Roasted Banana Bars with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Howdy, how was your weekend? This was the first one in a while that we’ve had completely free, and it was so productive! We make a to-do list every weekend but usually Sunday night arrives and we’ve barely made a dent in it. Not this time – just about everything was checked off by the time we went to bed last night. Love that feeling, it makes Monday morning just a tiny bit easier to accept…

Roasted Banana Bars with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Has school started back up where you are? The kids here don’t usually go back until after Labor Day, so just a few more weeks – I can’t believe it. Recently I made these Roasted Banana Bars with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, and I’m loving them as a fun back-to-school snack idea! I know it’s definitely the kind of treat I’d have been happy to find packed in my lunch. That said, they’d be equally great as an after-school snack too.

Roasted Banana Bars with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Despite being called bars, this is more like a banana snack cake. But not just any banana snack cake – the best one ever! Seriously. Two things make it so amazing. First, the bananas are roasted with brown sugar and butter before being incorporated into the recipe. This one extra step gives the bars this deep, rich banana flavor that’s oh so good. Totally worth a few extra minutes. Also, the bars are topped with a brown butter cream cheese frosting – enough said, right? I love that you can see the specks of brown butter in the frosting. It’s nutty from the brown butter, tangy from the cream cheese and, of course, sweet from the sugar and vanilla: four simple ingredients that pack a ton of flavor! So much goodness in one treat, these are definitely a keeper.

Roasted Banana Bars with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Cooking Light, January 2009

{Note: the frosting layer here is fairly thin – double the frosting recipe (or at least make 1 1/2 times as much) if you really love frosting.}

Roasted Bananas
2 cups sliced ripe banana (about 3 medium bananas)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces

Bars
9 oz (about 2 1/4 cups) cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Frosting
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup (3 oz) cream cheese (reduced fat is fine), at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
whole pecans, to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a medium baking dish (I used a pie plate, but whatever you have will work), combine the bananas, brown sugar, and butter. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the sugars have caramelized and the bananas are fragrant. Keep a close eye on the bananas as they roast – you don’t want the sugars to burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on opposite sides to lift the bars out after baking. Spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a measuring cup whisk together the roasted bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla extract (the mixture will be thick and paste-like with some banana pieces still visible). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined. Alternately add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the banana mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bars come out clean. Remove the pan to a wire rack and allow the bars to cool completely in the pan.

To make the frosting: Add the butter to a small skillet set over medium heat and let it start melting. Continue cooking, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter becomes golden brown and smells nutty (be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burnt quickly). Transfer the butter to a medium heatproof bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.

When the butter is cool, add the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla to the bowl with it. Use a hand mixer to beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Spread the frosting in an even layer over the cooled bars. Cut into squares; garnish each bar with a whole pecan, if desired.