monkey cake

I’m pretty serious about birthday cakes. When I think of someone being presented with some shortening spackled quarter sheet cake from a discount grocery chain on their birthday — a day they only get to celebrate once a year! Which is like forever if you’re a kid or perhaps the sort of grownup who didn’t get the memo that at the age of 34, birthdays are really not supposed to be a big deal anymore — it makes me sad. Not judgmental-sad, because lord knows I could barely eke out this cake on Saturday, and it’s supposed to be, like, my calling, but empathetic-sad because I totally blame lousy, intimidating recipes for making the two-layer + frosting task seem not worth it to go it at home. I hope to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get the fluffy, towering, butter-laden imperfectly frosted, slightly crooked homemade cake they deserve for making it through another year. Or, perhaps, one’s entire life to date, for the first birthday set.

bananas a-mashingbanana batterlevelling the cakesmaking a mini-monkey

pinning on the earsbuttercream pillow, coming right up!little monkey cakemonkey cakes, senior and junior

Of course, the joke is on me because who went without a homemade birthday cake this year? Yup, you’re looking at her. Who else? Yup, the husband. It turns out, babies keep you really busy. But we don’t bear grudges, in fact, I figured if I could only get my act together for one single birthday cake this year, it might as well be a cake for the monkey. I may or may not have started planning this in June. I may or may not have spent 45 minutes last week practicing doodling monkeys so I could get it right. I admit nothing.

monkey cake, served

This is not a difficult cake to make (a two-bowl cake and a one-bowl frosting), but there are logistics to consider. First, who is going to watch the baby once you realize that one year-olds have kitchen enthusiasm, but terrible knife skills? It helps to have a sunny day, a self-sufficient dad and a park nearby with lots of leaves for the baby to eat investigate. Next, it helps to have old bananas, which is annoying when stores only want to sell you unforgivably green ones with maximum shelf lives. Here in New York City, I find that most street carts sell currently ripe bananas, if you pass one along your way. Or, you know, you could plan ahead, but with only a year’s notice, it seems unfair that we should be expected to. After that, it’s just a matter of figuring out how you’d like to approach this — i.e., do you need a “smash” or little cake for the baby to tear into? — and because I was completely indecisive (but picked the most complicated method myself, typically), I’m suggesting three different approaches below the recipe, but I promise, they all yield the same delightful result:

a real good time

Three-Layer Banana Cake
Makes 3 9-inch layers. Use this for Option 1 below.

5 1/4 cups (21 1/2 ounces or 609 grams) cake flour
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce or 15 grams) baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons (13 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
1 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 12 ounces or 341 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces or 300 grams) sugar [weights corrected 6/23/11]
1 1/2 cups (11 1/2 ounces or 327 grams) packed golden brown sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups mashed or pureed very ripe bananas (about 8 large)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 7/8 ounces or 136 grams) sour cream or (weight will vary) plain yogurt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of 3 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then coat the paper and sides of pans with butter and flour, or a nonstick spray. Whisk cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs one at a time, then bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in two additions just until combined. Divide batter among three pans; you’ll want approximately 5 cups of batter per pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center of each layer comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool each layer in its pan for 15 minutes before flipping out onto a rack to cool the rest of the way.

Two-Layer Banana Cake
Makes 2 9-inch layers. Use this for Options 2 or 3 below.

3 1/2 cups (14 3/8 ounces or 406 grams) cake flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
3/4 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces or 200 grams) sugar
1 cup (7 5/8 ounces or 218 grams) packed golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed or pureed very ripe bananas (5 to 6 large)
6 tablespoons (3 1/4 ounces or 91 grams) sour cream or (weight will vary) plain yogurt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of 2 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then coat the paper and sides of pans with butter and flour, or a nonstick spray. [If you’re using Option 2 below, you’ll also want to butter and flour 3 muffin cups or ramekins.]

Whisk cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs one at a time, then bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in two additions just until combined. Divide batter among two pans; you’ll want approximately 5 cups of batter per pan. [If you’re using Option 2 below, fill your 3 muffin cups or ramekins two-thirds of the way up with batter and divide remaining batter among your 2 9-inch pans.]

Bake cake until tester inserted into center of each layer comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. [Muffin cups should bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Please watch them carefully.] Cool each layer in its pan for 15 minutes before flipping out onto a rack to cool the rest of the way.

Quickest Fudge + Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (Large Batch)
Adapted generously from Sky High

Makes approximately 7 1/2 cups frosting; use this amount for Option 1 below

6 3/4 cups (28 1/2 ounces or 810 grams) confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
4 1/2 sticks (18 ounces or 510 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
9 tablespoons (135 ml) half-and-half or whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons (23 ml) vanilla extract
8 ounces (226 grams) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Whirl all of the frosting ingredients except the melted chocolate in a food processor until smooth. Set aside about 1 cup of the white frosting for the lighter areas, eyes, nose and mouth, then add the chocolate to finish making the fudge frosting, and whirl it until light and smooth. You’ll use this frosting to fill and coat the majority of the monkey cake.

To the lighter frosting, you can add a small spoonful of the chocolate frosting and a drop or two of yellow food coloring for tinting, and set this aside in a small bowl. This will be the color you use for your monkey’s “face”.

Tip: If your kitchen is as hot and sticky as mine is in the summer, you’ll want to watch a frosting like this carefully to make sure it doesn’t get too melty and soft. If it does, periodically put the bowl of frosting and your partially frosting cake back in the fridge to let it firm up and cool down again, then resume where you left off.

Quickest Fudge + Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (Smaller Batch)
Adapted generously from Sky High

Makes approximately 5 cups frosting; use this amount for Options 2 or 3 below

4 1/2 cups (19 ounces or 540 grams) confectioners’ sugar (no need to sift)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 12 ounces or 341 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (90 ml) half-and-half or whole milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
5 ounces (142 grams) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Whirl all of the frosting ingredients except the melted chocolate in a food processor until smooth. Set aside about 3/4 cup of the white frosting for the lighter areas, eyes, nose and mouth, then add the chocolate to finish making the fudge frosting, and whirl it until light and smooth. You’ll use this frosting to fill and coat the majority of the monkey cake.

To the lighter frosting, you can add a small spoonful of the chocolate frosting and a drop or two of yellow food coloring for tinting, and set this aside in a small bowl. This will be the color you use for your monkey’s “face”.

Tip: If your kitchen is as hot and sticky as mine is in the summer, you’ll want to watch a frosting like this carefully to make sure it doesn’t get too melty and soft. If it does, periodically put the bowl of frosting and your partially frosting cake back in the fridge to let it firm up and cool down again, then resume where you left off.

Assembling Your Monkey Cake(s)

Option 1: A 2-layer 9-inch monkey cake with a 4 to 5-inch “smash” cake. This is what I did, but it had ended up yielding (and thus, wasting) more cake than necessary. My original plan had been to cut the third layer into ears for the large cake, and a two-layer, 4.5-inch diameter “smash” cake. And then I realized that a 2-layer, nearly 4-inch tall smash cake was going to be ridiculous, and made it only one layer instead. Have twins? This is totally the way to go, as you can make two 1-layer (or divide them into two layers, to mimic the big cake) smash cakes. One baby? You’ll waste less cake if you go with one of the options below.

How to: Firm up one of your cake layers in the freezer; this will make carving shapes from it much easier. Once firm, cut one or two 4 1/2-inch diameter round monkey “heads” from it, being sure to leave little bumps on either side for the ears. Cut two additional small circles from the cake scraps that remain, and cut them each in half, creating two half-moon shapes. These will become the ears of your larger cake. Place one of your large, untouched cake rounds on your serving platter. Slip little scraps of waxed paper underneath, all around. This will keep your platter clean as you decorate the cake. Pin a half-circle “ear” to each side of the cake with a toothpick. If your cake has domed a bit while baking, level it with a long serrated knife. Thickly top this layer with chocolate frosting. Put the second layer on top, and attach its ears with two additional toothpicks. Level it again, if needed (though a domed top layer is less of a decorating concern). With your lighter colored frosting, outline the shape of your monkey face on top. (A piping bag with a large, round tip or a zip-loc baggie with the corner snipped off makes this much easier.) Fill the shape in generously with the light frosting. With your dark chocolate frosting, coat the remainder of the cake and sides in a thin layer. This is your crumb coat, and it will keep those crumbs from getting into your final frosting. Once finished, pop your cake in the fridge so that the frosting firms up a bit. Once it has, generously frost the dark chocolate areas with a second coat of fudge frosting. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth — everyone loves an imperfect homemade cake. Touch up the lighter area if needed with additional frosting. Put a small bit of fudge frosting in either a piping bag with a small round tip or a plastic bag with the corner cut off and use it to make the eyes, nose and mouth on the monkey. When you’re finished, remove the waxed paper scraps. Repeat this process on a smaller scale, minus the pinned-on ears, on your small monkey shape.

Option 2: A 2-layer 9-inch monkey cake with 1 cupcake “smash” cake. Make the amount of batter for a two-layer cake, and pour off 3 cupcake’s worth of batter into buttered and floured cupcake molds.

How to: Cut two of your cupcakes half, to form four half-moon shapes. These will become the ears of your larger cake. Place one of your large cake rounds on your serving platter. Slip little scraps of waxed paper underneath, all around. This will keep your platter clean as you decorate the cake. Pin a half-circle “ear” to each side of the cake with a toothpick. If your cake has domed a bit while baking, level it with a long serrated knife. Thickly top this layer with chocolate frosting. Put the second layer on top, and attach its ears with two additional toothpicks. Level it again, if needed (though a domed top layer is less of a decorating concern). With your lighter colored frosting, outline the shape of your monkey face on top. (A piping bag with a large, round tip or a zip-loc baggie with the corner snipped off makes this much easier.) Fill the shape in generously with the light frosting. With your dark chocolate frosting, coat the remainder of the cake and sides in a thin layer. This is your crumb coat, and it will keep those crumbs from getting into your final frosting. Once finished, pop your cake in the fridge so that the frosting firms up a bit. Once it has, generously frost the dark chocolate areas with a second coat of fudge frosting. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth — everyone loves an imperfect homemade cake. Touch up the lighter area if needed with additional frosting. Put a small bit of fudge frosting in either a piping bag with a small round tip or a plastic bag with the corner cut off and use it to make the eyes, nose and mouth on the monkey. When you’re finished, remove the waxed paper scraps. Pipe or ice your last cupcake with a similar monkey face — this will be your “smash” cake for the baby.

Option 3: A 2-layer 9-inch monkey cake and no “smash” cake. Don’t need or want a smash cake? Don’t feel like pinning ears to a larger cake and worrying about forgetting to take the toothpicks out? Just make 2 9-inch layers, and modify the monkey shape ever so slightly to include ears in one piece.

How to: Firm up your cake layers in the freezer; this will make carving shapes from it much easier. Carefully trim each layer into a round monkey head with two half-circle ears coming out at 9 and 3 o’clock. Place the first one on your serving platter. Slip little scraps of waxed paper underneath, all around. This will keep your platter clean as you decorate the cake. If your cake has domed a bit while baking, level it with a long serrated knife. Thickly top this layer with chocolate frosting. Put the second layer on top and level it again, if needed (though a domed top layer is less of a decorating concern). With your lighter colored frosting, outline the shape of your monkey face on top. (A piping bag with a large, round tip or a zip-loc baggie with the corner snipped off makes this much easier.) Fill the shape in generously with the light frosting. With your dark chocolate frosting, coat the remainder of the cake and sides in a thin layer. This is your crumb coat, and it will keep those crumbs from getting into your final frosting. Once finished, pop your cake in the fridge so that the frosting firms up a bit. Once it has, generously frost the dark chocolate areas with a second coat of fudge frosting. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth — everyone loves an imperfect homemade cake. Touch up the lighter area if needed with additional frosting. Put a small bit of fudge frosting in either a piping bag with a small round tip or a plastic bag with the corner cut off and use it to make the eyes, nose and mouth on the monkey. When you’re finished, remove the waxed paper scraps.

What, no downloadable PDF stencils for the cake? Yeah, it was a bummer for me as well to realize that I’m not Martha Stewart this weekend, and don’t have the graphic designers on staff to make this kind of stuff for me. Nor, does it turn out, do I have a single drawing program on my computer. Thus, if you’re itching for a visual, we’re just going to have to kick it old school with my low-fi doodles, m’kay?

sketches for the cake

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593 comments on monkey cake

  1. ITA about birthday cakes — Nuni had her birthday party this weekend, and I made a triple layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting AND strawberry cupcakes, and I baked the cake part of both cakes in about an hour on a Friday night. Of course, mine wasn’t an adorable monkey — we’re more the small figurine of Cinderella in these parts. Thinking of making her another one for her actual birthday this week, too.

  2. ;))))))))))))) oh, so many options! And lenghty ones too! You were not lazy, Deb.
    I love that it is a banana cake and that even me, without any decorating skills/patience/interest think I can make that monkey face with some cream.
    Great idea.
    And I also think about a combo of one layer banana cake and one layer carrot cake… Hmm.

    1. deb

      Kate — Great tip! I actually completely advise making the cakes a day in advance and wrapping them well. (I’ll even bake them a week in advance, and freeze them until needed.) Then, you can decorate the day of or the day before and it is much less stressful. I should update the post to note this, but I think if that post becomes one word longer, it will pop. Or I will.

