When my husband's Nana died, the grandchildren spoke at her funeral. More than one grandchild reminisced about her cooking. One mentioned her lemon poppy seed cake, another pink lemonade served by the pool, still others fondly recalled her beer bread, baked beans, seven layer lettuce salad, and trifle. But I think she was most famous for her banana bread, at least to me.
Now, I know that there are hundreds of recipes for this classic quick bread. And most of them are good, aside from the recipes that try too hard to be healthy, using whole wheat flour, apple sauce and honey. Let's be honest. Real ingredients like white flour, oil, and white sugar make for a sweet, moist loaf. I like the recipes that call for a bit of sour cream in there too. The sour cream idea comes from my friend Shannon, who shared her recipe in a church cookbook. She called it "The Best Banana Bread Ever." And she's not kidding. It really is the tastiest, most velvety, and moist bread I've ever made, hands down. But it's missing one thing. And this is where Nana comes in.
Nana's banana bread recipe looks pretty standard until you come to the final instruction: Frost with vanilla frosting. When my Aunt-in-law shared this recipe with the family, I thought, "Brilliant! What could be better than creamy sweetness on top of dense, bready sweetness?" I've been known to lick the frosting off a cookie or a piece of cake, and the middle of an Oreo always tasted better to me than the actual chocolate wafer. In my world, baked goods are merely pedestals for the real star--the frosting. Ah yes, I can attribute many a cavity to my affinity for frosting. I also have an intricate pattern of stretch marks that spell out "Sugar Mama" on my thighs and derriere. It stands to reason that though I grew up with naked banana bread, the first time I tried a frosted loaf I was hooked. And so is everyone else who tries it.
Nana's Banana Bread
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts (I don't like nuts in my baked treats, so this is optional)
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla
Sift dry ingredients (you can use a whisk if you don't have a sifter). Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs. Add nuts to the sifted dry ingredients. Mix dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Add bananas and vanilla. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes @ 325. Let it cool in the pan, then turn the loaf out on a cooling rack. Then, FROST WITH VANILLA FROSTING.
DON'T EVEN THINK OF USING STORE BOUGHT FROSTING ON THIS BREAD. Store-bought frosting is full of artificial ingredients that taste funky. Make your own frosting with real butter. It will taste much better than the fake stuff. And if you already went to the trouble to make the banana bread from scratch, you need to finish the job with your own frosting.
The frosting should be a little runny, kind of between a cookie frosting and a glaze. You're supposed to pour it on top and let it run down the sides of the loaf.