Coconut Sugar Banana Sheet Cake with Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting
Did you read that title a few times? I always do. I read it and let it sink in. I start tasting the combo of super ripe bananas and caramelized coconut sugar in my head and…that’s when I have to read it again to assure myself that indeed there is a recipe for this creation that I must have. This recipe for Coconut Sugar Banana Sheet Cake with Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting is from Real Sweet, Shauna Sever’s book as are the Oatmeal and Turbinado Cream Cookie Sandwiches. Sensing a trend? Her book is about all the alternative sugars you should be using now. Maybe for health benefits or perhaps just because they all taste so dang good. This cake is super-simple. Made in a 9×13-inch pan, it’s a great choice for a bake sale, potluck or casual party. Check out our interview as well.
Excerpted with permission. Real Sweet: More Than 80 Crave-Worthy Treats Made with Natural Sugarsby Shauna Sever. Published by Harper Collins, 2015. Photos by Leigh Beisch.
Although it’s not a perfect fit for every baked good, when you find the right recipe to use coconut sugar, it’s as though the heavens open up as you take a bite. Because it’s not derived from sugarcane, the “brown” flavor of coconut sugar doesn’t come from molasses, and so it tastes quite different from other brown sugars like turbinado or muscovado. It’s a decidedly exotic, toasty flavor that pairs wonderfully with other tropical flavors, especially bananas.
Speaking of bananas, one of the tricks of using coconut sugar successfully in baking is to find a recipe that has plenty of tenderizing, moisture-lending ingredients in it—such as mashed bananas or other fruit purees, oils, and buttermilk or yogurt—as coconut sugar tends to dry out baked goods.
- 2 cups (9 ounces/255 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled (a mix of half all-purpose, half whole wheat pastry flour works well here, too)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1⅓ cups (10⅝ ounces/302 grams) mashed bananas (from about 3 very ripe medium ones)
- ⅔ cup (5⅝ ounces/151 grams) 2% Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup (2 ounces/57 grams) coconut or canola oil
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 ounces/170 grams) coconut sugar
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 9 tablespoons (4½ ounces/128grams) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened
- 3 tablespoons (2¼ ounces/63 grams) brown rice syrup or light agave nectar (see Tip)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¾ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) coconut sugar
- ¼ cup (2 ounces/57 grams) heavy cream
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- For the Cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9 ×13-inch pan with nonstick spray or butter it generously.
- Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the bananas, yogurt, and oil until smooth.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and butter on medium-low speed until the mixture looks like dampened sand, about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, giving the first about 30 seconds to incorporate before adding the second. Increase the speed to medium-high, beating until light in texture and much paler in color, 4 to 5 minutes (don’t skimp on the beating time, here—the significant change in color will be your cue that the sugar has begun to dissolve). Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low. Stir in the dry ingredients and banana-yogurt mixture in five alternating additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, letting each addition fully absorb into the batter before adding the next. Finish folding the batter gently by hand to ensure it is well blended.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack. Keeping the cake in the pan for easy transport and storage.
- For the Frosting: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, melt together 4 tablespoons of the butter, the brown rice syrup, and salt. Add the coconut sugar and stir with a heatproof spatula. Bring to a gentle boil and clip a candy thermometer onto the pan. Cook to 248˚F, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the cream and vanilla extract. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Whisk the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter into the caramel, a tablespoon at a time, letting each knob of butter absorb into the caramel before adding the next. Don’t rush this step—you’re not only setting yourself up for a nice emulsified frosting, you’re also slowly cooling the caramel, both of which will make for a smooth, creamy final product.
- Scrape the caramel into a mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Chill until the caramel is cool to the touch all the way through, about 20 minutes. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a handheld mixer on medium speed, whip the caramel into a lush, creamy frosting until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (If it still looks like caramel sauce after 1 minute of beating, chill further before whipping again.) Use immediately, or store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, bringing it back to room temperature before giving it a quick rewhipping. (Keep a close eye on the thermometer, and pull the pan from the heat the moment the temperature hits 248˚F—coconut sugar can burn quickly and take on a somewhat astringent taste).
- Slather the cooled cake with the frosting.
- Although the liquid sweetener here obviously adds sweetness, its main functions are to keep the caramel flexible and add a beautiful gloss to the whipped frosting. I like to use something very neutral in flavor, such as brown rice syrup, to allow the coconut sugar flavor to really shine, but you could also use light agave, mild honey, or even coconut nectar, if you have it, which will give a much deeper color to the frosting and make it a bit sweeter as well.