  3. My niece celebrated her first birthday this Sunday! We had deliciously moist strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream. I think after this post, next year we’re going to have to make her banana monkey cakes whether she likes it or not. Those cakes are just toooooo cuuuuute!

  4. Peg

    Aw, so sorry he didn’t like it!!! That “nirvana” shot with the eyes closed is PRICELESS. Jacob is the cutest monkey on this planet and the sight of him with the gift of the sock monkey and now his cake has made MY year!! Thanks for sharing him so generously with all of us. (Oh, and I do come here for the food and recipes…har, har)

  5. My seven year old son just saw this cake and said, “Ha! I think I want that cake for my birthday!” Never mind that his birthday is 364 days away…

    Happy birthday to Jacob– he and I share a birthday!

  6. Amy H

    I’m exhausted just reading that.

    I’m with you on the home made birthday cake. Except I think I bake exactly once a year and that’s on the the kids birthday. Last year it was a fire truck shaped cake which was so far out of my comfort zone I can’t even tell you, but worth the effort because the reaction was priceless.

    Congratulations on making it through the first wonderful, exhausting year. You’re little Monkey is just adorable!

  7. Adorable! I did carrot cake for my oldest’s first birthday, but this banana cake looks equally moist and tasty (and I love that it’s a banana monkey cake)! It’s a serious contender for my youngest’s first birthday coming up in November. Thanks for sharing:-).

  8. katie

    I literally can not even handle the photo of the birthday boy with his hand in his mouth and his eyes closed in a moment of sheer cake bliss…couldn’t be cuter…I feel that way too sometimes when I eat cake…

  9. Susan

    You appear to have a budding connoisseur from the looks of Jacob with his eyes closed. Too funny! Was he about to give the verdict about the cake in that last shot? Alex wasn’t missing out on candle blowing this year either. I can’t decide who looked more excited about birthday cake, Jacob or Alex!

    You wrote a mouthful on making that cake! Looks good, Deb.

    1. Janie

      We made these a cupcakes for a 1st birthday in the park (yay pandemic!). They were phenomenal. I used half cake flour and half AP because I am usually unprepared. Still delicious! Cooked in 17-18 minutes, came out of cupcake liners perfectly with just cooking spray. We used Deb’s cream cheese frosting recipe from her 2nd cookbook and obviously added rainbow sprinkles. Total home run. Thanks for another terrific recipe!

  10. BTW, Deb, next birthday, give me a month’s notice and I’ll hand deliver a wonderful, homemade, cake just for you. You certainly deserve your very own birthday cake that you didn’t make. I have a to-kill-for Italian Wedding Cake recipe or…..your choice.

  11. Aww, adorable! Don’t feel bad – I got a store-bought cake this year, too, and I’m pretty sure I stuck a candle in some cookie-exchange cookies for my husband. But the baby got a cake shaped like Clifford the Big Red Dog! (We also blogged a step-by-step of the process . . . my husband was so sure it was going to be “easy” and that a “dry-run” wasn’t necessary. HA!)

    Happy birthday to your big boy.

  12. Anne

    the last photo is great–not only is Jacob’s face nearly the exact reverse of the cake, but it’s as if he’s saying “now, what else can I help you with today?”

  13. Susan B.

    What a perfect cake for your little monkey! Has it really been a year?!? He only gets cuter and cuter. My 14 year old monkey and I always seek out the photo link first and it’s always worth it (he likes babies). Wishing Jacob a happy first and many more!

  14. Kailee

    What an adorable cake! And even better, it sounds delicious too! To me, nothing is more annoying when you’re at a party/wedding/festive gathering and someone has gone to the trouble to order a pretty cake and then, when you dig in, you realize it tastes only of staleness and sugar. Bah!

  15. OMG! I think we’ve all got that “first birthday cake all over the face” shot in our photo collections, but I totally forgot about it after almost 27 years later, but this brought it all right back.

    So cute and the cake is adorable too. :)

  16. Carla Hinkle

    Oh my lord. My little monkey is turning 1 in December and he is SO getting this cake. Well. I hope. If I can get it together. During the holidays. When the big kids are on vacation. Um. Well…

    He is SO getting this cake … SOMEDAY.

  17. For me it was a thrill every year planning my kids birthday cakes (or pie). I have a picture for each year. For my daughters 3rd birthday I did Noah Ark (I was way more ambitious then) and found all these small toy animals which she played with for years.

  18. Lynne

    What a great cake! It looks to have perfect texture. AND that last picture, with his arms crossed and that look on his face….. as if to say….MY WORK HERE IS DONE! He is just too much. A belated happy birthday to Jacob and a belated HAPPY LABOR DAY to you!

  19. Wow I am impressed! Last year for my little guy’s first birthday, I went all out. I did vegan (we had some dairy-free guests) chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, and I also had another cake – a chocolate zucchini bundt cake.
    He will be turning 2 in a few days, and I don’t think we’ll do a cake at all. It’s still blazes hot in TN, so we might take him downtown for an ice cream and go to a toy store to let him pick something out. As far as I’m concerned, cake is a regular enough occurrence in this house that we won’t be missing out!

  20. Laura

    LOVE IT! And can I say that the mini version on the small cake stand is just great? Plus, there’s that gorgeous baby…

    I made my daughter a monkey cake for her birthday, too, banana with chocolate and yellow buttercream. I baked the cake in a big stainless steel bowl, along with 1 cupcake in an oversize muffin pan. After inverting the bowl cake so the widest part was the base, I cut the cupcake in half and attached it to the head with buttercream to form the ears. The face was on the front, with buttercream monkey “hair” on the top to round it off. My daughter loved it. I can’t take credit for the idea; it was from Love, love, love the cake + mini cake way you made this…

  21. Lis

    Wow! That is a lot of work…not only the cake, but then posting about it and writing up the long recipe, with multiple options (it’s like Choose Your Own Adventure)! And all this while being a mom at the same time! Very impressed here–well done. What an adorable cake. He is a lucky little one.

  22. My husband’s birthday is exactly 2 months after my son’s birthday. The year he was born I actually did get to make a birthday cake for hubby… unfortunately due to lack of sleep I wrote the wrong age on the cake! (I had him turning a year older than he was!)
    I love this cake, it is super cute.

  23. Sara

    Love it! Our third child, a boy, had his first birthday on Saturday (hello, almost-birthday-twin) and we did our favorite Billy’s vanilla vanilla cupcakes. An easy option, with a no-brainer smash cake, but so delicious.

  24. Ada

    Happy birthday to Jacob! He’s such an adorable baby, and the monkey cakes turned out awesome. And, you gave me an idea for what to do for my own birthday cake! I’m making a kitty cake! (I’m only 22, why do you ask? :P)

  25. bee

    i love the home made cakes!
    it’s a tradition in my house growing up (mostly because my mom was frugal, but also because it’s fun).
    my favorite was a kitten shape, with a long tail and coconut “fur.”

  26. It’s the crazy hair, my son gets the same thing with the curly hair and big blue eyes… well he did, he’s very boy like now that he’s reached the rip old age of two. Cute cake.

  27. April

    Super cute!!! My son’s birthday is in a month and a half, and we call him monkey. I’m totally making this for him. We always had a smash cake, and my mom tells me that, because I hated to get my hands dirty, I went face first into my cake with my arms straight out to my side.

  28. Debbie

    Love this cake. Our one year old grandson got banana cupcakes in June for his first birthday, so we love the banana idea. But this monkey cake is terrific!!! Happy Birthday to your little one! He’s a cutie!

  29. Liz

    Deb, you have outdone yourself! Wish I’d seen this earlier when I was scouring the internet for a quick and tasty chocolate icing recipe that I could make without having to go to the store (to go with your 3 yr old recipe for black bottom cupcakes–that actually didn’t even need icing–tasty little buggers.)

    Hope you all had a wonderful celebration!

  30. mrwaturi

    now that i have seen a picture of the monkey daddy, i see where the monkey gets that wonderful head of curly hair. i can’t believe he is 1 already.

  31. Chelsea

    Happy Birthday Jacob! He is such a cutie and that cake…too cute!! My sister has requested I make her THIS EXACT CAKE (she never asks for a specific cake, just any old cake will usually do) for her birthday!!

  32. ohmygoodness

    I fiiiiiiiinally got around to making your peanutbutter chocolate ode to reeses pieces cake this week for my husband’s birthday and now you go and give me something else to obsess over until next september?

  33. Deb-I’m with you about the sadness that comes from seeing the shortening laden frosted cake too. And this one looks wonderful. A banana cake is truly wonderful–I can taste & smell it right now. Perfect monkey cake for your cute little monkey.

  34. meanwhile, I totally wanted to tag smittenkitchen’s facebook page in my photos of said cake of which I am quite proud, but you’ve turned off all the photos on that page?

    were you getting all sorts of terrible photos before? it makes me sad if we can’t post our baking achievements because some people go ruin if for everyone else :(

    1. deb

      Georgie — I turned off photos? Not that I know of, or not intentionally. I’ll poke around, check the settings. [Update: Fixed now. I never changed the settings, but they were different. I’m going to chalk it up as Typical Facebook Stuff where new settings are put in all the time without alerting you.]

  35. Jacob is a delight! So photogenic!!! I have a little nephew turning one soon, and this is the first I’ve heard of a smash cake – pure genius! My spoiled/adored nephew will indeed be receiving a smash cake!!!!!!

  36. Sarah

    I made my kids a monkey cake for their birthday, too. But I baked it in a bowl so it was round and 3-D-ish which was kind of fun.

    Love the pictures- he’s so cute.

  37. How absolutely wonderful! This post made me smile. The “imperfectly-frosted” homemade birthday cakes are always the best, I don’t care what anyone says. (and it may be imperfectly frosted, but dang, that cake cuts beautifully.. not a banana fan, but I might have to try this). Happy birthday, sweet baby boy, and congrats on the first year of parenthood, Deb and Alex! Your punkin gets more beautiful every day.

  38. Very, very cute… but not as cute as the kid!

    I completely agree about birthday cakes. I remember making my first boyfriend his first scratch birthday cake, for his 20th birthday, I think. In my family it’s just not love if it’s not from scratch! My sister gets whatever new flavor she wants each year, I get exactly the same spice cake with brown sugar frosting, and my mother gets my over-ambitious whim…which is an amusing failure some years. I have photos of a disasterous cake inspired by raspberry ring-gels, one of her favorite candies. It was nightmarish, but she was impressed by how well I’d salvaged it…even if the bottom layer was only supported by a glass plate when I finally pulled it together….

  39. Jess

    Okay banana + monkey theme aside I’m a little surprised you didn’t use your fantastic best birthday cake recipe you posted last year! I used that in June to bake my favorite-st, only niece her first birthday cake for her first birthday. Her nickname is Honey Bee (or just bee) so naturally I made a bee shaped cake, with a square shaped pan and some strategic cutting for the bee shape and then I used the scraps to make wings, a stinger and antennas. I also made a regular sized cake birthday cake and a ricotta strawberry cheesecake ( it was a good party.

  40. Rhonda

    How totally awesome! I’d rather see a free hand than something too perfectly done. It really looks exactly like Curious George. I’ll have to remember this next year when my nephew turns one.

  41. Emily

    This is the cutest. I love banana baked goods – Whenever I end up with a spare brown speckled banana I toss them in the freezer and when I have three or four, I make (your) banana bread. It saves me from that last minute hunt for ripe bananas – unless I want to bake twice in one week, of course!

  42. andrea

    I am with you on homemade birthday cakes. My friends all tell me I’m nuts for putting in the effort, but unless you’re getting a fantastic bakery cake (like from Two Little Red Hens in Park Slope, but I don’t live close enough to get those these days), homemade is so much better! This looks fantastic — banana and chocolate is one of my favorite combos. I almost want to make my kids a monkey cake tomorrow — but sadly, their birthdays are in the Spring. Plus, they have moved on to wanting superhero, race car and princess cakes… so can’t even copy your monkey!

  43. This is absolutely adorable!! Being a mom who has made at least 44 birthday cakes for my girls… I have total admiration for your effort. It’s all about the special day! One of our girls was the “monkey” girl, one was the “frog”… now at 23 and 21, things have changed… but I’d totally have made this! Congrats… love moms that go that extra mile… thinking of what would be special. Twenty-three years later…. I KNOW it makes a difference!

  44. Meisha

    Oh Man!! Cannot wait to try this! Would it be impractical to make a “smash” for the boy who is turning 27? Nah.. =)

    My favorite part of this post was little man in sheer cake bliss in the 3rd frame of devouring! SOO A-Dorable.

  45. What an adorable little monkey you have! The cake’s nice too;) My mom always made me banana cake for my birthday growing up. yum! My own cakes are always “imperfectly frosted, slightly crooked” or very crooked!! But when I use your recipes they taste good:)

  46. beverly

    Ha! I did a monkey cake for my son’s first bday too! Of course, that was 3yrs ago. Sigh–it goes too fast.
    Here’s to a great cake & great taste! Happy Birthday little monkey!

  47. DebitNM

    Do you know what adjustments to the cake would be needed to bake this at high altitude [5500 feet]. Thanks! This is just in time for my granddaughter’s 2nd birthday and her favorite toy is a monkey beanie baby that I gave her mom when she was a toddler! Monkey goes EVERYWHERE!

