Despite my delight in banh mi and pho, I realized I actually don’t know a thing about Vietnamese desserts. Vietnamese coffee is of course not counted in this category! In any case, that was the beginning of my search for a Vietnamese dessert recipe to try, and I came across this rather simple version of a Vietnamese Banana Cake.
There are two versions of this Banh Chuoi or Banana Cake, but adding the word “Nuong” in the end indicates that it is the baked kind. The other has “Hap” in the end indicating that it is steamed. The steamed version has a different formula to its recipe involving starch. Today we’re focusing on the Banh Chuoi Nuong.
Reading through the ingredients and procedure list of the Vietnamese Banana Cake, one could tell immediately that it wasn’t going to be anything like the Western version. However, it seems I wasn’t going to actually get a clear picture of the texture of this cake until I made it. (It was kind of hard to tell with the photos available online!)
So even though I wasn’t entirely sure how much I was going to like it, I took a chance. It seemed like something I’ve never tried before, you see.
Spoiler alert: I was happily surprised by this Vietnamese Banana Cake!
Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you that this doesn’t have the same cakey crumb that you usually imagine when you think of banana cake. It’s more like a cross between a flan and a bread pudding, if that makes sense. It’s not like a jiggly flan; it’s more stiff but with a melt in the mouth texture. Depending on how large you slice your bananas, you even get bits of it in every bite.
Even though condensed milk was used in this cake, it doesn’t taste that sweet. In fact, the sweet sensation seems to come more from the bananas themselves more than the condensed milk. The flavor is quite pleasant and it smells really lovely. This is certainly a new and unique way to eat banana cake, at least for me.
This recipe is originally from Luke Nguyen’s Songs of Sapa. However instead of making it as is, I decided to halve the recipe since I figured the banana pieces in this cake would make it have a shorter shelf life. I was afraid we might not finish it before the bananas turn black! So instead of a 9-inch cake, I made a 6-inch one. The measurements used in the recipe box below are for a 6-inch cake. Double if you want a bigger one.
In a way, I kind of wish I made a bigger Vietnamese Banana Cake haha!
A note also on the bananas: The original recipe uses baby bananas, but since I didn’t have any on hand at the time, I used regular bananas. We have lots of baby bananas here in the Philippines too, so I’ll have to try that version next time. I reckon there would be a bit of a difference in taste depending on the banana used because each kind has a unique flavor. Just use your favorite!
Makes one 6-inch cake*
- 3 large or 6 finger bananas, fairly ripe but not overripe
- 30 grams granulate sugar
- 3 + ½ large eggs**
- 190 grams sweetened condensed milk
- 125 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 100 grams all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 1. Slice the bananas thinly (straight of diagonal works fine) but not too thin that it will break when you mix it. Place bananas in a medium bowl and mix gently with the sugar. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- 2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease a 6-inch pan and generously coat with flour.
- 3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Add condensed milk and butter and beat until well combined. Stir in the flour, vanilla, and salt until fully mixed. Gently fold in the sweetened bananas until well-distributed through the batter.
- 4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. You can tap the pan on the countertop to make sure there are no air bubbles inside. (I also like to set it on top of another baking sheet just in case it spills while I transport the pan to the oven. The 6-inch pan will be quite full but don’t worry, the cake doesn’t rise too much.)
- 5. Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.*** Place on a wire rack to cool before unmolding from the tin. This cake can be served warm or cold, depending on your taste, and with ice cream or Vietnamese coffee. Yum!
- * I halved the original recipe when I made this because I didn’t think we could finish a 9-inch cake quickly. Using sliced bananas in this cake gives it a shorter shelf life, so if you feel like you can finish a 9-inch cake within 3 days at the most, go ahead and double the recipe for a 9-inch cake.
- ** To measure out half an egg, beat 1 egg and use 2 Tablespoons for the recipe. The full recipe uses 7 eggs.
- *** The full recipe in a 9-inch pan takes at least 1 hour to bake.
Here’s the travel video to go alongside this delicious Vietnamese Banana Cake recipe. I have more pictures on my throwback blog post in case you want see more!