it takes two. [triple layer banana cake w. caramel, vanilla bean custard & buttercream frosting]

January 17th, 2012 by | comments

To celebrate my dad’s birthday over the weekend, my mom and I made him the family favorite dessert–triple layer banana cake with caramel, vanilla bean custard and buttercream frosting.

We’re only graced with this gourmet cake on special occasions–you’ll understand why when you scroll down and see the recipe. My mom has always made the dessert by herself (which can take up to 5 hours) but since I was home, I decided it was time I learned how to make the cake. Even though it still took a few hours to make with the two of us, the result was beyond worth it.

The recipe is from one of our favorite cookbooks: The Hali’imaile General Store Cookbook. We visited this restaurant during our first trip to Hawaii 12 years ago. The macadamia nut-crusted halibut with mango-lime butter sauce recipe I posted a while back also comes from the The Hali’imaile General Store Cookbook.

triple layer banana cake w. caramel, vanilla bean custard & buttercream frosting
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • Banana cake recipe:
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup caramel filling (recipe below)
  • 4 cups buttercream frosting (recipe below)
  • 4 bananas, diced
  • 1 cup pastry cream (recipe below)
  • Caramel filling recipe:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Buttercream frosting recipe:
  • 1 cup egg whites (about 8)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, in small pieces
  • Pastry cream recipe:
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • ½ cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
  • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 8 by 3-inch round cake pans.
  2. For the cake: In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well.
  3. In a bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add the sour cream and mix well. Add the flour mixture in 1½ cup batches to the butter mixture, alternating with the banana mixture, beginning with the flour mixture and ending with the banana mixture.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, turn cakes out of the pans onto wire racks, and allow to cool. You can refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours to make it easier to manipulate.
  5. For the caramel: In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture turns a light amber. Remove from the heat.
  6. Add the cream very, very slowly to the caramelized sugar mixing constantly with a long-handled whisk. Add the butter and mix until combined. Allow to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  7. For the frosting: Be sure to have a candy thermometer to prepare the buttercream. Put the egg whites in a clean bowl. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, start to beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on low speed. Beat until soft peaks form. When the sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees, remove from the heat.
  8. Pour the mixture slowly into the egg whites. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the mixture cools completely; it should be at room temperature. Slowly add the butter and mix well. The buttercream is now ready to use, or can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  9. For the pastry cream: Pour the milk into a saucepan over medium heat. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the milk, then add the pods. Meanwhile, in a stainless-steel or other heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks. Sift the cornstarch into the mixture.
  10. When the milk comes to a boil, remove from the heat and remove the vanilla bean. Slowly ladle half of the milk into the yolks while whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan with the remaining milk and, whisking constantly; bring to a rolling boil. Pour into bowl to cool. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
  11. For assembly: Place one cake layer on a serving plate/cake platter. On the first layer of cake, fan out enough banana slices to cover the cake. Cover with half of the remaining caramel filling and then with half of the pastry cream. Place another cake layer on top and cover with the remaining banana slices, caramel filling and pastry cream. Place the third layer on top and cover the whole cake with the buttercream. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Serve chilled.
Recipe from The Hali’imaile General Store Cookbook


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  • This is a beautiful cake Caroline. Love the caramel.

  • Girl, you got me drooling over my key boards! Omg, I love the triple layers and I agree with Greg, it’s beautiful! :)

  • egg me on

    Yowza Caroline! What a gorgeous TRIPLE layered cake. So very impressive. I bet your dad loved it. Also, I’ve been stumbling across a lot of banana recipes today … and now with this cake, the world is really pushing me to make something with bananas! :)

  • Oh my, oh my…this is a work of art, a masterpiece cake!! I can see now why you are such a great cook and baker as you have an amazing mother to learn from!! Fabulous, Caroline, truly fantastic, every layer, every bite!!

  • OMG! Tell you what – you can come over for dinner anytime if you bring this dessert. :) (Even if you don’t bring the dessert you’re always welcome too!) But wow!!!!! You know how I feel about banana bread goodness. And Mike and I just had a to-die for banana cake over the weekend. Now this…I’m making this. I don’t care how many hours it takes. MMMMmmmmmm!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Amy

    All I can say is This looks AMAZING! Totally worth putting in 5 hours for. I think I may have to make this for my dads bday too…he’d love it :)

  • Wow! This looks amazing! I will make this one day!!!! Awesome! :)

  • Stunning!! I can only imagine how wonderful this tastes!
    Mary x

  • WOW.. this banana cake looks simply divine.. and sinful :). I just love the frosting as well. Love this

  • I just love coming to your website, what a lovely cake, beautiful variety in the layers and that caramel sauce drizzled over makes it one I have to bookmark. I love banana bread… combine it with those flavors and it must be just over-the-top yummy!

  • You are a naughty Naughty girls showing us such a voluptuous piece of decadence! Your father must have been thrilled! c

  • I can see why you only make this on very special occasions; it’s not just extremely labour intensive, but it is very rich. That slice you have in your photos probably do 2-3 people, unless they were really really hungry and perhaps a lover of banana bread, pastry cream, butter cream and caramel! OK, I would have had a piece, but just a bite. Maybe! I’m holding my first giveaway and would love it if you would enter, it’s really easy:

  • Triple my happiness level after seeing this – love! Now send me my slice!