  48. regiemino

    I’m not a demanding person per se, but my husband gets a reminder each year that on my birthday, even a single cupcake is fine, but I am NOT to be presented with a hideous grocery store cake (his family is very fond of the shortening spackle) or a Dairy Queen cake, although I know other people love them. I hate them.
    I love making my kids’ cakes. They are all imperfect, and I have had a couple of near disasters, but it’s the love, right? Deb, I will send you a pic of the monkey cake I made a few years back (not as cute as yours, but I was quite proud of it!).

  49. winegirl

    I actually said “AHHH!” out loud when I clicked in and saw the picture. I obsessively buy monkey things for my little nieces all of the time and they both have birthdays coming up! Enter the best Auntie ever (with a little help from SK!). PS – My Dad still talks about the chocolate peanut butter cake I made from your site… it is now legendary in our family.

  50. Such adorable monkeys! (cake and baby!) For my niece’s 1st, my sister and I made a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake, and the head was the “smash” cake. I think we’re making a monkey one for her 2nd even though it’s not until March. We’ll have to make this one!

    As for the unripe banana issue, have you ever tried roasting them? I recently made Homesick Texan’s banana pudding, which called for a banana roasted in a 400F oven for 15 min. Once you slice it open and smush it, it’s just like a smashed ripe banana!

  51. Nance

    nearly fainted when i saw the cake…and then once again when i saw the other monkey pictures near the bottom. are you trying to kill us with cute??? XD

  52. He sho is purty! Happy Birthday dear Jacob and I totally agree with you on the cake thing, I would probably throw myself on a knife if I didn’t get a good one, and I’ll be 30 in a few months so obviously I didn’t get the memo either ;P

  53. Sarah

    Can I suggest a third? fourth? option: use cookies for the ears – I’m thinking something like Thin Mints or maybe Oreos. I’m not sure of the proportions, but it seems like they could just be stuck into the sides and then smeared with icing.

  54. Deb – what a cute cake! And Jacob covered with icing is just classic! Everything one could want from a 1st birthday cake. I went the cupcake route for our boy’s 1st – so we all got smash cakes! Last week – my now 4 year old has requested I start making his working volcano lava cake for his birthday (in January!)…not quite sure how I’m going to manage that. Last year’s gluten free chocolate smartie cake with car and truck candles was way easier!

  55. Possibly the funniest of your posts that I’ve read so far. A BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY to your little man! And I love you views on homemade birthday cakes! Cheers!

  56. Happy birthday Jacob! Beautiful cakes!
    You should post your “low-fi” sketches directly on the blog, they’re very clear and would help the readers understand your explanations so much better. I imagine a lot of readers will miss the link, I almost did. Illustrations are always good!

  57. As soon as I saw the monkey design I was hoping for a banana cake. You didn’t disappoint :) It looks delicious. The only problem I see… you’ll have to find some way to top this cake next year!!

  58. Ooo, I feel a wee-bit lame next to your cake after our birthday celebration on Saturday- it was all I could muster to make our guy these cupcakes! (And neither of us got birthday cakes this year either….) but at least I held it together with the extended family in town…Happy B-day.

  59. Rosella

    Sitting up at 2:15am laughing at this. I love this! What a sweet cake and such a sweet thing to share. I can’t believe the first year has gone by so fast!

  60. The first two words that came to my mind when I saw the picture is, “so cute!!!”

    This is such a fantastic cake, I’m gonna bookmark it forever!

    Thanks for sharing! (:

  61. may

    A-DO-RA-BLE! I want to be your kid! I doubt I will be able to pull of something like this for my own little monkey’s 1st birthday in January. It is inspiring though!

  62. cait

    So funny that this popped up in my email this morning… I’ve been planning monkey cakes for my friend’s baby for a month now!
    Now I have a reliable source ;)
    looks delish!!

  63. You gave him his own little cake! You are killing me over here. I am 20 years old and not even CLOSE to thinking about kids and my ovaries are aching. The cuteness. Oh, the cuteness!

  64. EG

    I’m with you on homemade cakes (although I’m the baker in this house, so usually my cake is a store-bought ice cream cake, which is also wonderful!)

    Happy Birthday, Jacob! I love the last picture with his arms crossed. Like, “My work here is done.”

  65. Carol Evans

    You must be kidding, at 34 celebrate every chance you have, especially Birthdays.
    Do not pass up the occasion, I am twice plus a couple of years older than you and believe me sweety, every Birthday counts. Cherish every birthday as if it is the last and I hope you have as many as I have and are still celebrating……the cake is darling and I will be making it for one of my Grandson’s that loves Monkeys….

  66. Deborah

    What an adorable little birthday monkey – baby and cake! Hope that the next year is as wonderful and filled with warm memories as the first year has been.

  67. Wendy

    Well, my baby boy trurns 18 today (How the heck did that happen?) and what am I staying home from work to bake? It’s our traditional family birthday cake–my grandmother’s banana cake and fudge frosting. Fairly similar recipe but in ours you whisk together the dry ingredients and mix the baking soda into the sour cream where it bubbles up. Add alternately with dry. I’ve made the addition of a bit of almond extract which it turns out is fantastic with the banana/chocolate combo. Enjoy your adorable boy!

  68. Birthday wishes to the monkey boy! The cake is wonderful. Our family also does the little cake for the one year old birthday. Some kids are very messy and others just pick with their “cheerio fingers”.

    Words for the day: The year will be easier after the first year.


  69. OK – a) that picture just about melted my heart – he is too cute, and it is so fun watching him grow up (this blog must feel like Jacob has a handful of crazy doting aunts and uncles!) b) I love to freeze my cakes too (although small city apartments present some difficulties with freezer space – this also makes frosting an absolute breeze!


  70. Lea

    Happy Birthday, Jacob!!! Now that is a kid who knows how to eat cake! I’m very impressed with the icing-to-face ratio. And I’m very impressed with the monkey cake, as well :-)

  71. Marcie

    WOW! I love this cake! Where was it in December when my monkey turned 1? I am thinking that it is officially ok to do a repeat theme for the second birthday. I so have to bake this cake!

  72. Happy birthday little monkey!! You of course topped my expectations and made not one, but two amazing monkey cakes! Could you adopt me for a week? I have a birthday coming up…
    And believe it or not, I just wrote about exactly the same thing: it is impossible to find a ripe banana when you need one. Its green ones or none!

  73. judy

    Greetings Deb! Cute baby you’ve got there. If I want to make this banana cake a la vegetarian, that is, I don’t want eggs and yogurt, what must I sub these 2 ingredients with? HELP as my sis is totally vegetarian. Thanks!

  74. I am certain that you are told this on a regular basis but being that I am new to your site, I feel compelled to tell you again: you are so talented and your posts are a true joy to read.

  75. Kathy in St. Louis

    Is this, by chance, a recipe adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum, Deb? It reminds me of a similar, delicious cake I once made.

    I’m not much for twee decorating, but these monkeys are perfectly endearing and yet another reminder that homemade is worth the effort. Great job, Deb.

    1. deb

      Kathy — It is a cross between a banana cake (not RLB) I’ve used before and my Best Birthday Cake, with banana swapped for most of the buttermilk. But, I am not surprised there are similarities. Good cake proportions yield good cake across the board, which is why I always line layer cakes up with my regular birthday cake to see if I believe they’ll give me the results I want.

      Life and Kitchen — Literally, right this second I was thinking that either the baby or the mama is getting an ice cream cake next year — great timing. I forgot to add that caveat: I LOVE ice cream cakes and everyone knows if that homemade cake isn’t happened that Carvel will always suffice.

  76. This monkey cake looks great. Next year I want to put in a request for an ice cream cake. Though I don’t know if I could make it a whole year! So how about making it for kicks? (Yes, I realize this is a request to make at the beginning of the summer and not the end!)

  77. Carol

    Deb, I love you, but I really could have used this last weekend for my nephews first birthday! I did use your yellow cake recipe and it was AMAZING. Amazing. I have screwed up at least two of your recipes so I was a little hesitant, but I hit it spot on. Tonight I am making steak salad.

  78. Sharilyn Unthank

    Thanks for sharing the cake, your cute curly headed son, your adventures and life in general! My dad always called me Monkey so I may have to make this for myself in his honor!

  79. Kathy in St. Louis

    Great point, Deb. It’s so much fun to combine and edit recipes and have them turn out well. And I didn’t intend to imply that the monkeys are twee; the words “handsome and cute due to looking deceptively, relatively simple” come to mind! I’m a fan of your kind of decorating myself, and that’s how I decorate as well.

  80. pam

    oh, what, you couldn’t post this a year ago, when i was planning my boys’ second birthday party? okay, fine. i just did cupcakes with monkey fondant toppers. oh well. ;)

  81. Taly Conde

    WOW… Wait, I’ll say it again.. WOW!!!!
    I don’t think I’ll ever be capable of doing that as good as you… but I might try !!!
    Lovely cake and lovely kid :)
    And a huge hug from Rio, Brazil. xx

  82. I usually make frosting in my mixer, but I’ve never heard of or thought of making it in the food processor. That sounds SOOOO much easier. I’m going to try it next time. THANKS!!!!

  83. Hi Deb,

    I have been following your blog for a few days now.. and it is SUCH a great inspiration! I have to start baking again! It would be great if you could share with us your way of freezing the cakes. I have tried it once, but I am sure there is another and better way of doing it. Also, can you suggest an alternative (may be partial) to butter, if at all there can be one? My dad has to watch his fat-intake, so I ask.

    I have one more question for you – which food processor do you use? Or which one do you suggest for beginners that wont break a bank?

    Thanks for doing what you are doing!

  84. Deb,

    I’m not sure if you read all of your comments, as I know you get about a gazillion every day. I read your blog religiously, make a ton of your recipes on a regular basis, and probably love your big, grown-up, one-year-old Jacob as much as a kooky Aunt might. I just gave birth on Rosh Hashanah of this year, about 11 days ago, to a little Monkey of my own. He is beautiful and funny but we had a very trying day. After breaking down into tears as my husband came home from work, I decided to take a break and check your blog. Thanks for cheering me up instantly, and giving me something to look forward to. Thank you thank you thank you.

  85. Danae

    Jacob is adorable!! I can not believe how big he is.. also priceless the pic of alex blowing out the candle.. love it! Nice work on the cake.. will have to try this one..

  86. Justine

    Happy Birthday Jacob!!! It has been such a delight to look through all the photos and watch Jacob grow!! That cake looks amazing!! Can’t wait to see what birthday number 2 brings!

  87. Vickie

    This is a delightful post from beginning to end, Deb. Thank you for the adorable cake recipe, options and tips – and your illustrations are so adorable and whimsical. The icing on the monkey cake is the pics of Jacob and his wee smash cake, particularly the one with his fingers in his mouth and his eyes closed in bliss. I am lucky enough to have a handsome and sweet grown-up monkey in my life – and my monkey has an upcoming birthday in November. I can’t wait to make this cake for him. Happy monkey birthday, Jacob!!

  88. Gayle Gartin

    How cute is this monkey, and your family. What a great Mom you are. I love your recipes. I cannot wait for your book, as my notebook, of just your recipes, is bursting at the seams. Keep up the great recipes and wonderful blog. It always brings me warmth and cheer. Happy Fall!!!!

  89. Lara

    This looks awesome and I can’t wait to make it for my son’s first birthday in November. I was wondering if it would throw the balance of ingredients off to cut way down in the sugar? I’ve done it often with Bananna breads just not sure if it would work with the cake.
    I’ve made a bunch of recipes off your site and have loved everything…especially the pop tarts! Thanks so much :)

    1. deb

      Lara — Haven’t tried it, so if you do, please let us know how it goes. I am sure many other parents would like to do the same. I’m assuming you’re speaking about the cakes, of course. The frosting, unfortunately, needs the sugar for structure. (I say “unfortunately” because I find most quick buttercreams to be exceedingly sweet. However, the addition of very bitter chocolate in this brings it closer to balance.)

  90. That is super cute and other than changing the recipe slightly (in case my friend with the rubber allergy is over – amazing what other things will trigger it), this is perfect for my husband!

  91. OH.MY.GAWD.
    I’ve been a follower of your blog forever, and Smitten Kitchen is my go-to place for new recipes, but for some reason I’ve refrained from commenting much. But this–THIS! So adorable. I had to say something, and that thing is: Deb, you are amazing. What a loved and lucky kid you’ve got there.

  92. Just what you need – one more comment – but this is such a great post and I just had to tell you so. I’m sending your blog link to my awesome daughter-in-law who is about to have her own little monkey (due in 3 weeks – and the nursery IS monkey decorated), is a great cook, and who will love your site as much as I do.

  93. Erin

    I have almost exactly the same photo of me on my first birthday with chocolate cake and frosting smeared all over my face. I feel like it’s a right of passage and parental responsibility!

    (Granted, my cake was not nearly so cute, but still!)

  94. I’ve been looking over your recipes for a year now, and this post has compelled me to finally leave a comment. The frosting-covered monkey cake is adorable to no end, but cuter still is your frosting-covered monkey smooshing more of it into his little face. Yeee! Happy birthday to Jacob! He’s lucky to never have to suffer from the store-bought cake blahs with such a talented mama!
    I love, love your site. I usually start here for recipe inspiration. As soon as I spot a bag of unloved tomatoes at my produce store, I’m marching right back here to make your tomato sauce.

    Seriously, that’s gotta be the cutest baby on earth.

