Sunday, April 25, 2010

Woolworth's Banana Roll (Cake) Recipe

I was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home Mom when my children were in school. Early in 1977, a neighbour taught me how to decorate cakes, not just birthday but the more advanced techniques of working with Royal Icing and air brushing colours on to a cake. Word got around the neighbourhood that I baked and decorated cakes..soon I had a thriving cottage industry. Over the years from 1977 to 1989, I baked and decorated a lot of cakes. Some were done for schools, gradutions, our local library on the opening of a new branch, weddings and birthdays, however, two that I recall were for people turning 100 and 101 years old. I still have my book of various pictures that I took when a cake was finished.

And two of my favourites, the "you're how old" was done for my sister's 40th birthday and the tiger was done using airbrush techniques.

Lifting heavy wedding cakes put a strain on my shoulder resulting in a "frozen shoulder" and in 1988, I stopped doing cakes. Went back to college at the age of 49, took a legal secretarial course and upon graduation, re-entered the work-force. Commuting to Toronto from Oshawa daily did not leave me very much time to do any baking, even birthday cakes for my kids. So I compromised.

Years before I began to bake cakes, my husband would periodically pick up a banana roll from the Woolworths store in downtown Oshawa. We just loved them, so delicious and not expensive, something like $3.50 for a banana roll that would serve 6 people. Although I had often been complimented on the taste of my cakes (I still am even today whenever I run into one of my former customers)I could never duplicate the taste of Woolworths banana roll nor the taste of the was so delicious. So whenver birthdays rolled around, I would order two banana rolls for that occasion.

During the past couple of years, at birthdays, my younger daughter often commented, "Mom, how I wish you knew how to make a Woolworths Banana Roll", said she with a mouthful of a special order birthday cake from our supermarket. Find me the recipe, said I, and I will make it up. What a wonderful tool Google is..two weeks ago she sent me the recipe she had found on a website, seems my family is not the only family who misses these delicious cakes. And so I made up a banana roll, following the recipe from the website. The cake tasted like the banana roll from Woolworths but alas the whipped cream frosting did not. Then I remembered, walking into Woolworths store to pick up the banana roll, it was ready for me and waiting in their display case, however, the case was not refrigerated...Woolworths did not use WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING on their Banana Rolls. I knew that it had to be a different recipe and thinking back to when I was baking and icing cakes, I remembered a recipe for a "Pretend Whipped Cream Frosting" that didn't use whipping cream at all. Mary Lisko,aka the happy cooker, had this recipe in her cookbook.

So I baked another banana roll, did up the frosting and yes, this is the famous Woolworths Banana Roll, except..the consistency of the frosting was not quite the same. It needed to be a bit stiffer. I solved this by adding a packet of "Whip-It" to stabilize it (I used to use "Nutriwhip" when I was decorating but I couldn't find it) to the frosting recipe.

Here are the recipes:

1 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 large) mashed ripe banana
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature

Line a 12 X 15 1/2 inch by 1/2 thickness cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang. Grease the pan first. Grease the parchment paper. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mash banana and add sour cream. The recipe calls for lemon zest..I do not use it. Cream the butter until it is smooth and lighter in color. Add the sugar and scrape the mixture clinging to the sides into the center of the bowl. Continue to cream until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until the mixture is quite fluffy. Add half of the flour mixture until blended. Then add the banana mixture, blending well. Add the remaining flour mixture, blending until smooth. Pour batter into pan, using a spatula to spread it into the corners. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until golden brown. It may take longer, depending on your oven.

Remove from oven and while still warm, invert on to a tea towel that has been sprinkled with icing sugar. Beginning at the short side end, roll up in the tea

When cool, unroll the cake and fill with:

Pretend Whipped Cream Frosting:

4 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup white (granulated) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon butter flavouring
Ground walnuts
1 packet Whip-it (optional)

Mix flour and milk in a saucepan (do not use a microwave). Cook over low heat until thick, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Place into a bowl and put in fridg to cool. Cream butter and shortening together, beat for 4 must be 4 minutes. Add sugar gradually. Add the flour paste, mixing well, then the packet of Whip-it and continue beating. Add vanilla and butter flavouring and mix well until well blended.

Using a spatula, cover the unrolled banana cake with the frosting. Then roll up beginning at the short end. Slice the ends of the roll to make it even and spread the frosting on top. Sprinkle the top with ground walnuts..and you have the Woolworths Banana Roll. Enjoy.


Deb L├ęger said...


Remember those banana rolls that the old A&P in-store bakeries used to sell? (We don't have any A&P stores left around my area of Ontario anymore.) Well, my husband often wishes (aloud) of how much he'd love one of those banana rolls again that they sold. No one in town here sells banana rolls. Tomorrow is his birthday so I did some online searching for a banana roll cake and came across your blog! I've just finished icing it and HAD to sample the end pieces before going to bed. It's awesome! He is going to love it! So thank you for posting it. I'll let you know what his comments are tomorrow since he wasn't awake to taste-test those end pieces. ;)


ps- I guess there'll be a downside to this and it'll be that I'll be making a LOT of these banana rolls over the coming years. lol.

Raine said...

Hi Deb,

Glad you found the recipe. It takes a bit of time but well worth it. My family enjoys it. I have a birthday coming up next month so I know what I will be baking.


Aeslyn said...

Oh my i thought no one else would remember the woolworths banana roll cake...My Mom always bought them in the 70's for me and my sis....Now my own children have heard stories about it and i cannot wait to make it for them to understand how special and amazing this cake is...Not just the cake but the happy memories it brings...thanks so much...and you are right the icing was the best part!!!

Raine said...

Hi Aesylin,

I hope the cake worked out ok for you.