Real Sweet: Banana Layer Cake with Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting

Well, I had all week to prepare for Clara’s birthday – only I don’t mean party prep. I’m referring to the allotted time required for me to accept that she is another whole year older. Already three.

Today she climbed on a stool with my old Canon Rebel around her neck and declared she wanted to take pictures of her salad. Later she perched on my lap and helped me make the selections for my organic seed order. She “works” on her toy computer and is an utter wiz in the kitchen already. Chip off the old block? It’s looking that way.

She’s incredibly decisive; knows precisely what she likes and does not like, and declared today’s recipe “The best cake I ever ate.” Oh Clara, you’re ever the charmer.

Coconut Sugar Banana Layer Cake with Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting

Clara had an apple cake for her first birthday, a raspberry cake for her second, and we kept with the tradition of fruit for her third birthday: a splendid Coconut Sugar Banana Layer Cake with Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting. This marvellous creation is straight out of a beautiful all-new baking book written by cake and confection queen Shauna Sever.

Real Sweet: More Than 80 Crave-Worthy Treats Made with Natural Sugars is Shauna’s love letter to all-natural and organic sweeteners. It’s full of creative recipes we can’t wait to try like Ice Muscovado Caramel-Nut Blondies, Strawberry and Lemon Cream Puffs and Blueberry Maple Oatmeal Muffins.

The cookbook features many of our favourite sweeteners such as honey, turbinado and maple syrup (duh!) and introduced a few of new-to-me ingredients like the coconut sugar in this cake. It was no easy task to narrow down a cake choice for Clara’s birthday from Real Sweet, but in the end I was curious about the coconut sugar.

Coconut Sugar Banana Layer Cake with Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting

Real Sweet author Shauna says that because it’s not derived from sugarcane, the “brown” flavour of coconut sugar doesn’t come from molasses, and so it tastes quite different from other brown sugars. It’s a decidedly exotic, toasty flavour that pairs wonderfully with other tropical flavours, especially bananas, as this cake demonstrates.

Clara’s cake was delicious on the second day, and perhaps even more so on the third. Similar to banana bread, I think its flavour deepens as it sits, and thanks to all that fruit, it stays moist, too. The banana/caramel duo is absolutely killer, especially when paired with a cup of coffee (always!).

Shauna’s original recipe is a snack (sheet) cake – my real preference when it comes to cakes. It’s going to be a recipe that stays in our family repertoire for a long, long time. Coconut sugar? A new pantry staple.

Coconut Sugar Banana Layer Cake with Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting

I’m delighted to be able to share the recipe with you, complements of Shauna and her team at HarperCollins. Read on for both cake and frosting recipes. And if you love to bake treats with your children as I do, but prefer to use alternatives to white sugar, Real Sweet is well worth checking out. Psst! Shauna is giving away a few copies plus a basket of her favourite natural sweeteners on her blog (USA residents only).

Happy Baking!

Coconut Sugar Banana Sheet Cake

From REAL SWEET by Shauna Sever. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins Publishers.
4.6 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12 slices from a 8-inch layer cake
Calories: 377kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour spooned and leveled
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/3 cups mashed bananas (from about 3 very ripe medium ones)
  • 2/3 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil canola oil
  • 1 cup coconut sugar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 batch Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting recipe below


  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray two 8-inch round pans with nonstick spray or butter them generously.
  • Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the bananas, yogurt, and oil until smooth.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and butter on medium-low speed until the mixture looks like dampened sand, about 1 minute.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, giving the first about 30 seconds to incorporate before adding the second. Increase the speed to medium-high, beating until light in texture and much paler in color, 4 to 5 minutes (don’t skimp on the beating time, here—the significant change in color will be your cue that the sugar has begun to dissolve). Beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low. Stir in the dry ingredients and banana-yogurt mixture in five alternating additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, letting each addition fully absorb into the batter before adding the next. Finish folding the batter gently by hand to ensure it is well blended.
  • Divide the batter into two prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack. To cool completely.
  • Place one cake on a stand or platter. Cover only the top with half of the frosting and smooth it flat. Place the second cake onto the first and spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake. Serve at once or wrap loosely in plastic and chill for up to two days. Serve at room temperature for rmaximum flavour.


One of the tricks of using coconut sugar successfully in baking is to find a recipe that has plenty of tenderizing, moisture-lending ingredients in it—such as mashed bananas or other fruit purees, oils, and buttermilk or yogurt—as coconut sugar tends to dry out baked goods.


