Delightfully Very Banana-y Cake

I’m up to my eyeballs in a freelance editing project that concerns a collection of menus from about two dozen restaurants here in Seattle. Of the many recipes I’d like to try on my own time, I dog-eared the page for Banana Cake with Savory Coconut Sauce, the signature dessert at Monsoon, a groovy, upscale-ish Vietnamese restaurant.

(Kim O'Donnel)

The words “cake” and “squishy” usually don’t go together in the same sentence, but I suppose what I mean is that “cake” is a loose interpretation of this heavenly sweet ending, which is more like custard or bread pudding. It’s all banana, front and center, with just enough flour (1/2 cup) to allow for some structure. Hmm. Maybe it’s a Vietnamese clafouti?

Whatever you decide to call it, do give this one a whirl next time you’ve got a few bananas on the verge of no return. Its unique spin on an ol' classic will undoutedly turn heads, and it’s ridiculously easy to put together. And if you hate shredded coconut, please do try the suggested coconut sauce, which calls for half a can of coconut milk warmed up and thickened with a little cornstarch. There’s something about this combo that takes you to a little place with a hammock, where the air is sweet.

Banana Cake with Savory Coconut Sauce
Adapted from Monsoon Restaurant, Seattle, Wash.

1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 overripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Fresh mint or sliced peaches, as a garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 9-inch round or square cake pan. (KOD: I lined pan with parchment paper with an overhang to help remove cake.)

Cream sugar and butter with a hand-held electric beater or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add mashed bananas, eggs and orange juice and mix until evenly blended.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until set and lightly crisp around the edges. Check after 50 minutes; if a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, it is done. If not, return to the oven and check again every 3-4 minutes.

Cool slightly on a wire rack and serve warm. If made ahead of time, you can reheat the cake in the microwave or in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Pour coconut sauce over the top of each piece of cake, or in small bowls for individual saucing.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Savory Coconut Sauce

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (superfine sugar would be great here)
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Heat coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Don’t overcook, or it will turn into oil. Heat quickly, add sugar and salt, stirring to dissolve. Add cornstarch slurry to the mixture, bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
The sauce will thicken from the cornstarch, not from reduction. Can be made several days in advance and will keep for at least one week if refrigerated.

Makes 1 cup.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Baking
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Question -- if I want to make this non-dairy, would using margarine instead of butter work?

Posted by: Larry19 | May 1, 2009 9:37 AM

This looks AMAZING - can't wait to try it out.

Posted by: Lizka | May 1, 2009 10:00 AM

Hi, Larry. Most margarines contain dairy. If you really need to avoid all dairy, you can try kosher non-dairy margarine, or a vegan alternative. The amount isn't so large, so a substitute should work well.

Posted by: Judy10 | May 1, 2009 10:02 AM

Larry19, Earth Balance is a non-dairy shortening that works well in most cake and cookie batters. I agree with Judy, it's a fairly small amount and think it would be fine to substitute.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 1, 2009 10:29 AM

I *love* Monsoon's banana cake. They serve it slightly warm with the sauce, and it's a lovely end to the great meal.

(wanted to post that to verify Kim's take on the cake).

Monsoon also has a lovely French/Dim Sum inspired brunch that's unique (and, I think, you can get the banana cake then, too).

Posted by: purpleaster | May 1, 2009 11:54 AM

This is a great alternative to making banana bread every time we're stuck with overripe bananas.

Posted by: mediajunky | May 1, 2009 12:01 PM

Purpleaster, I've not done Monsoon's brunch, but it's on the to-do list! Cheers.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 1, 2009 12:09 PM

Mediajunky, it's a very elegant, special-feeling dessert without too much fuss. I think you'll enjoy!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 1, 2009 12:10 PM

It would be great if you could have a PRINT button for the recipes, so you could print without all the ads.

Posted by: dmmkdoyle | May 1, 2009 1:16 PM


Just take your cursor and highlight whatever portion of the post you want, hit ctrl and c keys together (or Edit/copy), then open up Word (or other word processing program), and paste it (ctrl and v keys or Edit/Paste). Voila! You now have the recipe without the ads and can file your recipe for easy retrieval. When you are highlighting text, sometimes the cursor catches an ad, and in these cases, you might have to highlight/copy/paste portions a couple of times to get all the text you want.

Posted by: fltolson | May 4, 2009 8:50 AM

I wonder if it would work to substitute a non-gluten flour (but what?) to make the cake gluten-free, since there's so little flour in it. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Bburg2 | May 4, 2009 9:40 PM

Bburg2, I thought about that, too. Perhaps quinoa flour? Don't use rice flour -- will be too gritty. I'll keep thinking.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 4, 2009 10:05 PM

Bburg2, I haven't tried it for this recipe, but gluten-free folks who do a lot of baking use Pamela's Baking and Pancake mix as a one-for-one substitution for flour - so long as you can eat dairy and nuts, as the mix does contain cultured buttermilk and almond meal.

Posted by: holdenfoodie | May 7, 2009 12:23 PM

Bburg2, Jules Shepard, the Maryland gluten-free baker I've profiled in the past recently wrote to tell me that she substituted her all-purpose GF flour (available here: and reports that it worked like a champ. Hope this helps.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | June 2, 2009 3:30 PM

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