  • Happy Belated Birthday to your dad — and tell him I am so jealous of his cake ;)

  • Happy Birthday to your Dad, Caroline! He is one lucky man for being able to eat this masterpiece of a cake. Bookmarking! :-D

  • WOW. This is some kind of special birthday cake! Just look at the layers of yumminess in that puppy! ;) Your dad must have been delighted with your efforts and thoughtfulness. Happy, Happy Birthday to your Dad ~ :)

  • That is one stunning cake…..growing-up i enjoyed banana cake for birthdays too but, it was nothing like this one. Your mom’s recipe is one to be treasured. Hold onto it, pass it down. It’s a keeper.


  • There’s nothing about this recipe that sounds bad. It’s SO delicious looking!

  • OMG!

    —Caramel, vanilla bean custard and buttercream frosting.
    This looks like a pure SIN.
    Caroline, Your daddy must have drooled all day long :))) xx

  • Wow, what a spectacular cake!!! I’ve never had banana cake, can you believe it? I’m going to try this for the next birthday =)

  • Having this placed in front of you would certainly erase any sting that adding another year might cause. This is one fantastic-looking cake!

  • Wow, just look at that slice of perfection!

  • Looks incredible Caroline!

  • OMG – I am STARVING now – this looks divine *wipes drool off keyboard*

  • This cake leaves me speechless and drooling. I think this is the type of thing I would like to make with a friend, the labour intensive aspect would be more fun shared. And then we can eat it all! nom nom.

  • Oh Sweet Caroline, what hast thou wrought? Holy cow – this cake is just……. just, it looks amazing. I don’t know what else I can say. The dripping caramel, the delicious looking frosting, the light, fluffy banana cake layers… I want this cake :(

  • Oh. My. Gosh! This is definitely going to be my birthday cake request! But who can handle this doozy at my house? Not a one, but me I’m afraid. That is QUITE the fabulous cake. I think I need that cookbook. Or just keep posting your faves from there and I’ll be good. I love the way you plated the one slice, very pastry chef-y. Gorgeous. Yummy. Could go on forever!

  • Ooh la la Caroline – what an decadent cake! Happy Birthday to your dad! Wish it was my birthday, then I would have a decent excuse to make this truly awesome cake!
    :-) Mandy

  • SO, you attempt to kill us all with this extreme beauty and deliciousness, and still you have the temerity to confess the deed right here online where the Diet Authorities can plainly see it. Will your cruelty never end, O Brazen Kitchen Vixen? :D

  • Totally speechless! W-O-W!!! Your dad is super lucky getting this special cake on his birthday (happy b-day to your dad!). It must be a fun project working together with your mom too. I wish someone makes a cake like this for me…. Well done! Looks so delicious. Did he finish a big piece? =)

  • Wow, what a wonderful cake! Really decadent looking. I’d love a slice right now…



  • Wow, that looks heavenly!! Love all the layers and flavors. He must feel very special to get such a wonderful cake every year :)

  • Okay, Caroline, this is just wrong!!! (In all the right ways). You dad is one lucky, lucky guy!

  • I think I drooled a little while I was reading the title, then some more as I read the recipe and saw more pictures. :) Sounds and looks incredible!!

  • this cake has it ALL. what a wonderful triple-layer treat for your dad. beautifully done. I am crazy for caramel–it pushes it over the top!

  • I love baking with my mom! This looks delicious!

  • Even though I’m not into banana things I have to say that this looks fantastic!

  • Gorgeous! Also, I love your cake plate!

  • Wow! can I say that again? WOW!
    this is a masterpiece! the true definition of a treat!
    Happy birthday to your dad

  • WOW! this looks soooo good! custard + buttercream, ho boy!

  • This looks heavenly. I kind of wish I was your dad… LOL!

  • That is an outrageously naughty and tasty looking cake. Your poor father, the hell you put him through ;)

  • This looks outrageously delicious. Love the caramel drizzle over the top too. Gorgeous cake!

  • Oh my goodness does this look incredible! Happy birthday to your dad!

  • Caroline this looks divine! This is a great way to celebrate your dad’s birthday! I think i’ll request this for my birthday too.

  • Wow, I admire your strength for taking on this gigantic mission:)
    Looks like a work of art and I’m sure it was worth it to bake something so spectacular!!

  • Wow – that is a decadent cake! I love the caramel drizzle over the top. Totally a special occasion cake!

  • Oh. my. This looks incredible!

  • Yes, it looks better than Tiramisù… Sort of weird, I made a similar dessert last night myself. Wasn’t nearly as gorgeous, and mouth watering as that cake, by any-means, but, some of the same ingredients. I made a banana cream pie,with Edys Vanilla frozen yogurt, banana split, topped with my homemade caramel cream sauce, and whipped cream, and walnuts. But, now I want a slice of a REAL dessert…This looks as awesome as all of your dishes always do. Bless You

  • Awww, for your dad, I am sure the time and effort is very much worth it and well-appreciated;)
    It looks awesome too, by the way, and bursting with so much goodness, love and well-wishes that I am sure he enjoyed its every bite;)

  • Great title, cutie pie! I mean Caroline!
    Delicious dish as well. I’m referring to the food, of course!

  • This looks like MY kind of cake, looks awesome!

  • Speechless and drooling. I so know what I am requesting for my next birthday. I am kinda sad I will have to wait until next fall.

  • Happy birthday Caroline, what a gorgeous cake, I love it especially the combination of the banana with the caramel is my favorite…