Calories: 377kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 260mg | Potassium: 197mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 515IU | Vitamin C: 2.3mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 1.2mg

Clara turns 3 with cake

Coconut Sugar Caramel Frosting

From REAL SWEET by Shauna Sever. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins Publishers
4.6 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 1 8-inch layer cake
Calories: 1682kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into tablespoons and softened
  • 3 Tablespoons brown rice syrup (see note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  • In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, melt together 4 tablespoons of the butter, the brown rice syrup, and salt. Add the coconut sugar and stir with a heatproof spatula. Bring to a gentle boil and clip a candy thermometer onto the pan. Cook to 248˚F, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the cream and vanilla extract. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Whisk the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter into the caramel, a tablespoon at a time, letting each knob of butter absorb into the caramel before adding the next. Don’t rush this step—you’re not only setting yourself up for a nice emulsified frosting, you’re also slowly cooling the caramel, both of which will make for a smooth, creamy final product.
  • Scrape the caramel into a mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Chill until the caramel is cool to the touch all the way through, about 20 minutes. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a handheld mixer on medium speed, whip the caramel into a lush, creamy frosting until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (If it still looks like caramel sauce after 1 minute of beating, chill further before whipping again.) Use immediately, or store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, bringing it back to room temperature before giving it a quick rewhipping.


Although the liquid sweetener here obviously adds sweetness, its main functions are to keep the caramel flexible and add a beautiful gloss to the whipped frosting. Shauna like to use something very neutral in flavor, such as brown rice syrup, to allow the coconut sugar flavor to really shine, but you could also use light agave, mild honey, or even coconut nectar, if you have it, which will give a much deeper color to the frosting and make it a bit sweeter as well.


Calories: 1682kcal | Carbohydrates: 153g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 124g | Saturated Fat: 78g | Cholesterol: 352mg | Sodium: 898mg | Potassium: 44mg | Sugar: 116g | Vitamin A: 4025IU | Calcium: 111mg


About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

Subscribe For Free!

Like reading this post?
Get more delivered to your email inbox.


  1. Love the simplicity of “naked” cakes, and your tip for using coconut sugar with already-moist recipes. I really wasn’t that thrilled with it as a coffee sweetener or oatmeal stir-in, but maybe a recipe like this one would be a better bet.

    Oh, and Happy, Happy Birthday to your precious little spittin’ image! 🙂

  2. I’ve been curious to try coconut sugar and expand my knowledge of natural sugars, this recipe looks like a great place to start!

    Clara’s a sweetheart, three is such a fun age.

  3. Such a beautiful looking cake — and Cara is getting so big!! I love that last picture of her 🙂

  4. I have a package of coconut sugar sitting in my cupboard because I’ve been meaning to try it but I wasn’t sure where to begin. I love the idea of exploring new sugar sources and varying sweeteners. Just like with different grains, there’s so much flavour & character from each source! It’s really exciting 🙂

    Happy Birthday, Clara!

    • Jacquelyn Wilson Grattan says

      Measurement missing! How much of the 2% Greek yogurt is used?! (As a writer/editor, this emptiness jumped out at me!)

      I recently discovered your blog (I’m not sure how exactly!) and really enjoy its Canadian point of view. Sending a copy of your new cookbook as a birthday present to my recently married niece in Seattle, Washington – a big city gal who now keeps chickens! Keep up the good work, Aimee! – Jacquelyn in Vancouver, British Columbia

      • Hi Jacquelyn, Thanks. It wasn’t missing, merely had jumped to the next line.. Some sort of glitch when I published, but the formatting is fixed now.

        Welcome to my little space! Thanks for the support. Your niece sounds cool. 😉

    • Janice, yep, lots to learn and discover with natural sweeteners. This cake was a good place to start. 🙂

  5. The cake sounds delicious and like one to try. I am torn, however, on using coconut sugar. I’ve been reading that the harvest damages the trees and prevents them from having a coconut harvest…have you done any research on that aspect of it?

  6. I have a love affair with coconut sugar every day in my oatmeal with sliced bananas. Yum! Especially like that it is sold in bulk. I haven’t tried it much in baking so thanks forthe tips!

  7. This looks like the perfect cake for sweet Clara. I hope she had a wonderful birthday. I can’t believe our girls are three now!

  8. 5 stars
    How sweet! The cake and your adorable little girl. Happy Birthday to her 🙂

  9. Happy birthday to Clara! I can’t believe she is three either. It seems like so little time has passed since you were announcing her birth and sharing her sweet pictures. She is adorable for sure, and I love how she emulates you with taking pictures of her food and cooking alongside you.

    I am excited to check out this cookbook. I try to limit our refined sugar intake and prefer to use natural sweeteners. It’s amazing how once you cut out sugar, how much less you find you need to be able to call something a “sweet treat”. Desserts and candy made conventionally seem to be way too overpowering to the point where all you can taste is the sugar!

    Beautiful pictures, as always, too. 🙂

  10. May I ask where you order your seeds from? BTW love love your cookbook!

  11. Nirinjan Khalsa says

    4 stars
    I made this today but used regular unprocessed sugar because that’s what I had. It was more sweet than I wanted (I probably should have adjusted the sugar amount down) but my kids and my friend’s kids who came over for a visit loved it! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Please pass me the milk now so I can devour this beautiful banana cake! Love the addition of coconut sugar!

  13. If I cook it as a sheet cake Instead of layer cake how long should I cook it

  14. Connor Stanley says

    Can you cook this in a 9×13 pan

    How long

  15. Cindy Bailey says

    5 stars
    This recipe is absolutely delicious ❤️ I made it for my granddaughters first birthday! Would love to share my picture!

Speak Your Mind

Recipe Rating