Banana-Date Tea Cake

April 13, 2011

Periodically, I want to make banana bread.  I can’t really explain why since I’m not even that fond of banana bread.  Maybe it is the ease of preparation, the ingredients seemingly always on hand, the satisfying and great smelling loaf that comes out of your oven after so little effort.  There is one problem with my desire to make banana bread.  We never have any bananas.

I buy bananas each week and my kids devour them.  Spencer (4) has been known to eat three in a day.  No matter how many I buy, they are eaten.  We never get close to over-ripe bananas.  I read about people who freeze bananas that are too brown to eat for future banana bread making days.  All I have to say is, can I have some of your stash?

Paging through Tartine, I came across this recipe.  Instead of a banana bread, this is a banana tea cake, made different by the use of butter (rather than oil), and the addition of chopped dates.  Immediately I glanced at my fruit basket.  For some crazy reason, I had not one, not two, but eight ripe bananas.  Meaning I could double the recipe and have two cakes.   How did this happen?  Clearly this recipe was meant to be made in my kitchen.  I even had dates in the refrigerator from some catering last week.

So, also periodically, I like to keep it real here.  I have disasters in my kitchen.  They usually involve cake.  Cake that either decides to stay in a pan because of an insufficient grease job, or cake that seems like it is baked through, only to have the middle of it puddle out after being removed from the pan.  I had a bit of both with one of these cakes.  And here is where I will tell you that sometimes equipment does matter, and that paying a bit more is worth it.  I have two 9×5 loaf pans.  One is really old and one is brand new.  The old one I bought in a grocery store years ago for about $7.  The new one came to me from the King Arthur Flour web site and set me back $16.95.  I baked my two loaves side by side in my oven, both were filled with the same amount of batter, and one turned out perfectly.  The other gave me this for a middle.

I will let you guess which was which.

Here is my pretty cake with the two salvageable ends of the ugly cake behind it.  Disasters do happen.

The cake, no surprise, was delicious – even the mushy part.  I served slices to four children, ages 6, 5, 4, and 3 (my boys and their two best buddies).  I don’t really think of this as kid cake or kid dessert but it was all I had and I have a reputation for my treats not only with adults, but with kids as well.  All four of them cleaned their plates.  So did the adults.  Kendall, age 5, was dismayed that she didn’t get to take the leftovers home with her, as they were destined for Randy’s office.  “But you always send us home with treats!”

One Year Ago: Cinnamon Chocolate Ribbon Cake
Two Years Ago: Orange Cinnamon Biscotti

Banana-Date Tea Cake
Makes 1 large loaf

1 cup + 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3 medium bananas, very ripe
2 large eggs
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. (¾ stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup + 2 tbsp. sugar
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1¾ cups (about 8 oz.) dates, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 medium banana
2 tbsp. sugar

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

This recipe is easily mixed by stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed or by hand with a wooden spoon.  In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda and stir too  mix.  Set aside.  Peel the bananas and place in a second bowl.  Mash with a fork until you have a chunky purée.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt to the bananas and stir to mix well.  Set aside.

In a third mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Slowly add the sugar and beat until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Slowly add the banana mixture and beat until incorporated.  Again scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then mix for anther 30 seconds to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the banana mixture.  Then fold in the nuts and dates.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again, making sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.  To top the cake, peel the banana and cut in half lengthwise.  Then place each half cut side down and cut in half lengthwise, to yield 4 long slices.  (DT: I didn’t do this quite right.)  Lay the slices on top of the batter.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then invert onto rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely.  Serve the cake at room temperature.  It will keep, well wrapped, at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for about 1 week.


  1. Though is quite pretty, bananas are my kryptonite.
    However, I do make a datenut bread weekly. I never tire of it.
    This is so lovely to look at!

    Comment by stacey snacks — April 13, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

  2. So cute that Kendall was dismayed about no leftovers – a girl after my own heart. This looks fantastic, mushy middle and all! I’ve been wanting to incorporate more dates into my baking – this looks like a good start.

    Comment by Melinda — April 13, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

  3. Next time we get together I will bring you some of my frozen banana stash. I just tossed a bag last week that had been in the freezer for months. Oliver is an intermittent banana lover…….one week he polishes off 7 in 5 days. The next he doesn’t want to touch them. (Jackson has never been a fan). I always have a stash in the freezer and rarely run dry. BTW Cooks Illustrated’s Best Recipes has an excellent banana bread recipe.

    Comment by Kelly — April 13, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

  4. I love how pretty it looks with the banana on top :)

    Comment by Helena — April 13, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  5. Amazing, the difference the two pans made! Wouldn’t have thought that would happen. Oh well….
    This looks great and I love the idea of the bananas on top. I’d hate to cut into it!

    Comment by Barbara — April 13, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

  6. I always have a stash of bananas, because I buy a big bunch every week, and the wee Nuni gets fussy when they get brown, so I pop them in the freezer. This looks fantastic, too — I love dates.

    Comment by Kate @ Savour Fare — April 13, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  7. This banana bread version sounds really good, the next time I have a bowl full of old bananas I’ll make it. And you’re little guests sound adorable! It must have been hard to send them off empty handed!

    Comment by Jacqui — April 13, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

  8. my sisters and I are baking date nut bars this minute…we are bookmarking this recipe, it looks divine! Dates are a family favorite!

    Comment by susie — April 13, 2011 @ 10:44 pm

  9. We ALWAYS have ripe bananas around so you can definitely have some of ours. I’ll just fed-ex them. Weekly.

    I only like them when they are a hint past green, so after that, they are totally banana bread material. Now perhaps they shall be banana CAKE material. Maybe I’ll still call it banana bread so that I can eat it for breakfast. Yes, that seems just about right.

    Comment by Joanne — April 14, 2011 @ 12:24 am

  10. You can certainly have some of my stash Dana. I have plenty of banana torpedos in the freezer. I will trade them for a slice or two of your banana date cake.

    Comment by bellini — April 14, 2011 @ 12:25 am

  11. Dana – you can have some of the bananas from my freezer stash anytime. Our boy runs hot and cold on food items so the stash gets built up whenever he’s having a “I don’t like bananas week”. Lately tho’ my husband has been the one consuming 3 + per day and I’ve been making my weekly apple (or pear) banana muffins with bananas from the bowl. This looks intriguing and shocking about the difference in the loaf tins. I might leave off the banana slice topping in case the boy was having a “not eating banana” week.

    Comment by Charlotte — April 14, 2011 @ 5:51 am

  12. My loaf cakes turn out like your disaster one sometimes. I try to take cryptic photos of the slices and hope that other people don’t suffer the same fate!

    Interesting that you attribute it to your loaf pan – mine is a cheapo and 100 years old too.

    Comment by Maris (In Good Taste) — April 14, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  13. My loaf pans are older than I am so I’m hoping it’s the old ones that pulled you through. I hate bananas but love banana bread and I’m sure my husband would love these.

    Comment by kickpleat — April 15, 2011 @ 3:26 am

  14. […] Recipe from Dana Treat […]

    Pingback by Banana-Date Tea Cake | Don the Apron! — April 25, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

  15. Loved this recipe. Made a double batch with raisins instead of dates and put in a bunt pan! It made my house smell great and tasted just as good! Oh increased oven to 350. Time was still 1hr. Enjoying the blog-Thank you!

    Comment by Monica — October 9, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

  16. […] few months ago, as I was reading Dana’s latest blog post over at Dana Treat, I lamented the fact that I didn’t buy dates regularly.  The recipe she posted looked like […]

    Pingback by Banana Date Breakfast Tea Cake — September 2, 2015 @ 7:21 pm

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