No matter what type of banana cake you’re making, only one thing is really essential: The bananas have to be really ripe, or you might as well use potatoes. Of course, many of us don’t get the urge to make a banana-flavored cake or bread until we have some over-ripe bananas hanging around. If you have to buy the bananas especially for a baking project, make sure to let them ripen at least until they are covered with spots—I even like them a little beyond that point for a really rich banana flavor. Another key to excellent banana flavor is to mash them well with a fork or potato masher—don’t puree them in a food processor or blender. The small pieces of banana left behind from hand mashing pack a lot of flavor.

Makes one 9 x 5 x 3-inch cake, about ten 3/4-inch thick slices

2 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 5 large, very ripe bananas--mash then measure)

One 9 x 5 x 3 -inch loaf pan, sprayed with vegetable cooking spray and the sprayed surface coated with fine, dry breadcrumbs

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites to break them up, then whisk in the sugar and the brown sugar.
  4. Whisk in the butter and vanilla, followed by the mashed bananas.
  5. Sift the flour mixture over the banana mixture and thoroughly fold it in.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  7. Bake the cake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.
  8. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then unmold it and cool completely on a rack.

Storage: Keep the cake wrapped in plastic at room temperature after it has cooled. For longer storage, double wrap and freeze for up to a month. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.