Banana Zucchini Pudding Cake With Vanilla Browned Butter Glaze
The cake turned out to be falling-apart-soft, tender, and moist. I cannot stand dry cake and between the stick of melted butter, the soft bananas, the high moisture content in zucchini, and the six ounces of Greek yogurt added to the batter, this little cake was as moist as they come.
And it is just a little cake, baked in 9-by-9 inch pan. Although having too much cake laying around isn’t the worst problem in the world, I prefer smaller cakes since they’re eaten and finished up while still at their freshness peak. Plus, variety is the spice of life and with large cakes, I’m ready for a change long before the cake is anywhere near finished, so I try to bake smaller cakes whenever possible.
I added one packet of dry instant vanilla pudding mix to the batter to turn this cake into a pudding cake. I just love the pudding cakes that are sold in grocery store bakeries and figured I could make my own and this cake turned out to be a close approximation, full of creamy and sweet vanilla pudding notes.
When it comes to banana cake, I prefer denser as opposed to light and airy, and bewteen the mashed bananas, the Greek yogurt, and the pudding, this golden nugget is definitely dense. I wouldn’t call it a lead balloon, but it’s not a fluffy angel food, that’s for sure. It’s a pudding cake.
I could have made it lighter by adding baking powder, but purposely did not because I wanted the crumb to remain more compact and wet, as opposed to drier and lighter. I find that as much as baking powder leavens, it also dries out whatever it’s added to and I don’t prefer that result. Instead, I added just enough baking soda to get the job done, omitted baking powder entirely, and my strategy paid off because I got what I wanted in the form of a melt-in-your-mouth, rich, pudding cake.
The flavor of the cake is definitely one of banana, rather than zucchini. Zucchini is so flavor-neutral, otherwise known as bland, and is masked or takes a backseat to whatever other ingredients and flavors are present. On the opposite end of the scale, bananas tend to dominate the flavor profile whenever they’re present, and they dominated this cake.
Likely due to the stick of melted butter in the batter, as I was shoveling forkfuls of this cake into my mouth, I couldn’t help but think it tasted like a banana-butter cake or a banana-based rendition of a yellow cake-mix cake, with the familiar sponginess and springiness that yellow cake-mix cakes have. In that sense, it reminds me of the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake with Chocolate Ganache, which I think of as a pumpkin version of a yellow cake-mix cake, full of moisture and golden butteriness.
I added just one-half cup of mini chocolate chips to the cake batter and I used mini chips because they sink less easily to the bottom of the cake than regular sized-chocolate chips do, but regular-sized chocolate chips will work just fine. I didn’t want to overwhelm the cake with chocolate so kept it at a modest half cup of chocolate chips. I wanted it pudding-laden, buttery, and banana-ey more so than chocolaty. There’s just a enough to chocolate to complement the bananas.
Sticking with a butter theme, I glazed the cake with a browned butter glaze that complemented the sweet bananas and pudding beautifully. If you’ve never had or cooked with browned butter, you need to board this butter train. Browned butter adds a depth of flavor, nuttiness, boldness, and an intensity and richness to everything it touches. It brings out everything that’s good and right with butter to begin with. You can do it on the stovetop but I brown butter in the microwave and it’s a piece of cake. Pun intended.
If there’s one way to make fruits and vegetables taste decadent, a browned butter glaze on top of a slice of this cake is how. Just think about all the servings of fruit and vegetables you’ll be working into your diet by way of cake.
For the Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (one stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
6 ounces vanilla or plain Greek yogurt (one standard-sized small container, about 3/4 cup; sour cream may be substituted; I use Chobani Vanilla Chocolate Chunk)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 to 1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 large or 2 small bananas)
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (1 small zucchini)
one 3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix (not Cook ‘n Serve; banana-flavored pudding may be used to boost the banana intensity)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (regular-sized chips may be substituted), optional
For the Vanilla Browned Butter Glaze
1/4 cup unsalted butter (half of one stick)
1 cup+ confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons+ cream or milk, optional and to taste
For the Cake – Preheat oven to 350F, line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray or grease and flour the pan; set aside. In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute. To the melted butter, add the sugars, egg, yogurt, vanilla, and whisk to combine. Add the bananas, zucchini, and stir to incorporate.
Add the dry pudding mix and stir to incorporate (You are not making pudding; simply add the mix as a dry ingredient). Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over-mix or cake will be tougher as the gluten will over-develop. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 38 minutes, or until top is set and golden, the center is not jiggly, and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will likely not come out completely clean because this is a dense cake and both the gooey bananas and melted chocolate chips may prevent a clean toothpick test. Note – Depending on how moist your zucchini is and the moisture content in your bananas, you may need to bake your cake for a longer duration than I did. Bake until your cake is done and cooked through, given your climate and your set of ingredients. Watch your cake, not the clock, when determining how long to bake it; bake until done. This is a very soft and moist cake, and is not like traditional ‘bakery cakes’ or a typical birthday cake. It is a very soft cake, more like a soft banana bread and it will never become a light, airy, bakery-cake kind of cake, no matter how long you bake it.
Allow cake to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. While cake cools, make the glaze.
For the Vanilla Browned Butter Glaze – Brown the butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop, heating over medium heat. Swirl the pan or stir frequently for about 4 to 7 minutes, or until the sputtering, crackling, and foaming has subsided, the butter has browned and has a nutty aroma. Watch it closely so that it doesn’t go from browned and nutty to burnt and inedible.
Or, brown the butter in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl by heating it on high power, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sputtering, crackling, and foaming has subsided, the butter has browned, and has a nutty aroma as outlined here. The same rules apply in the microwave as on the stovetop; watch it closely and start checking it approximately every 15 seconds starting at about the 3-minute mark, so that it doesn’t go from browned and nutty to burnt and inedible.
Transfer hot butter to medium-sized mixing bowl and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and whisk to combine. Based on desired glaze consistency and taste preference, add the cream one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached, playing with sugar and cream ratios as necessary. (I only use butter, sugar, and vanilla in this glaze, no cream). Drizzle glaze over the top of cake before slicing and serving; or slice, serve, and glaze each piece individually. I use the glaze like butter and spread it liberally on the interior surface of a slice.
Unglazed cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or store glazed cake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Unglazed cake can be frozen for up to 3 months.