Grandma Doran’s Banana Cake

My grandma, Cecil Doran, was an excellent cook and great at using up bits of this and that. I remember watching her make biscuits, pancakes, sugar cookies, and other favorites without recipes- just dumping and pouring. When she did give a recipe, it was often “a handful of” or a “blue cup of” the ingredients. I loved watching my grandma cook. In fact, I just loved my grandma. She was the kind of person that you loved being close to, with a knack for making  each one feel as if she was her favorite! Even though she has been with the Lord for almost 20 years now, I still enjoy making the few recipes of hers I do have.

I think Grandma came up with this banana cake recipe herself since the ingredients are written in unusual amounts. This is a nice, dense, moist cake. Since I’ve lived in China a while now, I decrease the sugar a bit, but it’s wonderful as written. I served it for dinner this evening when some adoption friends came by and it seemed to make a hit. I hope you enjoy it.


1 ¾ cup all purpose flour

½ Tablespoon salt

½ Tablespoon baking powder

½ Tablespoon baking soda

½ cup shortening

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

¼ cup buttermilk (or ¼ cup milk with 1 teaspoon cider vinegar)

1 cup mashed ripe bananas

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together and beat well until the batter is smooth and creamy. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Ermine Icing

This icing used to be called boiled milk icing. I don’t know that my grandma ever made it, but we think it’s the perfect compliment to banana cake. Ermine icing is thus called because it has a soft smooth consistency. It is smoother than buttercream and not as sweet.  I think this unusual recipe might surprise you. In my recipe box, it is called “Red Velvet Cake Icing” because it’s what a “real” red velvet cake should be iced with. It makes a good cake a GREAT cake, in my opinion.


1 cup whole milk

3 Tablespoons flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Whisk together the milk with the flour and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat stirring continually until the roux is thickened. Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap, and cool completely.

When the roux has cooled, beat the butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Then gradually add in the roux mixture, beating until very light with all sugar dissolved.

Ice the cake then try not to eat it all at once. This is very hard to resist, actually. We once had a guy eat seven pieces of it after a Sunday night dinner!

Keep refrigerated as this icing breaks down easily and quickly. It is NOT a good icing to take on a picnic!