My Grandmother’s Banana Cake

The food: Banana Cake


The story:

My maternal grandmother was French-Canadian, from Montreal. Her name was Alice, pronounced in the French manner, though like many French-Canadians of her generation, and my mother’s, she was bilingual.

Alice came to live with us in Toronto when I was 10, after my parents separated. While my mother went out to work as a French teacher, my grandmother kept the house, cooked the meals, and in good weather, sat in her rocking chair on the front porch, rocked, and smoked cigarettes. At night, she watched colour television in her room. She preferred to watch alone, without a restless child present who might talk or fidget during her “programs,” but she sometimes let me watch episodes of a show called The Name of the Game, that starred a glamourous Susan Saint James.

In the afternoons, when my mother and we three kids were away at school, Alice often baked simple one layer cakes or cookies, iced with a ‘glaçage’ made of icing sugar beaten together with butter and a little milk. I’d come home from school and see a cake in a glass pan set out on a counter under the kitchen window, and know that I couldn’t eat it until after dinner, though I always wanted a piece right away.

My mother recently unearthed my grandmother’s old banana cake recipe – written in French – and passed it on to me, wondered if I’d remember it. Of course I did. When I made it, it came out quite sweet and not very high. I guess my grandmother had a lighter hand than me. She spoke better French than I do too.

Banana Cake (Gateau Bananes)

1/2 c. butter
1 c. white sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 mashed bananas
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda (mixed in with the sour cream)
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix, pour in 8″ x 13″ baking pan. Cook 20 – 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Ice when cooled. Dress up with walnut halves and strawberries if you like, but Alice would never have done that.


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