cake will be dense rather than a light and airy sponge.
- I recommend thoroughly mashing your bananas before adding them to your cake batter. You won’t be able to get rid of the banana lumps completely, but this will still give you a much better consistency for your cake sponge.
- I always position my cake pans in the centre of the oven on the middle shelf when possible. This usually gives a more even bake and my baking temperatures specified in the recipe are based on using this part of the oven.
- Don’t open the oven mid-bake. You may have heard this before, but it’s such an important factor that it bears repeating. We’ve all been there and nobody likes their cake layers with sinkholes!
- You’ll know your cake sponges are cooked once they’re risen, springy to touch and an inserted toothpick or skewer comes out clean from the center of the cake.
- Once your cake layers have baked, it's best to leave them in the cake tin to cool for 10mins before removing them from the cake pan onto a wire rack to cool. This speeds up the cooling process and stops your cake from baking further trapped in the hot tin.
- To get smooth flat cake layers for frosting, you may need to cut off any peaked tops. You can use a knife or a cake leveller for this. Keep any offcuts and use them for decorating or turning them into cake pops or cakesicles!
Ganache drip effect tips
One of my top tips for this banana cake is not to let the chocolate ganache cool too much. If it’s too cold, it won’t drip properly, but will more likely just sludge about.
This is important as your cake should be cold when you come to add the ganache drip, and this would cool your ganache even further. Depending on how hot it is that day, you should leave your ganache to set at room temperature for 10-20mins.
If your ganache is too cold, heat it in the microwave for 10secs at a time until it’s runny enough to drip smoothly from your spoon.
To create a beautiful drip effect, use a regular teaspoon (not a measuring spoon) to create little blobs of ganache around the edge of the top of your cake first. Be sure to do a test drip to see if the temperature/consistency is good first. Your test drip should run down the sides but not hit the bottom.
After doing the drip edges, then you can fill in the top spreading gently right to the edges to meet the start of your drips. You’ll need less ganache than you think for this!
🎂 Decorating ideas
I like to decorate this impressive banana walnut cake pretty simply. I frost the cake sponges between the layers and on the outside and top of the cake. Then I give it a border of crushed walnuts, make a chocolate ganache drip on top and swirl more frosting on top with more crushed walnuts sprinkled over them.
Sometimes I’ll use a chocolate buttercream frosting, as shown in the pictures, or more of the cream cheese frosting to decorate the cake on top of the ganache topping. Here I’ve used a Wilton 1M piping nozzle to make a ring of frosting swirls.
Or why not try drizzling over a tasty sauce, like salted rum dulce de leche – a delicious boozy treat that goes really well with banana!
♻️ Alternatives and substitutions
I love the taste of this banana nut cake using walnuts, but you can also switch these for another nut such as pecans or brazil nuts.
If you’re after a more chocolate flavour, why not add 150 g (1 cup) of chocolate chips to your cake batter!
I usually use a milk chocolate ganache for this recipe, but you can also try switching this to a dark chocolate ganache instead. To do this, you’ll need 85 ml (5 ½ tbsp) heavy cream and 75g (½ cup) dark chocolate instead of the ingredients listed in the recipe card but follow the same instructions.
This recipe calls for a neutral-flavoured oil, such as vegetable oil, canola oil or sunflower oil. However, you can also mix it up and give some slightly more flavoured oils a try like olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil.
If using coconut oil, I’d recommend melting it in the microwave for 15-30secs first before using it in this recipe.
If you’re looking for a dairy-free banana cake, then this cake sponge is already dairy-free. However, you’ll need to swap the frosting for a dairy-free alternative. I recommend this vegan vanilla buttercream by Cooking on Caffeine instead!
You’ll also need to swap the ganache drip for a dairy-free ganache too. When making this dairy-free, I use a dark chocolate ganache drip made from dairy-free dark chocolate and use a plant-based cream alternative. See flavours section above for info on a dark chocolate ganache swap.
For this recipe, I use vanilla cream cheese buttercream frosting. I find the higher ratio of buttercream to cream cheese allows for a more stable frosting.
However, you can instead omit the cream cheese and have a purely vanilla buttercream or if you’re looking for a chocolate banana cake you can switch to chocolate buttercream for the coating.
In the photos here, I’ve used chocolate buttercream to decorate the top (like the one in this recipe for chocolate cupcakes), but this optional and you can use the cream cheese frosting for these swirls instead for ease.
Self-raising flour option
I usually use plain (all-purpose) flour in this recipe, but alternatively you can swap this for self-raising flour.
Use the same quantity of flour (370g for a 4-layer 6-inch sized cake), exclude the bicarbonate of soda and reduce the baking powder by ½ teaspoon (i.e. use only 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder).
To make this banana cake gluten-free, you can swap the plain / all-purpose flour for a gluten-free 1:1 all-purpose blend of the same quantity. I usually recommend a pre-mixed blend such as King Arthur's measure for measure flour or Freee from Doves Farm
If your flour blend doesn’t include xanthan gum, add ½ teaspoon of this into your flour mixture.