  95. cloudydeb

    I was crazy enough tackle a “yellow submarine” cake for my son’s 10th b-day. Of course he had to be born in the friggin’ middle of summer and I had to cool the cake *like* every 10 minutes to keep the icing from sliding off. After much frustration, cussing and pulling out of my hair, I completed my masterpiece, and vowed never to delve into such madness again!

  96. I loved this because I used to be an associate teacher in an elementary school with a “no home-baked birthday cake” policy, and every time I saw a kid bring in a “shortening spackled quarter sheet cake” (with frosting of a color never seen in nature) I shed a private little tear.

  97. Sarah

    Totally saving this idea for my twins’ 2nd birthday. Maybe I can be creative and come up with 2 different animals to make….hmmmm. Maybe a jungle themed birthday is in order! Or a zoo! Oh the options are endless!! Thanks for the inspiration!

  98. Unbelievable! I am giggling my head off after reading this. Thank you for posting so many photos of the most adorable one-year-old with one of the cutest cakes I have ever seen!!! I absolutely share your opinion that EVERYONE deserves a great homemade birthday cake, no matter how old they are, and I cannot wait to try this recipe. I hope you are all still celebrating and enjoying leftovers!

  99. Jen

    I have never thought anyone’s baby was as cute as mine. And then I saw Jacob. Happy Birthday, little monkey! I tune in now for the pictures of him as much as for the recipes.

  100. Hillary

    Oh my word that’s one adorable monkey! (& the cake too!)
    Makes me miss my mommy monkey days even more.
    Thanks for sharing, time sure flies.

  101. Kristy

    I just discovered your blog today, and I feel like my life just gained 10,000 magic points. Smitten Kitchen has made me giddier than the time I looked up “talking dogs” on Youtube. I will be visiting often with another big, happy smile and some super antsy hands ready to bake and cook. Oh, and P.S., your photography is outSTANDing!

  102. Jessica

    I too am guilty of obsessing about my baby girl’s first cake…. and she’s only 8 months old! I love this idea and I’m shamelessly going to copy you.

  103. Kim in MD

    Oh my gosh- can Jacob get any cuter? I mean, seriously? The monkey cake was perfect for your little monkey.Those photos are priceless!

    The cake looks amazing, Deb! You did a beautiful job! When my bananas turn super ripe and I don’t have time to bake anything with them, I throw them in the freezer(I remove the flesh from the banana and wrap it up in a Ziploc bag). The freeze beautifully and I always have ripe bananas when I need them!

  104. Lucy

    I was hoping you would post his birthday cake! I have been dying to know which one you made for him because I knew it would be spectacular as always. My daughter’s first birthday is Friday and I STILL haven’t settled on a cake.

    He is absolutely adorable! So wish I lived in NYC so we could have a play date.

  105. Julie

    Oh my god, my uterus just skipped a beat. Too precious! I absolutely adore and relish everything you do. Your my main source for all things food related.

  106. Della

    Absolutely adorable! And I’m talking about all 3 monkeys! Great info, as always. But…. no drawing program? And don’t I remember a picture of a little Monkey named Jacob trying to do something to the power cord for a Mac? If I remember correctly and you do have a Mac, we need to talk!

  107. anna

    oh my goodness gracious…what a cutie. Gotta do the smash cake, we all want to watch them do it, but no one wants icing full of baby fingers – plus, I don’t share my cake well….Cake sounds awesome as well!

  108. Elizabeth

    Hey, Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting was my family’s birthday cake! My mom always made it in a 9 X 13 pan and just frosted it in the pan.

  109. Susannah

    Your monkey cake is great! I made a monkey cake for my 2 year old son in March and he still talks about it. I used a Wilton monkey cake mold, a yellow cake recipe from Mick Malgieri and dark, milk, and white chocolate ganache frostings to decorate it. It was the first cake I’ve ever tried to make look like something other than a cake. It wouldn’t have won any awards for top decorating, but it was made with love and my son was happy. Happy 1st birthday to your son!

  110. Terry C

    I discovered your blog a few months ago and have poured over it. A bonus is getting to see your beautiful family; thank you! I have to admit, your little boy has the cutest curls since my girls were babies 20-something years ago! He is just darling.

  111. mic cagney

    He is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO adorable!!! Thanks so much for sharing him (well, and birthing him,too . . . better you than me on that one!). My first grandbaby, Layla, will be one in January and I’ll be trying this recipe for her . . . the first recipe of yours that I made was for her parents wedding. Yellow Cake. Excellent recipe. Delightful story. It’s when I became a fan . . . I anxiously await your book. Get to work! :) Happy birthday to YOU! Happy Birthday to YOU! Happy birthday, sweet little one . . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! Yes, I did sing and rather loud at the end. That song NEVER gets old!

  112. This will be a fun project for me to do with my grandchildren. I like to make fun recipes with them because we can get the kitchen all dirty and my wife does not mind cleaning up the mess. She also, likes to eat what I make.

  113. Shauna

    1) Happy birthday Jacob!! 2) Birthday boy is incredibly handsome – love the pictures! 3) This cake looks both adorable and delicious. Rock on Deb! :-)

  114. Elizabeth

    Such a cute cake!

    I totally feel you on the empathy sad cake thing. I have most of my friends, colleagues, and family convinced I don’t care for cake much because I simply can’t handle the shortening spackle thing. (On my birthday I sneak out to someplace that makes good cake.)

    The rest of the year I’m okay, because layer cake isn’t my absolute favorite thing. But I still feel sad for those people who think they like it.

  115. Aine

    Aww!! This makes me happy cause when me and my siblings were little, my mom did quite a few animal cakes…she made me an alligator once, and my sister a pig. The alligator I remember in detail, it was actually really impressive. Had teeth and everything…good times

  116. pooja

    Dear Deb

    One look at the cake, and it had to be for Jacob! very happy birthday to the sweet lad! and you are an amazing woman who has inspired so many lives! since coming across your blog, i have started baking for all friends and relatives birthdays. your blog has given me so much confidence. My girl is going to be one yr next Feb, and i am already looking for a cake recipe for her. btw, i made your sweet corn pancakes 3 days back, and my hubby loved them so much! thank you so much for spreading so much happiness around.


  117. angela

    wow! i can’t wait to make this for my friend…who i call monkey!
    but maybe i will make it tomorrow just for the little monkeys in my life for an after school treat :)
    that little monkey of yours is an absolutely darling and he looks like he loved his cake! yea!

  118. I am cracking up ovr your multiple sets of instructions complete with architectural drawings! Clearly you gave this a lot of thought. :) Also – that picture of Jacob? The 3rd one, with his hand in his mouth and eyes closed? Cutest. Thing. Ever.

    Happy Birthday to your monkey – he is a lucky boy to have you for a mama!!

  119. eva

    ok. beeing a german i have 2 questions to the ingredients:

    cake flour: is that normal one or allpurpose (i make a guess: normal one?!)

    and now comes the difficult one:

    packed golden brown sugar: has that one anything to do with the english / american sort of “wet” (because of the molasses in there) brown sugar? or do you mean the dry one, that sort of sugar you put into cocktails?! sorry, but we don´t have ANY brown (wet) sugar here, i get mine in “the english shop” in town.

    so you understand: i have problems reading your recipe ;-) , which i am delighted by as always. Love to cook or bake what you suggest. your chocolate chip cookies are famous in cologne now, i have to bake them AT LEAST once a week and all of my friends only seem to want more :)

    and while i´m finally writing a comment: i think it is great that you are still so present, even with jakob being a spatula thief and all. it´s really not common for young mothers to keep on doing what they love, so: stay tuned, it is appreciated even on the other side of the world!
    many greetings from sunny cologne, eva

  120. Rayven

    Deb, since I’ve had my son which is just 2 months younger than yours I’ve made a lot of your things! Never anything that my son might enjoy! I’m tickled by this and I’m excited to say I must make this for him! Also I’m jealous that your little one has beautiful head of hair and my son still has peach fuzz!!!

  121. Kathy in St. Louis

    Eva, check out the Tips link on the upper left side of your page; there are directions for substituting all purpose flour and cornstarch for cake flour, and molasses and granulated sugar for brown sugar. The great thing is that you don’t have to make special purchases if you have the usual things in your pantry.

  122. debbie

    I just made my husband a banana cake (his request) for his birthday party this weekend! Next time I want to try your recipe and maybe even the monkey shape…so adorable! I used an immersion blender to liquefy the bananas before adding them so that the cake texture would be smooth. Thanks for the detailed instructions…I’m going to bookmark this one.

  123. copysquirl

    This reminds me of a lesson i learned decorating my own monkey cake (or supposedly) – the only difference between a monkey and a bear is about two inches of ear height. Raise those puppies up a bit and voila! Teddy Bear. I wish I’d been trying for that first. Nice Monkey.

  124. cj

    We made a monkey cake for our monkey a few years ago, best part is that no matter how it ends up, the birthday boy is impressed!
    Love your son’s curly hair. I used to sit with my son on my lap and just run my fingers up the back of his neck into those soft curls, mmm, brings back lovely memories!

  125. Yael

    I think that baby is the cutest baby in all of blogdom!
    Lovely cake too. I am thinking of altering it to make a panda bear cake for my friend’s birthday.

  126. himama

    this looks great. my banana bread loving kindergartener’s b-day is coming up soon and his class animal is a monkey. so now i’m thinking about making 26 little banana monkey cupcakes. or maybe i’m completely crazy. (when my husband turned 40 we had a big party and i made 96 cupcakes, but just slathered the frosting on…)

  127. vetmed

    Tell your sweetie you were saving the home-made stuff for your anniversary- then it looks like you were giving him the birthday stuff for comparison- My sweetie gets german choclate pie for his birthday- as per his wishesand a LOT less leftovers!

  128. A banana cake shaped like a monkey – nice touch! It reminds me quite a bit of a cake I made once a while back, a carrot cake shaped like a bunny for Easter! I took two layers and cut one of them with curving cuts, kind of like parentheses – the closing one on the left and the opening one on the right – leaving me with 3 pieces, 2 ears and a bow tie shape in the middle. Arrange them on a flat sheet and decorate! Kids love it!
    Nice blog, too! I especially love all the step-by-step photography! I will definitely be following this one in future! Great work!

  129. Calley

    So I ADORE your site and have never posted a comment before, and have just been a massive lurker! I’ve made just about every celebration cake you have (some multiple times!) and they have all been delicious. The frosting used in this cake looks similar to the frosting you use on the espresso chiffon cake – is it the same? If it is…when I have made this frosting it doesn’t come out nearly as “dark brown, fabulously rich and chocolaty” as it does in your pictures. It is still delicious but it is more of a light brown, just a little darker than the whipped chocolate filling on a 3 Musketeers bar – am I doing something wrong? Thanks!!!!!!!!

    1. deb

      Calley — It is the same. Not sure why yours is coming out light though it could be the kind of chocolate you are using, if it is lighter in color. That said, the light is fairly dim in my kitchen and it may look darker than it is. The top photo, however, is almost exactly the right shade/lightness.

  130. Phaedra

    I love this cake so much it makes me wish my daughter was #1 having a birthday soon (it’s about 11 months away) #2 would want a monkey cake instead of princess/mermaid/fairy theme. Perhaps if i start brainwashing her right now.. ? i just want banana cake. mmmm

  131. Shelly

    Well, Deb, you made it through the first year. I thought you might like to peruse this site to see what you’re in store for… you may get a laugh or you might say to yourself “Jacob would NEVER do anything like that…would he?” Pardon the profanity of the name of the site, but it’s where I go to remind myself how glad I am that I never took the child plunge!

  132. Kat

    This is adorable! A cute monkey cake for a cute little monkey. =D I’m going to attempt this for my friend’s 22nd birthday. She is truly a kid at heart, and I’m super excited to make this.

  133. Camizebra

    OH MY LORD Deb you have damn outdone yourself with the instructions. Thank you so much for sharing this monkey goodness with us all, you are such a treasure.

    Cannot believe how freaking cute J’s face is with the eyes closed! Total. Cake. Bliss. Probably what your husband A looks like when digging into your other gorgeous chocolate creations…heh!

  134. Sara

    So cute!

    I’ve done many scratch birthday cakes over the years (all from Smitten Kitchen once I found it – your recipes are wonderful) but the more kids I have and the older they get, the less time I seem to have. And even when I have the time I’m just so dang worn out – I just want to curl up on the sofa and read a book already. But there – that is the difference! You probably would always choose to cook to relax!

    This year my oldest got one Dairy Queen ice cream cake for her family “party” and one Sam’s cake for her friend party. She loved them both, I felt guilty both times. And neither time did I have the right number of candles on hand. Luckily she didn’t care that she was only blowing out 5 or 8 candles when she was actually turning 11…

  135. Marcia

    Of course you know that you have created a “monster.” When Jacob goes to a birthday party in kindergarten and tells the hostess (very politely)..”I’m sorry, but I don’t eat store bought cakes”..I also want to prepare you for that first kindergarten bake sale , when you show up with your beautiful goodies and the next seven moms show up with boxes of Entenmans! I am not making this up! Do not despair..Keep up the good work..hold on to your standards..HOMEMADE CAKES FOR ALL!!
    Happy Birthday to your whole family from another NYC Mom.

    1. deb

      Marcia — I seriously thought you were my mother leaving that comment. She loves retelling the story of when I was in college and went to IHOP with my friends but I wouldn’t order the pancakes because they tasted like they were “from a mix” and they called me a pancake snob. She just beams with pride.

