Brow Beat

A “Banana Cake” With a Dark Secret

You’re not going to want to try this. But you should.

A cake with several slices cut out of it and served on plates.
Jenny Huang

What looks like a banana cake, tastes (kind of) like a banana cake, has the same ingredient list as a banana cake—but comes out lighter and bouncier, and makes you feel really weird while you’re making it?

This incredible, ultra-fluffy layer cake, made with zero bananas and two banana peels. Don’t run away! Trust me, and trust this cake’s adoring fans, and especially trust Lindsay-Jean Hard, who was an editor at Food52 for six years and has just written her brilliant first cookbook called Cooking with Scraps (out Oct. 30—go preorder it now).

In her many years writing a column about scrappy cooking, Hard expertly harnessed the more texturally challenging parts of fruits and vegetables to become delicious, economic, no-waste ingredients.

Like potato peelscoffee grounds, and artichoke leaves, banana peels only seem like inedible castaways because that’s how we’ve always treated them. But they’re loaded with moisture and lightness and even some banana flavor, if you simply chop them up, simmer them for 10 minutes, and blend them smooth.

Banana peels ready!
Jenny Huang

Every kitchen trick like this in Cooking with Scraps is simply a matter of education, not effort—of having a trusted friend to tell you what to do with the things that every other recipe has told us, unequivocally, discard.

“Learning that they’re edible was enough for me to assume that they could be cooked, blended, and used like any other fruit purée in a baked good,” Hard told me, when I asked how the heck she figured out she could bake with banana peels. “And I already knew that my grandmother’s banana cake is perfection, so I decided to start there.”

Don't forget to soak your banana peel.
Jenny Huang

I completely understand if your mouth is still hanging agape from four paragraphs ago. To be honest, we first tested this recipe mostly out of morbid curiosity, while also trying some sure things: Hard’s utterly delicious leek top (leek tops! finally!) cacio e pepe and everything-spiced pumpkin seeds. But after I tasted the fluffiness, hugged by Grandma G.G.’s brown sugar frosting, for myself—then saw the wild crowd reactions from every taster at Food52 HQ—I knew that we needed to get the word out about this cake.

We should probably stop being surprised by how many odd characters can blend seamlessly into cakes and make them richer, lighter, better. In this column alone, beetseggplant, and quinoa have all done good work, and in my research for Genius Desserts, I saw just about everything else you could imagine: lettuce, jicama, potatoes, sauerkraut. (Got any more?)

As with all unexpected secret ingredients, it’s a bad idea to keep this one really secret, just in case someone has an allergy—in this case, folks with latex allergies can also have reactions to banana peels, among other things. But I’m not sure how you’d stop yourself from singing this from the rooftops anyway.

Lindsay-Jean Hard’s Banana Peel Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Makes one two-layer cake
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 30 min

For the cake:
Peels from 2 very ripe organic bananas, stem and very bottom discarded (about 100 grams), well washed—see note below
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering the pans
• 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 large eggs, separated
• 1/2 cup buttermilk
• 1 2/3 cups cake flour (210 grams), plus more flour (any type) for flouring the pans
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

For the frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
• 1 cup packed (220 grams) light or dark brown sugar
• 1/4 cup milk, 2% or higher
• 1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered sugar (220 to 250 grams), sifted

See the full recipe on Food52.

More from Food52:

The Fudgy Banana-Brownie Cake You Can Eat for Breakfast
A 30-Minute Creamy Mushroom Pasta With a Secret Ingredient That Makes It
Our 10 Most-Popular Chicken Recipes of All. Time.
How Our New Favorite Netflix Show Is Making Us Better, Smarter Cooks
This Genius, Ridiculously Fudgy Brownie Cake Has No Butter or Oil—but How?
This Buttery, Too-Darn-Easy Pound Cake Breaks All the Cake Rules