The other ingredients in this banana cake recipe should be gluten-free, but please be sure to check the label on your ingredients, just in case!
A top tip when baking a gluten-free cake is to beat your cake batter thoroughly and then leave it to stand for 30mins. After this, quickly re-mix your batter to ensure it's even and then pour it into your prepared cake pans to bake for 5-10mins longer than the recipe states on a slightly lower temperature.
When I make this drip cake as a four-layer cake, I usually bake all the cake batter in two 6-inch round pans. I then cut the two sponges in half to give four layers.
If you have three round 6-inch cake pans, you can instead spit your batter evenly between the three and bake for 5-10mins less time. This will give you a three-layer cake without the need to cut you sponges in half.
I usually use a teaspoon to make the ganache drip on this cake. However, you can also use a squeeze bottle (like the ones they use for sauces and condiments), a piping bag with a small round piping tip or the corner cut off of a plastic sandwich / freezer bag.
🧁 Other goodies
Looking for more banana recipes? Why not check out my recipe for a vegan moist banana bread – it’s a delicious and simple crowd-pleaser!
Or if you’re looking for some tasty cake recipes, why not check out my Oreo drip cake or Biscoff drip cake? Both make great party cakes! This chocolate orange cake is also a really simple and easy cake, perfect for a more low-key cake joy.
Other Related Recipes:
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Banana Walnut Drip Cake
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Banana walnut cake:
- 4 medium bananas (roughly 400g peeled, very ripe)
- 4 eggs
- 140 g (⅔ cups) soft light brown sugar
- 200 ml (1 cups) oil (canola, sunflower or vegetable)
- 370 g (3 cups) plain / all-purpose flour (see notes for self-raising flour swap)
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
- ½ teaspoon ground mixed spice
- ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 200 g (1 ¾ cups) walnuts (chopped)
Cream cheese frosting:
Milk chocolate ganache drip:
- 50 ml (¼ cups) heavy cream (e.g. double cream)
- 100 g (⅔ cups) milk chocolate
- 15 g (2 tablespoon) walnuts (chopped, for border)
Banana walnut cakes:
- Pre-heat oven: 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F
- In a mixing bowl, peel and mash your bananas with a fork.
- Beat in the eggs, sugar and oil until fully combined.
- Sieve in the baking powder, bicarb of soda and flour, folding in gently until only just combined.
- Finally, stir in the mixed spice, vanilla, salt and chopped walnuts until spread evenly throughout.
- Divide your cake batter evenly between the two greased and lined cake pans and bake for 45-50mins until risen, golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
- Allow you cakes to cool in the pans for 10mins before transferring out of the pans onto a wire rack to finish cool. While the cakes cool, make the frosting.
Cream cheese frosting:
- Beat the butter (either by hand, using an electric mixer or stand mixer) until pale, light and fluffy. This could take several minutes.
- Sieve the icing sugar into the butter and beat until combined.
- Add the cream cheese and vanilla, beating until you get a smooth frosting.
- Set aside for later roughly ⅕ of the frosting into a piping bag for the swirls on top if decorating in this style.
- Once the sponges have cooled completely, cut off any peaks to give smooth flat tops on your layers.
- Spread a thick layer of the frosting onto one sponge and sandwich a second sponge layer on top. Repeat this for the next layer.
- Add another thick even layer of frosting on top of the third sponge, and then place the fourth sponge upside-down on top of this.
- Smooth a thick layer of frosting on top of the cake and around the edges, smoothing and scraping until your cake has a relatively thin and neat outside coating. Refrigerate for 30mins.
- Add the remaining frosting to the top and outside of the cake, then smooth using a spatula and cake scraper.
- Add the crushed walnut around the bottom of the cake and press in gently with the back of a spoon or your hands. Put the cake back into the fridge while you make the ganache.
Chocolate ganache and decorations:
- Heat the cream over a double-boiler or in the microwave (15-30 secs at a time), until hot but not boiling.
- Break the chocolate up into pieces and pour the hot cream over it. Let it sit for 10mins and then stir until smooth.
- Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature for 10-20mins, until the ganache is still runny but has cooled and thickened slightly.
- Remove your cake from the fridge. Dip a teaspoon in your ganache and test a drip at the top edge of your cake. If this creates a thick line and only runs partway down the side, you’re good to go. If it hits the bottom, allow your ganache to cool for another 5mins and try another test drip. Repeat until your test drips are to your liking.
- Drip ganache from your spoon at the edges of your cake until you have enough drips. Then fill in the top of your cake, smoothing gently with an offset spatula until you get an even layer connecting the top of the drips together at the edges.
- Using the frosting set aside previously (or another one of your choice), and your 1M tip and piping bag, pipe big swirls onto the top of the cake in a ring.
- You can swap the plain flour in this recipe for self-raising flour of the same quantity, and exclude the bicarbonate of soda and reduce the baking powder by ½ teaspoon (i.e. use only 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder).
Nutritional information is an estimate based on an online nutritional calculator, actual values may vary.