  136. Gemma

    Just fabulous! Hope Jacob has a wonderful year!
    I call my little man “monkey” so I think I might whip
    up a treat for him for his “half-birthday”

    And I agree with Marcia…the home baked variety is
    quite spoiling! I am so pleased and a little sad when
    I send treats to school and the children just love them
    and even mention it weeks or months later. Everybody
    deserves some homemade love ;)

  137. LindaInNJ

    I absolutely LOVE anything with banana in it. Ben and Jerry’s make an ice cream called “Chunky Monkey” – you guessed it, its made with banana ice cream – the real deal. I know I’m gonna love this cake – and just in time for my birthday, which is Sept. 24th – tomorrow!!

  138. Erin

    If anyone without a food processor is wondering you can make the frosting in your mixer. I threw the butter and the icing sugar in, mixed them on low speed until combined and then sped things up and added the milk. I only added 4 tbsp of milk instead of 6 and the consistency was perfect.

  139. Erica

    I love how in the first two pictures he seems a little confused about the cake and doesn’t really understand it, then in the third picture he has the epiphany.

  140. Sam

    Don’t know if this was said already, and since I don’t have near enough patience or time to read them I’ll just throw this idea out there: In reference to ripe bananas, every time I buy a bunch inevitably one (and sometimes more) gets too ripe for my taste to eat. In this case I just throw them in the freezer (either whole, in their skins or peeled in a ziploc) for when I feel like making some banana bread (or in this case an adorable monkey cake). The skin will turn black and and look like nothing you want to eat, but I assure you the banana on the inside is totally fine, and tastes great when baked into yummy things!

  141. Cecilia

    OMG. My little one is only 6 1/2 months, but I’ve already been wondering whether she gets a cake at her birthday. The pictures of Jacob enjoying his smash cake sealed the deal. Happy Birthday Jacob!

    also, the doodles totally made my evening. I couldn’t stop laughing.

    I made my husband’s evening by making the pasta with cheese and pepper for dinner. Yum!

  142. Lisa

    Cute cake!! I was expecting the yellow cake recipe you finalized right before Jacob’s birth. Banana cake goes much better with the monkey theme though.

  143. Vicki in GA

    ??? ????? ??? Yom Huledet Sameakh

    At 65 years old, I’m going to bake the cake w/o the monkey design.
    The cake recipe sounds amazingly rich and the frosting perfect.

    This year has gone by so fast – it seems like yesterday I was reading about your preggers belly and then the baby’s first pictures.

  144. Vicki in GA

    The questions marks are interesting addition!
    I wrote in Hebrew and it was translated into ???????s.

    Lots of love to you and yours.

  145. Marcia

    Maybe I am your mother… or, at least something like.. my kids wouldn’t eat the waffles in college because the “fake” maple syrup smelled “disgusting” !

  146. Lauren

    That cake is perfect, adorable.And banana is genius. I also agree that a birthday with a homemade birthday cake is better (even if I sometime stoop to a mix – it is way better that from the store). Anyway, this year my son has become obsessed with cooking (just over 2) so we got to make dad’s birthday cake together. So something to look forward to!

  147. Native New Yorker

    Made the cake Deb. It came out superb. You sure know your shit, gurl!!!!!!!! Tried so many of your wonderful recipes. Just amazing and keep up the wonderful work.

  148. Katie

    So – if I wanted to do this in a bundt pan for hubs birthday would that work? I was considering some chocolate ganache on top. I think it’d taste awesome if I could get it to bake. What changes do you think would be necessary if any?

  149. I always loved planning and making my daughter’s birthday cakes but this year she turned 13 and do you know what she wanted in lieu of cake? “Pop Tart Sundaes.” What are you going to do? It’s their birthday so not really the time to shove your artistic vision down their throats (literally).

    Congrats Deb and family!

  150. Jennifer

    Definitely will be bookmarking this one for my little guy’s 1st Birthday in February!!! Thanks! I love it and your little one is adorable!

  151. Robyn

    I can’t imagine all of those ingredients fitting in my food processor- is it safe to assume I can use my stand mixer for the frosting?
    (I made cupcakes with the batter and they are delicious :))

  152. Jennie

    I made this cake and it turned out very moist and delicious. It was fun to make,too. This is my go-to site for recipes. I also made your graham crackers and they turned out wonderful. I shared them with a lady, who wanted a good graham cracker recipe. She loved them.

  153. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Monkey Cake! And so do all your readers – so many comments :) I have made both my daughters a cake every year (they are aged 16 and 18 now so that’s a lot of cake). Don’t you think it is so much fun and the kids get so much joy out of it. I’m going to make the cake for a bit of fun sometime soon!

  154. This looks wonderful. I know that you enjoyed making it as much as you liked eating it. I can not wait to try your recipe. I will have to share it with my little grandchildren. They will love it.

  155. Thats crazy…my freinds call me pancake snob too, for the exact same reason!!!

    Well maybe not the exact same, I refuse to eat IHOP pancakes because they taste like crap. But since boxed pancake mix = crap, then my freinds call me pancake snob too, for the exact same reason!!!

    PS: Happy birthday baby Jacob! :)

  156. Holly

    Just made this for my little monkeys 3rd birthday, and it turned out perfectly! Everyone loved the chocolate, banana combo. The beauty of this cake is that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be adorable. And the taste is yummy! A big hit!!! (And I didn’t think it would all fit in my processor either, but it did. And I have a pretty small one.)

  157. stephanie

    so agree on making a cake – even though i do use a box mix as a base which gets doctored :) at least make the frosting! it’s so easy and the frosting on those storebought things is absolutely DREADFUL if nothing else. blech.

    one year though, on my boyfriend’s birthday, i still have no clue what went wrong but the cake completely crumbled. wasn’t undercooked and was totally cool, but oh my god. the more i tried to frost it back together, the more it crumbled until it was nothing but. the worst part is i had made the frosting ecto cooler green and the cake was supposed to be marble but somehow in the oven it just became a weird brown color. so…those two things all mixed up and smashed was…gross looking lol. in a panic i went and bought an ice cream cake, but when my boyfriend came home i confessed my disaster and cried my eyes out. he demanded to see the disaster and he and all of my roommates had bowls of cake eaten with spoons that night. it still tasted really good it turns out, and no one wanted the storebought thing!

  158. vanessa

    Those pictures of your son eating the cake are just priceless! Wathcing that must have made all of the hard work on this cake worth it.

  159. dan

    MAde this cos I just had to ! It was absolutely delish! My colleagues loved it!
    I actually added slices of bananas with the frosting and sandwiched it between the 2 cakes. It was really a MONKEY cake indeed!!!

  160. Elizabeth M.

    That is so adorable! I love how you made a smaller version just for him:-)

    We just celebrated my 1st son’s 7th birthday and because of you, I was able to make a volcano cake using the cake recipe from the peanut butter chocolate cake. I frosted it with a chocolate butter cream but can you say 4, yes 4, layers of chocolate heaven? Thank you so much for inspiring me!!!

  161. Yes, we all need B’day a cake! My favorite is Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Here is the best children’s book on the topic; The Bake Shop Ghost, Jacqueline K. Ogburn, Houghton Mifflin 2005. My 9 year old granddaughter made the cake recipe and it was wonderful! The story is a classic! I will be adding your site to my blogroll. I am a culinary historian who teaches cookery and rural life skills so am fascinated with those who are doin’ it (and well) in the urban scene! Tonight our supper is roast duck and a lettuce salad – all home grown. Visit and say hello.

  162. ann

    Happy birthday, Jacob!! I cannot believe it’s already been a year – the time has flown by, probably because he’s having so much fun. I’ve taken much delight in following him through the photos you post. Thanks for sharing him with us!

  163. Catherine

    Just out of curiosity–did you ever make the cream cheese buttercream from Sky High? I want to use it with the Pink Lady cake for my daughter’s second birthday cake. It tasted great–it just broke and looked like a curdled mess…

    Plenty of factors could have caused it ( not having a candy thermometer and at the end i whipped the meringue on high with the cream cheese mixture) but I was hoping for any ideas. I am going to try again tomorrow.

  164. NYA

    happy b’day to your lil monkey! this cake (and your son) is just adorable, and it’s amazing that you made it from scratch! i made “the very hungry caterpillar” for my baby girl’s 1st b’day this year, and hope that year number 2 will output a cake from scratch like yours! very inspiring!

  165. Kali Garofoli

    I made this for my two year-old’s birthday. we loved it and it made quite a bit of cake! Mine does not look as pretty as your but it probably tastes the same :) thanks for your recipes and humor, it makes my day.

  166. Wally

    I made this for my little grandson’s birthday and he loved it. His mom said that he talked about the monkey so much that she started making pancakes with the monkey shape. It is much easier to get him to eat breakfast when it has a fun shape to it.

  167. js

    This is absolutely adorable! Jacob is such a cutie!
    I have a quick question about the frosting. Can it be made without the melted chocolate ie. omitting the chocolate to make a vanilla buttercream? Thanks! :)

    1. deb

      js — I would just make a regular quick buttercream (like this) so you don’t have to worry about having the wrong levels.

      Catherine — Glad you brought it up because it’s been high on my to-try list. Of course, now you have me worried. Then again, since it’s really swiss buttercream style, and they have a tendency to both look broken before they come together and drive people insane in the process, I’m not totally surprised. Now, to figure out whether it’s the recipe or just that it needed to be beaten longer. (See my Swiss Buttercream tale of woe then triumph over here.)

      Robyn — I have an 11-cup (which I think is standard for Cuisinart, at least) and it fit. Although I, too, was convinced it wouldn’t and was ready to do it in batches. Anyway, if you have something smaller, do it in two batches but it does just make it in an 11-cup (and certainly in the 14-cup).

      Marsha — Ridiculously cute!

  168. Christina

    Deb, this looks amazing! your site has been the inspiration for three of my last four birthday cake adventures, and they’ve all been huge hits (Best Birthday Cake, Almond Raspberry cake, and that chocolate-and-peanut butter monstrosity for my Reese’s-obsessed roommate).
    Even though he’s turning 30-something, and not one, I plan to make this for my banana-loving friend this year. Now I just need to get myself a tomato knife to carve monkey shapes (fair enough, since your blog has already inspired me to buy a cake carrier, a set of pastry tips, and 9- and 8-inch cake pans. My local kitchen store should send you royalties!

  169. Gabby

    I made this for my best friends 17th birthday and she looooooved it! I skipped the cake flour and used all purpose so it was a tad bit dense/crumbly but delicious nontheless!!AND i’m gonna make it for my little bros birthday too – best cake ever!!!

  170. Patty

    Super cute cake. I had a bit of deja vous when I received the email. Made a monkey cake myself a few years back for a Cake Walk at my kids’ grade school. It sort of turned into a competition through the years, and the monkey cake was a big winner! Unsure if I can attach a photo here or not…would love for you to see it. Your version is infinitely tastier than mine was…I was going for style over substance at the time but I am definitely a baker that cares about taste. Love your website and your son is SOOOO cute! I am a firm believer in the homemade cake on your birthday, too.

  171. Katt

    I’m having a huge jungle themed 18th birthday party. So this is perfect. I can make my own cake. or should I say…I can make a dozen of my own cakes. :) THANK YOU so much for the idea and recipe.

  172. Victoria

    So cool! It’s my birthday in a few weeks and my favourite cake just happens to be banana cake (more a nostalgic thing than anything) and my nickname amoungst very close family and my boyfriend happens to be monkey. Is it wrong to make your own birthday cake that is far less extravagent than the cakes you make for others?

  173. Noemie

    Dear Deb,

    Finally there is conversion to grams, yet another reason to LOVE your blog.
    Keep up the excellent cooking, every recipe I have tried so far is a keeper in my ‘home-famous’ baking.:-)

    Shana Tova to you and your family!

  174. awww your monkey cakes are soooo cute! but your one-year-old is even cuter! look at that adorable face with fudge frosting smudged all over! happy belated birthday to him :)

  175. sal

    So I like to bake! But…
    whenever I bake I tend to mess up the oven part!!
    I follow the recipe..(350F) ok? then should I turn the bottom and lower part together or how exactly?
    Please save me :D

  176. Wow, it’s like you’re talking directly to me. The girl who turns 34 in a couple of weeks and has been trying to figure out the perfect birthday cake to bake…for myself…because I still think it’s a big deal. Love this one, and congratulations to your new TODDLER! I’ve already started planning the cake for my daughter’s 2nd birthday, which is in February.

  177. Pippa

    Hi Deb. I love this cake and your photos of the gorgeous Jakob. I want to make this cake for my daughter’s two-year-old birthday party this weekend, but I have no idea how to make the icing/frosting look so beautiful and smooth. Any tips?

    Thanks, Pippa

  178. Dee

    Love this idea.

    Two questions before I attempt to make this cake for my own monkey’s 1st birthday.

    1) Would your Chocolate sour cream frosting work with this? (was originally going to make best birthday cake until I saw this one!)

    2) Do you leave the toothpick in the cake to keep the attached ears steady ? I’m just afraid my little one is going to scratch herself while grabbing through her monkey cake.


    1. deb

      Dee — No reason you can’t use the chocolate sour cream recipe. The toothpicks are only on the large cake — since you’ll be serving that to guests, it’s on you to take them out or at least make sure the ear slices go to grownups. The mini cake doesn’t have any dangerous elements.

