Banana Cake at its finest, enhanced with orange zest and a generous spread of cream cheese frosting. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

I apologize if you felt cheated because there was no dessert recipe in the column last week. There just wasn’t room for it, so I’ll make it up to you now by putting dessert first.

If you’re like most of us, you usually have bananas on hand in all stages of ripeness. When the bananas get almost too over-the-hill, I tend to peel them, throw them in the designated plastic container and tuck them into the freezer for future use in a smoothie.

Last week I did not do that.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

Instead, I whipped up this easy, luscious banana cake complete with fluffy cream cheese frosting. I shared it with my neighbor and my son but also ate a good portion of it myself. Fresh from the oven, with its lacing of orange tang, it was quite wonderful.

Add walnuts if you like, although I did not. You can also add a bit of orange juice and/or zest to the frosting but it doesn’t really need it. Slightly defrosted frozen bananas can be used in case you have such specimens in the back of the deep freeze.

Now, you could simply dust it with powdered sugar or make a streusel topping and serve it for brunch, although in my opinion it would be a pity to forego the billowy, rich cream cheese topper.


There you go: a delightful, old-fashioned cake just like grandmama used to make – only better with the addition of sour cream and sparkly glint of orange. And frosting.

Old-time Mainers may not take kindly to my rendition of Shepherd’s Pie, but I hope everyone will try it. The addition of tarragon and thyme elevates the dish, as does the addition of garlic and cheese. That extra butter on top doesn’t hurt, either.

Enhanced Banana Cake

3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan.

Mix bananas, sugar and brown sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at low speed until combined. With the mixer still on low, add oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla and orange zest. Mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Yield: 8 servings


Cream Cheese Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons milk or cream

Mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined. Add sugar and mix until smooth. Whip in milk/cream if needed.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon tarragon
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch black pepper
1 1/2 pounds 85% lean/15 % fat ground turkey
3 cups frozen corn

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in seasonings. Add ground turkey, breaking it up with a spatula and cooking through, about 10 minutes. (I don’t drain off all the liquid, but you can if you want to.) Add corn and cook until heated. Spoon into baking dish.

Potato Topping


6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, grated (optional)

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and place potatoes in a large bowl.

Heat milk, 3 tablespoons butter and garlic in a pan over medium heat and simmer gently for 5-8 minutes until heated through and fragrant from the garlic. Remove garlic and pour milk over potatoes. Use a potato masher to bring the potatoes to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spread mashed potatoes over turkey mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until potatoes are beginning to brown. Dice remaining butter and add with cheese to the top. Return to oven until cheese melts. Yield: 6 servings

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