For Cam, Chandler and Catherine: The banana sheet cake with caramel frosting`

Chili and cornbread with our church youth group
Chili and cornbread with our church youth group

Cam was disappointed that this recipe wasn’t the first one posted from the church youth group supper. Chandler was so pleased with himself that he recognized the brown sugar in the icing, and Catherine, damn her eyes, may be the only person I’ve ever known who could love this, yet eat only a bite or two. She is an inspiration, but if I lived any closer and ate more regularly with her, I might have to nail her feet to the floor like a Strasbourg goose and force feed her. Disciplined people can be so irritating to the rest of us!

I’ve also been thinking how our own children led us to enjoying this recent church youth supper. Now grown and gone, of course, our oldest daughter invites all the neighborhood kids over for a bonfire just because. Our middle beauty queen grew up in Maryland and North Carolina but recently led her daughter’s Girl Scout troop on an introductory tour of Boston. Our youngest helps teach grade schoolers to read better and swim (not at the same time). How could we not be inspired by our own Wonder Women?

So, guys, here’s the cake recipe. And now you’re going to know that I used — gasp! — a cake mix and instant pudding to make this surprising treat I found on the Internet at, credited to a Teresa Ambra and her friend Jennifer Craig (the Jenny Craig, do you suppose?).

I’m not usually a banana fan, but this cake lifts the humble berry (yes, that’s what it is botanically) into another realm. It’s like a banana brownie if you can imagine such a thing.

Banana sheet cake with caramel icing

Cake: 1 box Duncan Hines butter recipe yellow cake mix

1 small package instant vanilla or banana pudding (I used banana)

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 large or 3 medium)

4 large eggs at room temperature (let sit in warm water for a few minutes if you don’t remove from refrigeration in time for mixing and baking)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup canola oil

Icing: 1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2-3/4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350°. Grease 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl and beat until smooth. (You cannot over-mix a cake mix.)

Bake in greased pan for 45 to 60 minutes or until tester inserted in center tests done. Cool just slightly before icing.

To make icing, combine brown sugar, milk and butter in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking until butter melts. Bring to bubble and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until smooth. You will feel it begin to harden immediately. Get it onto the cake as soon as you’ve dissolved the sugar lumps. If it gets too stiff to spread, return to low heat and, if necessary, add a bit more milk. Serves 20, it really does.

The cake in all its caramel-fudgy glory
The cake in all its caramel-fudgy glory



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