  179. Jen

    I think I’m going to have to make this one for my birthday next month!! I made your peach cupcakes for the twins’ first birthday on Sept 1st. They were a huge hit. As a side, the left over icing goes great with everything :)

  180. Lindsey

    I am making this in cupcake form for my sister’s birthday this week, with a few tweaks to make it more like something she’ll like. I am adding chocolate chips into the cake batter, and am making a banana mousse with a little dark rum to fill the cupcakes (since we are all adults and everything is better with rum!). I can’t wait to eat them this weekend!

  181. Ula

    Perfect timing! I need to get serious about the planning of my first babies first birthday in December. My friend made this elaborate caterpillar cake for her firstborn’s first, she set the bar high. I am tempted though to just get a ready-made sponge cake and put jam between the layers and top it with nutella and coconut flakes. This is what my Mom used to do and it was delicious.

    Regarding guessing genders of babies. No matter how cute and girlish I will dress my girl, I will inevitably get the “He’s so cute. What’s his name?” from a stranger. Oh well, we are moving toward a unisex world anyway.

  182. KO

    Made this cake this past weekend. Turned out well, but thought the cake part was quite dense (almost like a heavy banana bread). Oh, where did I go wrong? Overmixing? Should I have not frozen it in advance?

  183. Looks like Curious George, who happens to share a name with *my* newest Monkey! I’ll have to keep this one in mind when I start planning his big day….in 10 months ;oP I’m glad you went with banana cake. What else could a monkey be made of?!

  184. Kate

    I have been assuming you were my secret, more kitchen friendly soul mate for some time now because you make everything I would make if I lived in a perfect world, but have refrained from mentioning it to you until now. This cake put me over the edge.

    I could explain my obsession with birthdays and the homemade cakes that accompany them, but that could take hours. Instead I’ll just share that I used your chocolate butter cake and yellow cake recipes to make a large, purple hippopotamus cake for my 1 year old this August. I made 2 practice hippo heads and one practice body before the big day. It was a lovely, yummy cake that I’m sure will make my daughter proud in about 30 years when she has her own child.

  185. Such a cute cake!

    In a pinch you can fake over-ripe bananas by popping fresh ones in the freezer until hard followed by a quick defrost in the microwave. Pop off one end and squeeze the pre-mashed banana-goo out of the natural tube.

  186. joan

    I’m late to the pah-te’…but happy bd anyway, jacob. (I always celebrate for a few weeks.). Deb – i’m looking at the pix on my blackberry …can’t see them all that well…but i vote for the one where jacob is covered with chocolate. :). This kid is going to have a hard time finding a women who will ever cook for him the way you do. But then again – he’ll prob end up doing the cookng!

  187. kameel

    Great cake..the best part of it is..eating it.. I myself do all my grands b/day cakes..all types.. more charcter ones tho..believe me when I say it very time consuming..but in end when its all done and watch the smiles on the kiddies faces makes it all worth while..(:>)..I love baking!!

  188. sweettooth sarah

    I just made this and it is unbelievable!! The cake strikes a perfect balance between the sweetness of the banana and richness of the sour cream. It took ALL of my willpower not to chow it down the minute it came out of the oven. The frosting is over the top divine – the half and half and butter make the chocolate sing (and me orgasm).
    Did I mention that I’m 8 months pregnant?

  189. Sarie

    What an amazing cake! I really would like to make this one for my boyfriend’s birthday in December. But I don’t know whether to bake it in the center of the oven or to slide it in just underneath the center. Could someone help me out? Eventhough I am not a very experienced baker, I really would like to pull this one off because he loooves bananas and I sometimes call him monkey :). Perfect, no?

  190. Amanda

    Incredibly cute. I am planning on making this cake within the next few days, but I had two questions:

    1) If this cake were to be made on Thursday night or Friday morning but wasn’t going to be eaten until Sunday, what is the best way to store it? I have to make the cake in advance and have it transported someplace else for weekend festivities.

    2) For the cupcake smash cake, would one simply decorate the ears on top since there is nothing to cut out or pin on?


    1. deb

      Amanda — Are you talking about Option 2? You’d be baking 3 cupcakes from those instructions, 2 that you can use as half-circle shaped ears. As for the cake, if you have time to decorate and ice it at the last minute, this is my suggestion. You can bake the cakes and freeze them for a couple days for no lost moisture (this is what I do) and put it all together at the last minute. If you can’t, I’d just brush it with a syrup to ensure extra moisture for those two days it will sit.

  191. Amanda

    I did mean option 2, but the ears on the smash cake itself. That part I’m not so worried about; the notion of a smash cake for someone turning 30 is great in itself.

    I unfortunately won’t be where the cake is going to end up and have to pass it on either Thursday night or Friday morning. Would I just brush on a coat simple syrup? Should I recommend that the cake be refrigerated or left at room temperature once it leaves my hands?

    Thanks so much for the quick reply!

  192. I’m with you on this… and I am NO baker. I slaved over a two layer cake in June for my wife’s birthday, at no point did I expect the task to take me eight hours from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, I can cook – but baking, well, there are too many rules to follow. Birthdays rock, and our loved ones deserve our cakes, even when we’re grown up.

  193. Tattletale

    they fixed it. Yay! I love your site been a fan a long time – that’s my first comment. keep up the good work, great food, great photos

  194. Kat

    This is such an adorable cake!! It’s also very simple :] I mean honestly, if an impatient seventeen year old like myself can sit down and take the time to do it – anyone can. Although mine didn’t come out NEARLY as cute [or clean looking] as yours ^_^ I ended up making this for my friends seventeenth birthday, but I’m going to use it again in about two months for my nieces fourth birthday. Thank you so much for being serious about cakes!! Keep up the great work :]

  195. Lotte

    I made this cake this weekend as a practice for a birthday next week. It looked really cool, which is what inspired me to make it. But I have to say that this is the most delicious and moist banana cake I’ve tasted. And the chocolate ganache frosting compliments it perfectly :-)

  196. I made this cake yesterday for my husband’s 27th birthday, and everyone really enjoyed it. I only have one comment regarding the recipe: I made the three-layer recipe, which reads “Divide batter among three pans; you’ll want approximately 5 cups of batter per pan.” I definitely didn’t have 15 cups of batter! More like 10 or 11 cups.

    The cakes were plenty large, so the actual recipe yield is fine, but I started out by pouring 5 cups into one pan and then realizing that my other two pans would have much less batter in them.

    That aside, thanks for a fun and tasty recipe!

  197. Molly

    I made this cake over the weekend for my 5 and almost 2 year old boys birthday party. It was wonderful! My youngst kept sticking his finger in and going ,’monk cake!” and my oldest gobbled lots and he’s not a big cake fan. I made option three and the two layers came out HUGE, and there was just enough icing for it. It might have been my pans (I live in the UK and am American and can’t figure out inches to cenimeters, etc., so maybe they are bigger than nine inches). Anyway, thank you, it was delicious. Can you recommend any icing pipers, I have a set that never seems to work properly.

  198. Hayley

    I’m interested in making this as a small “smash cake” for my son’s first birthday. Do you know how I could scale it down to make a two-tier 5-inch cake? I have 2 5-inch cake pans, but I’m not sure about the measurements.

  199. frances

    @ hayley — i know that usually you can halve a recipe for a 9 inch cake and fit it into 6 inch pans. this turned out to be a pretty tall cake (i made it in standard 9 inch pans with 2 inch sides) and though the layers compressed slightly while cooling, they rose to the top during baking. so i don’t know what the exact measurements would be (i believe deb has a link to pan conversions?) but i imagine you could halve it or a little less (esp if your pan sides are short) and go from there.

    did this for my friend’s son’s first birthday! used option 2 to make a 2 layer 9 inch cake and just one large cupcake as the smash cake. i trimmed the large cake itself to carve the ears, rather than pinning on cupcake halves, and cut out little tiny sections on the cupcake to show the ears before i frosted. i used a paring knife to trace the shape into the top of the cake before cutting it. then i placed the carved layer on top of the uncarved layer and used it as a template so they matched. the cake was delicious! very dense and heavy — almost more like a bread. the banana flavor really came through. i had a ton of leftover frosting, too. also, because it’s now a bit chilly, the buttercream started to set before i finished smoothing it out, so my monkey was a bit, say, “furrier” than i was hoping. ha. but everyone was super impressed and loved the monkey face. especially the monkey himself :)

  200. sk

    ok, if you do option 2, what makes the ears for the smash cake. do you use the other cupcake cut in half? do you have to trim it? seems proportionately large for cupcake with half a cupcake for ears?

  201. Brooke

    How many people do you think the cake serves?
    I want to make it for my sons second birthday. We will have 6 adults and 7 kids.

  202. Christina

    This cake was a huge hit at my (not-turning-one) friend’s birthday. It was the most ambitious cake I’ve attempted to date, and has inspired me to try even more elaborate constructions in the future. I made the mistake of mentioning this, and another friend jokingly requested a wedding cake for her next birthday. I argued my kitchen was too small for such nonsense. I left out the fact that my cake idol’s kitchen is even smaller and you managed one – but that’s why you’re my idol, after all ;).

  203. Libby

    I’ve used this cake recipe twice now! It’s a great, not too-sweet, no-fail banana cake- thank you. First time I paired it with a cream cheese frosting (my fave recipe from The Cake Bible) and this time I made your frosting and little fondant monkey toppers. I think it would be even better with a less-sweet frosting, like a whipped ganache. Yum!
    Anyway, love your site, keep it up!

  204. I made this cake the other day (for my cousin’s daughter’s first birthday) and it was a hit! Tasty *and* adorable. Great combination.
    A few notes, in case someone makes it all the way through the previous 400+ comments and happens to have the same issues I did…
    1. I was too lazy to make two cakes and bake them separately, so I made one cake (in a 24cm tin) and then divided it to two layers. This might have been a mistake, since (a) the cake sank quite a lot after cooling, and (b) after cutting it in two we found out that it wasn’t fully baked, and some of the dough was still gooey. It worked out okay for us, in the end (we put the sunk half on the bottom, so you couldn’t see it and the weight of the cake leveled it nicely, and as for the halfbaked dough, we just trusted that nobody would notice or care, what with the filling and all, and that’s indeed what happened), but in the future I’ll probably either bake two cakes or use a larger tin.
    2. I don’t like frosting. I know this is sacrilegious to some people, but I really, really don’t like frosting. Buttercream, cream cheese – it all ends up tasting like sugary butter, and I don’t want that on my cakes. So my solution in this case was to make a whipped ganache (about 350g chocolate and 400ml cream or so, cooled overnight, then whipped. Yum!), some of which I used as-is for filling, and the rest mixed with a lazy vanilla cream (using instant vanilla pudding mix; I suppose I could have made pastry cream or something, but for a 1-year-old’s birthday cake I didn’t feel the need to go to all that trouble… if you really hate instant pudding, I’d suggest using some thickened and stabilized whipped cream instead). I saved some of the vanilla cream for the light-coloured parts. Ended up having a lot of extra chocolate-vanilla cream, but guess what? It’s basically chocolate mousse. :) Everybody wins!
    3. For the mini-monkey cupcakes (I had two, the second one going to the birthday girl’s 3 year old cousin), I had some trouble thinking how to make the ears, until I realised that the shape of chocolate medallions – like Valrhona’s – is very monkey-ear-like, so I stuck them in the cupcakes, and it looked perfect.

  205. Carla Hinkle

    My little monkey (our 3rd, but 1st boy) is turning 1 Dec 27. I have been planning to make him this cake for MONTHS. I can’t wait to bake it.

  206. I just made this cake last week for my 4th son’s first birthday and it was great! (I made the 2 layer big cake – no 2nd cake) I subscribe to your blog and when you posted this back in September I knew I *had* to make it for him. I did have to add a few more chocolate chips to get the color dark enough, but otherwise the cake and your directions were easy enough for me, a mom of 4, to pull off 4 days before Christmas!

  207. Wow – just made this tonight for my little guy’s first birthday, and it was a hit! Being that it was my first homemade birthday cake ever, I made some major mistakes, like trying to frost when the cakes were still warm (the middle layer just melted and ran onto the counter) and not mixing the frosting thoroughly enough (so there were tiny visible bits of chocolate and butter throughout, still tasted delicious though).

    It was definitely delicious and looked mighty cute, even with my not-so-posh decorating skills! I made the major three-cake option, and ended up with two smash cakes for the birthday boy and his little cousin. Little guy loved it and so did I. Thanks for sharing a great recipe and for all the thorough instructions!

  208. Allyson

    I made the cake last weekend for my son’s first birthday and it was super great. He loved it. Everyone loved it. I made the 2 layer with three cupcakes (one for the birthday boy, and one each for two young party attendees). I didn’t end up making the monkey face, but nobody missed it :) Love the banana chocolate combo. The frosting is to die for! Can’t wait to make another cake just so i have an excuse to make the frosting again. Thanks for another winning dessert!!

  209. Eileen

    Hi Deb, first of all, thank you for sharing with the world your creativity, passion and love for food ..and pics of Jacob :) Well, finally revisiting this bookmarked cake but I have a question for ya… how sweet would you say this cake and buttercream frosting is? I know it’s hard to say because there’s no like measure of sweetness…. but would you say if you had a sweet tooth and this hits the spot? Or, even for people who don’t really eat cakes/pastries/cookies, would it still be OK?

    OK, and here’s another question from my friend. You may be disgusted by this question but please humor us…. she is NOT a baker and is not interested in being legit about this. Her question is… what if she used boxed. banana. bread. mix. and then made the buttercream from scratch? I told her that well, it’s not cake but she thinks it could possibly, possibly work. funny fact. she does not like iHOP for the same reason you state and considers a store bought sheet cake to be an “i hate you” sign…. but insists on using boxed bread/cake mixes!! =D

  210. Lucy

    I made this cake today for a friend’s brithday and it went down a storm! He’s 38 but loved it as much as his children! I found I only needed half the quantity of frosting, but luckily I guessed this beforehand! Such a brilliant idea and really easy. Tasty sponge too! Thank you Deb. Eileen – the frosting is fairly sweet, but you could just use less, like I did. Or, try a flour frosting recipe which uses a lot less sugar. Also, for your friend – making the sponge really isn’t that hard – you can do it all in a food processor.

  211. I just made this cake and frosting. I only needed a smash cake, so i cut the smaller recipe in half and got 4 cupcakes and a 6 in. smash cake. I did cut half of the sugar out of the cake recipe, and made sure that the bananas were extra ripe to add that sweetness, and I think the cake taste sweet without the extra sugar. I would recommend cutting the salt a tiny bit, cause i forgot and can taste it a little.
    For the frosting, i also cut back on the sugar by a cup. The frosting isn’t as thick, but it’s not watery either. It is spreadable and once it is in the fridge overnight it should become even firmer. The chocolate frosting has a dark chocolate taste with the subtraction of the 1 cup sugar, and it is plenty sweet. Overall, i think it turned out well, and I’m glad I reduced the sugar. I am excited to put it together, and see my baby girls reaction to her monkey cake! :)

  212. Lucy

    By the way, I should have said, re: frosting, this was for an 8 inch sandwich cake with ears made from a 3.5 inch mini cake, cut in half, and the exact quantities I used were: 155 g unsalted butter, 350 g icing sugar, 45 ml skimmed milk (all I had – worked fine). Jessica’s comment also reminds me that I didn’t use salt in the sponge recipe as I don’t think it needs it. Hope your baby girl loved it Jessica!

  213. Andrea

    I made your adorable cake this weekend as a test run for my daughter’s first birthday. I noticed in the comments that everyone mentions how moist his/her cake turned out. Mine, though, was a little on the dry side. Any suggestions? (Perhaps it’s as simple as cutting down my cooking time, but I didn’t want to take the layers out while they were still gushy in the centers.) By the way, your instructions are spot on (especially for a complex recipe like this), and I found that the adhesive quality of the icing allowed me to remove the toothpicks from the ears before I served the cake (well, I used cocktail straws instead of toothpicks because they were handy). Since this is the first comment I’ve ever made, I’ll take the opportunity to say thanks for writing this rockin’ blog!

  214. April W.

    I just made the smaller cake recipe for 2-9″ layers using 10″pans and the layers came out thick and gorgeous. Thanks for a great cake! Now I just need to fill with whipped cream and strawberries, frost the outside and decorate it like the banana split cake that it will be.

  215. beth from ny

    Made the two 9″ round cake pan recipe yesterday but used three 9″ cake pans. Amazing, moist, delicious cake! Frosted with brown butter cream cheese frosting, topped with toasted chopped pecans, and put banana slices (wet with fresh orange juice to avoid browning) around sides. Just beautiful and fed a big crowd. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe.

  216. Liz

    Hey there! A google search on “Monkey Smash Cake” listed this post at the top! We made our son’s smash cake following your template. Thanks for the cute idea, it turned out awesome!!!

  217. Rachel

    Deb –
    Made a version of these for my son’s first birthday in cupcake form. Now, his second is approaching and I have a challenge you can relate to, and about which I hope you might have some advice: we’re hosting a party for our extended family at our place. There will be 28 adults and 12 kids, toddlers and babies for an early dinner. I’d so love to make most of the dinner spread myself, but I have only one top/bottom freezer, and lots of space in there is devoted to frozen veggies for my tot. How would you do this? Thanks.

  218. Erin

    I made this cake recently for my son’s 2nd birthday and it turned out pretty good. However as the cake cooled, in sort of collapsed in the middle. I did the toothpick check before I took it out of the oven and it came out clean. I just used a lot of frosting the cake looked fine, but when I sliced into it it was a little goopy in the middle. (I actually had one person tell me thought it was intentional, and the best part, like a molten banana cake…) Anyway, only once in my life has that ever happened before, and that was also with a banana cake. It’s almost like all the banana slid to the center as the cake cooled. Has this ever happened to anyone else? I also made banana cupcakes with the exact same recipe (there were a lot of people) and they turned out perfect.

  219. Fernanda

    I fell in love at first sight with Jacob’s monkey cake and I’ve been waiting for my nephew’s 1st birthday to finally make it. It was utterly delicious! Lucas, the birthday boy, was ecstatic about it.
    Saludos! from Buenos Aires, Argentina

  220. Joe Donley

    Would this recipe be able to fit in sheet cake pan? A friend of mine loves bananas and loves Stitch (from Lilo and Stitch), so I was planning on making this cake look like him. Would the recipe for the 3 layer cake be enough batter?

  221. Danielle S.

    I just made this recipe for my son’s 2nd birthday. It was my first cake and such a success. I did not style it as a monkey. I just frosted and added Mn’M polka dots and a number 2 candle. Everyone loved it. My older nephew (8 years old) said that it was an awesome cake and wanted one like it.

  222. Joe

    In your three layer cake recipe there’s an error in the metric measurement for the white sugar- it should read 300 grams, not 150.

  223. robin

    The frosting, OMG thank you! I may never sift again; loved using the food processor for it. I used it with the ‘best birthday cake’ recipe (which I’ve made several times now) for cupcakes for my son’s class today and am using it again for this cake for his actual birthday this weekend.

  224. Jenn

    I just made the frosting (small batch) and it is QUITE bitter. I wish I’d used semisweet chocolate, or even milk. I tried adding another cup of conf. sugar on the off chance that I’d miscounted, but it’s still more bitter than sweet, except now it’s also cloying. :( Not sure where I went wrong. I followed the instructions to the letter.

    On the other hand the cake batter tastes incredible and I can’t wait to try the cake tomorrow. It’s not super sweet, to those who are feeling faint at the amount of sugar. As Deb said it makes a lot of batter so it gets distributed. Not much sweeter than banana bread.

    I wanted to make the small batch but still have a smash CAKE, not a cupcake. I went hunting and found a 14 oz. ramekin and filled it about 2/3 full. This ended up being *perfect*. All in all I had the 2 9 in. cake pans, the 14 oz. ramekin, and 2 cupcakes to make four monkey ears. There was plenty of batter for this; the cake pans were still almost overfilled.

  225. Jenn

    OK, now that I have tried the cake I feel compelled to weigh in and say this wasn’t my thing. My comparison to banana bread in my last comment was prescient because that’s pretty much what this “cake” tasted like… banana bread with chocolate frosting. It is very dense, a little dry, and just not my style. Maybe I overworked it or something but I don’t think that can account for the whole problem. This is just a very heavy cake and I was expecting something lighter, like my wedding cake, which was more like white cake with 2-3 bananas and then some extra banana flavoring (I’m guessing here).

    More advice for anyone actually reading through all these comments: Try the cake in advance before serving it somewhere, to make sure you like it. Also, 40-45 minutes was too long for my 2 9 in. cake pans. I pulled them out at 34 minutes when I realized they were already very done. I’d start checking at 30 minutes next time.

  226. Jenni

    Made this today for my little one’s first birthday – and it was delicious. The three year old and I were probably a little more excited but she smeared it all over her face nonetheless. The cake was delicious. Thanks for the great recipe and inspiration!

  227. Liz D

    Oh Deb, you are my hero, as usual. I have been thinking for a whole week about what to do for my son’s first birthday. Zucchini cake? Carrot cake? Regular ol’ chocolate cake? Then I thought “banana cake!” Because we have some ripe nanners and this kid loves him so bananas. Then I thought “where will I find banana cake and not banana bread recipes?” As is my habit, my first search was on SK and lo! and behold! You did the same thing for your little dude! (I must have missed this post as I was still in the hospital with my new addition at this time). So awesome.

  228. Sarah

    I too was in the hospital last year with my little man when you posted this last year. Can’t wait to make this cake for his 1st Birthday in a couple of weeks. Thank you so much for the recipe. I can’t imagine a better cake for our little banana loving monkey :)

  229. Candace McGill

    Thank you for sharing. That is adorable! I think I better start practicing my cake making skills as I will have a lot of birthdays for my little one ahead! Banana cake is perfect as Jack LOVES bananas and banana bread. I may give this recipe a try!

  230. Candace McGill

    Not sure I should attempt such a cute little monkey for my first try. If I decided to do something simpler could I bake the 2 layer recipe in a 9 x 13 pan? I refer to ay son as my little monkey all the time so this would be so appropriate. Who knew I needed a decorating class before becoming a parent!

  231. robin

    Question about the frosting–I’m going to make a peppermint buttercream frosting for cupcakes and thought I’d use this as the base recipe. But it seems like a tablespoon of peppermint extract might be overwhelming. How much do you suggest? I saw another recipe that recommended using both vanilla and peppermint extracts but wasn’t sure about that. Thoughts? Thanks!

  232. robin

    Thanks, Deb. 1/4 tsp did the trick. Used your double chocolate layer cake recipe to make cupcakes–so good with the peppermint frosting.

  233. jess

    Hi Deb,
    Thanks for the cake recipe – I saw the pic and fell in love… I actually made it for hubby’s birthday because he loves monkeys!
    The cake was absolutely delicious – I cut a fair bit off the top of my cakes as they rose more than the cupcakes and enjoyed eating the leftovers for afternoon tea!

    1 question though – I had to substitute margarine for butter in the icing and it was so, so runny. I refrigerated it until it was cold and it still slid off my monkey’s face :(
    I’m asusming it is because I cheated with the butter… but also wanted to check that confectioners’ sugar is the equivilent of Australian icing sugar (if you know?)
    I’d love to make it again so can’t wait until our daughter turns 1! :)

    1. deb

      Hi jess — I have no experience making frosting with margarine (hopefully someone else will pipe up) but it could have been. I think that icing sugar is the same — powdery, yes? I am glad you enjoyed the cake just the same!

  234. I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you!! I found this through pinterest and fell in love, but wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Your directions are so thorough though, it came out great! I made it for my sweet monkey’s first birthday this weekend :) I substituted Earth Balance buttery sticks for the butter, and applesauce for the sour cream (and used a different frosting), because my little guy can’t have dairy, but it was still yummy!

  235. Tracy

    Thank you for sharing such a great recipe! I jus made this for my daughter’s 2nd birthday and it was DELICIOUS! The cake has a great banana flavor is an a perfect combination with the chocolate frosting. It reminds me of eating banana bread with chocolate chips (one of my favorites). Cheers!

  236. Sarah

    I made this for a friend’s son’s 2nd birthday, and not only did he absolutely go bananas (sorry – ha!) for the monkey, but it was soooo very delicious that all the grown-ups loved it too. :) I added some mini chocolate chips just for fun, and I made the monkey’s face sort of orangey yellow. I will definitely be making this again – maybe in October when my little monkey turns two!

  237. sarah

    My husband made this for our daughter’s first birthday. He made the big cake and the smash cake. They looked so cute! Delicious too! I’m so glad he did the smash cake because watching her demolish it was priceless. Thanks for the great idea and instructions…oh yeah, and for the recipe too!

  238. Madeline

    Just wrapped up our daughter’s 2nd birthday party! I went with option 4… run completely out of time and just frost the whole thing with chocolate icing, no monkeys whatsoever :) I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful recipe. It was a hit, even without the monkey face.

  239. Jane Leahy

    I made this cake for my daughter’s second birthday. It was fantastic and everyone agreed it was delicious. I’m not really good at making cakes but your instructions where so easy to follow. It looked brilliant and tasted great. Thanks so much. Oh, and the idea to freeze the sponges before icing them is inspired – made the job so much easier. Very happy customer thanks, Jane, London, UK.

  240. Christy Johnston

    i stinkin love you. LOE this sweet cake and your precious family and your HONESTY!! Thank you for being real and reassuring us that we’re all just doing our best, some (YOU) just making “Best” taste better than others… thank you!! xx

  241. Victoria Solomon

    I made this for my son’s 1 year birthday party and it was wonderful!

    I used option 2 with the smaller batch of icing and had plenty of icing for the cake and the cupcake “smash” cake.

    I used 1/2c. butter and 1/2c. oil with good results. I also baked for less time than what was called for. A word for others: the batter is SUPER thick. But it turns out great!

  242. Susana

    I very much enjoy your blog, and made this wonderful cake for my son’s first birthday! Thank you for the deliciousness, and thank you for sharing the yummy recipes and your gorgeous son!

  243. Sara

    Deb, I think I have made at least one SK recipe a week since whenever it was I happened upon your amazing website… probably around 3 years. Everyone in the house gets an SK cake for their birthday (and anniversary, holidays, and Tuesdays). My 3 year old requested strawberries & cream scones (SWOON) for his birthday breakfast, applesauce cake for his “just family” birthday dinner (along with CLAMS! love that kid) and monkey cake for his bigger family birthday party, which was today. OMG. Best. Cake. Ever. I made option two exactly as written, and was absolutely blown away by the results.

    One suggestion- instead of messing with toothpicks to stick the ears on, just glue them on with frosting. Works great, and I had more than enough frosting left over even after super thick layers.

  244. Julie

    So excited to find this recipe! I did some quick reviewing of Pinterest for 1st birthday cake ideas but they were all super-crazy-difficult, even for someone who bakes regularly. I was going to make Barefoot Contessa’s Old Fashioned Banana Cake, but this is so much better because it will be cute.

    Came your way via Pate a Chew, who raves about you :)

  245. Heidi

    I just made this cake for my son’s first birthday last weekend. It was a huge success. We went with option one, but with two layers and 6 cupcakes instead of three layers. We were having a lot of guests, and I was worried (unreasonably) that option two would leave us with a too-small big people cake. Anyway, it worked perfectly. the cupcakes came out smaller than the layers (um, perhaps since we overfilled the layer pans), but the ears were perfect with three half cupcakes. We also didn’t have toothpicks, so were forced to use lots of frosting. I’m sure you can hear the objections.
    Despite my poor artistry, everyone who came recognized that it was a monkey, and despite the just-ripe bananas they also could tell the flavor. In short: a huge success.
    Oh, and since I made the larger amount of frosting…I have about 2 cups left over to bring to my office. Or, you know, to spread on challah for a breakfast of champions.
    Next year I think we will do the same thing, with the batter for option 1 but only the smaller amount of frosting. Of course, next year we might not need a smash cake, but it was fun to have cupcake ears (and a couple extra cupcakes left over to send home with a particularly enthusiastic guest)

  246. Heather

    Hi Deb! I am planning on making (a version) of this for my son’s first birthday next week. I was thinking of making all cupcakes…what would you adjust the bake time to? Any other changes to the recipe for cupcakes only?

    p.s. love your recipes, I’ve been reading for a long time, and the cookbook is on pre-order! Congrats on all your success!

  247. Thank you Smitten Kitchen for providing the inspiration for my daughter’s first birthday cake – not quite as pro looking as the one you made, and neither was my daughter as well behaved when she was presented with it, but it made a delicious cake and everyone was really impressed! You can see my post here:

    Am very grateful to you for this original, fun and delicious recipe!


  248. Thanks so much for this recipe! I used Option 1 to make the 2 layer monkey face, 3 large muffins (1 for the ears, 2 smash cakes) and 12 mini-monkey cupcakes. My son loved it and so did his little friends. I usually make cakes out of the box but this inspired me to do more… and I’m glad I did! No more box recipes for me!

  249. Richa

    LOVE THIS! I am totally making this for my monkey’s first birthday next week. And looks like we even have the same highchair! I’ll be sure to blog about it, and link you in. Thanks!

  250. Karen

    I found this recipe when I was looking for a way to use up some aging bananas and you’re right, this is the perfect cake for a little kid: when I brought the finished cake to him, my 48 year old husband, who loves both bananas and monkeys, immediately grabbed it and ran off to the bedroom to gobble it down. He got about 1/5 done before I exerted my authority and took it back. Sigh…

  251. ash

    I made this cake using chestnut puree (creme de marrons) instead of banana puree in a 1:1 ratio, with a third less sugar. It turned out beautiful, with the toasty notes of chestnut coming to the fore. One thing I noted was the baking time – it needed quite a bit less. I took the cake out at 30 minutes (9 inch cake pan).

  252. Hi Deb – I made your intense tiny chocolate cake from the cookbook a few weeks ago, and although I didn’t mix in the egg whites right, it was still very good. I bought a 6″ cake pan for the purpose, and now am intrigued to try more “tiny cakes.” I’ve looked around the website to glean tips from other examples you have but wondered if you’d consider doing a whole post about tiny cakes – especially a tiny layer cake? I’m intrigued, especially since making a whole great big cake so often seems wasteful when, for us anyway, it’s never more than 2-5 people eating it. Thanks!

  253. Sarah

    Hey Deb–I am trying to make this cake for my partner (no, that’s not a typo. a monkey cake seems charming to me at any age) who is a vegan. I know that flax seed and water is often a substitute for eggs, and I could use vegan yogurt (which is more watery than regular dairy yogurt btw), vegan butter & milk, etc. Do you think that this would work? I want your honest opinion. Since, there are so many eggs called for in this recipe, I’m worrying that the flax substitute would be overwhelming in taste. I don’t want to try it, if you think it’ll just be a flop. Let me know.

    1. deb

      Hi Sarah — I haven’t tried the flax seed trick so I cannot say for sure. You might reach out to the blogger behind comment #56, who also veganized the cake.

  254. Robyn

    Thank you so much for the great cake recipe! I have had it marked to make for some time and just finished making for my 2 yr monkey’s birthday tomorrow. She eats more bananas than anyone else I know and I think she will love this cake!

  255. Leena

    I have had this bookmarked for months for my daughter’s first birthday. Was thinking of making a sheet cake with the monkey face in the center. Do you think the three layer cake recipe is enough to make 2 thin ish 9×13 cakes to frost? Thanks! Love your site – wait patiently for each new post!

  256. Elisheva

    What would the baking time adjustment be if I wanted to make some of this in a 6-inch cake pan? As in 1 9-inch layer and 2 6-inchers to make a Mickey Mouse head. I (obsessively?) calculated how much batter I need in each pan to make the cake height the same for all the parts, but I assume the baking time needs to change also because of the smaller diameter. Any tips?

    1. deb

      I don’t think you’d need an adjustment because a 6-inch pan holds about half the volume of a 9-inch, keeping the height the same.

  257. Sophie

    Does it matter if the yogurt for the cake is low fat instead of full fat?It should be 6 tablespoons like the sour cream or different amount?
    Thank you!

  258. deb

    All fat levels will work but a Greek or Greek-style yogurt and a yogurt with fat in it will give you the best texture/crumb. Use the same amount.

  259. Amy

    I made this (with a peanut butter cream cheese filling) and it was awesome. I did think the frosting was a little sweet out of the fridge, but the slice I let warm on the counter was amazing. No toddlers were in attendance but the cake was very well received by adults :)

  260. Melissa Lane

    My baby’s party is on Saturday. Today is Thursday. Can I make the frosting tonight, cake on Friday? Or how would you suggest timing so that it’s fresh, but not all happening last minute?

  261. Kristin

    We celebrated my daughter’s first birthday with this cake. I cut it into the shape of a butterfly, and frosted it with cream cheese frosting — dying small batches with pureed berries (a meld of your berry buttercream recipe). She devoured it. We savored it. Thank you for the memories!

  262. Merissa

    Emergency!! My daughter’s first birthday is in 2 weeks, and she’s allergic to eggs. Any suggestions for an egg substitute or some other modification I can use to make this recipe eggless?

  263. deb

    Hi — I haven’t used this, but many readers over the years have commented about using an egg substitute made from flax seeds. You can Google and I’m sure find many articles about how to make it/use it. Good luck!

  264. Ruby

    Such a hit! I made this last night for my husbands birthday, and it was amazeballs! The pureed bananas really made the cake fluffy and light but not too banana-y. As for the buttercream frosting made in the blender/food processor, I will probably never make it any other way ever again. It was so easy! However replaced about a 1/4 cup of butter with browned butter and I dissolved the brown sugar in the hot butter (I was out of confectioners sugar) and subbed in a 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil for the heavy cream. Sooo good! Such a flexible recipe, this one is going into my collection of favorites. Great post :)

  265. Elena

    Ciao Deb, I have been doing some tests for my son’s birthday cake and when I tried last Tuesday, on the actual birth-day, this one was a great hit with the family. I had halved the option 2-3 quantity as I made a tiddy one. Now I’m going to make the big one for his party tomorrow…have a 22×28 cm cake pan (that’s the equivalent of roughly 9×11 inches) so was thinking of going with the quantity for the 3 layer round cake you have. My only worry is: will it feed 30+? If not I have another cake pan, which is huge 38×26 cm, that’s roughly 15×10 inches. For this one I suppose I could double the 2 layer cake quantity but not sure. Help!

    1. deb

      Elena — If cut small enough, the first pan size will be fine. If you’ve got time or energy to make a larger one, I don’t think it will go to waste.

  266. Julia

    You inspired me with this cake. I made a fox cake with cream cheese frosting for my daughter’s first birthday. I dyed it lavender by squeezing some blackberries. And used the white and some sweet potato purée for the face. I’d love to show you a picture but I can’t paste it here? This cake kinda validated for me that I really am cut out for this motherhood thing! :-)

  267. So excited to find this recipe! I did some quick reviewing of Pinterest for 1st birthday cake ideas but they were all super-crazy-difficult, even for someone who bakes regularly.

  268. SP

    Hi Deb–ever since you posted this recipe in 2010, I had dreamed of maybe someday doing a banana cake for our baby’s 1st birthday (I was not even married then, let alone anywhere close to thinking about children, but alas, all that happened and, we have a baby now, who made it to one!). I would like to use this recipe, but make a banana pudding cake, wherein I bake these two banana cake layers, and then use a layer of (fresh) banana pudding as the middle layer. Do you think that will work–ie, spreading a 1″-ish thick layer of pudding between these two layers? Are there red flags for which I should watch out? Many thanks!

    1. deb

      SP — Aw, love the story! I think it will probably be fine here, however, I haven’t worked very often with pudding fillings. My concern would be wetness and that it would make for more of a wobbly cake than a more firm or thin layer of filling, but I hardly think that a 1 year-old would mind. Or this 30-something-year-old. ;)

  269. SP

    You are wonderful for responding, thank you, Deb. I knew you would! Part of why SK is our family’s absolute, all-time, go-to place for our life’s recipes. OK, I hear you on the wobbliness of pudding, and will be prepared to assume the risk. I made a sample batch of the pudding this wknd, it turned out pretty stiff, so I’m going to go ahead and give it a try. Good point, that she probably won’t mind it much; and, I have never been one to reject a good cake if it’s wobbly, ha! I will report back when done. Still can’t believe we really have a one y/o, and that I’m getting the opportunity to make [a version of] this cake–thank you, Deb.

  270. SP

    Deb–just checking in to let you know that, I made the cake, and it is so beyond fabulous, perfect, moist, just absolutely first-birthday-worthy and then some, that I can’t bear to taint it with a pudding layer, after all. Going to stick with buttercream. My husband said: “It’s a DEB recipe? Oh yeah, don’t change a thing.”

  271. Toni


    I’ve planned my son’s first birthday party around this cake, and now the time to bake it is almost here. I’m going to be using the peanut butter filling from Baked’s Oopsy Daisy Cake instead of the fudge frosting between the layers, so I’m wondering if it’s worth it to cut the smaller batch of frosting down a little more. I’ll be making Option 2. I’m just not sure how to go about cutting, and still making sure that I have enough for the outside and the cupcake.


  272. Liz

    Hi Deb! My son’s first birthday party is tomorrow, and i have the cake layers waiting at home for me in the fridge. Is there any harm to using a stand mixer for the icing instead of a food processor? Is the food processor better for some reason?

    1. deb

      Liz — I find the food processor to be simply easier, and almost better at getting all of that melted chocolate smoothly blended. I love the ease of it. (Plus, by frosting time, my stand mixer bowl is usually dirty!) But, if you don’t have a FP, you can definitely use a stand mixer here.

  273. Laura

    Hi Deb, I remember when you FIRST posted this adorable cake, and now I have a monkey of my own who is turning one next week! My son’s favorite lovey is a monkey, so this is just perfect. Plus, I got all Martha crafty and made monkey invitations. Ok, sorry, a little excited. Question: how far in advance do you think I can make the icing? The cakes are already chillin in the freezer. I do much better when I can plan ahead. I get a little freaky on party day.
    Thanks for the recipe! You are a part of our family traditions!

    1. deb

      Aww, yay! The thing with frosting is that you can make it in advance and chill it, but it will get hard. So, you’ll want to have it out for just a little while and then rewhip it… it all feels like a lot of work. You can just ice the cake the day before and keep it in the fridge; does that work schedule-wise? I never, ever make cakes on Party Day. It would totally take the fun out of it if I was rushed; I’m sure you understand.

  274. Laura

    Sounds like a good plan! Thanks Deb! Keep up the great and inspiring work. I once met Ina Garten and nearly spazzed. Getting your reply made me feel the same way! I am a geek for sure.

  275. Lyndsay

    Thank you thank you for such a great recipe! We celebrated my first son’s first birthday with this cake at his party two nights ago. I did one two-layer smash cake, one two-layer, and one magnificently tall three layer using Option 1 twice. The frosting is a Godsend – sooo easy and delicious. I didn’t remember that the recipe split into two frostings until it was too late, but making it all chocolate worked well anyway. I also made your broccoli slaw and honey Harissa Farro
    Salad from your book for sides. Very good!! Thank you!

  276. JT

    What do you think about a penuche as frosting for this cake? Considering keeping the chocolate fudge layer in between (I have some left over from big bros bday last weekend) or maybe not… Thoughts? Thanks!

    1. deb

      JT — I’m not sure I’ve ever made a penuche frosting (although I’ve had it in candy format) but I’m sure the flavors would be lovely here if the sweetness was kept in check.

  277. JT

    Well, it is brown sugar based and flavored,, maybe I’ll add a smidge extra salt to even it out. Don’t want to alter the cake. Maybe I’ll just frost center and top (I think I can pour the frosting at the correct temp) to keep it from being a sugar bomb. Thanks! :)

  278. Megan

    This looks awesome! But, I’m lazy and I’d like to make it in a 9×13 pan. How would that change the baking time? Thanks! :)

  279. deb

    Megan — For a 9×13 pan of the equivalent height as one layer of this cake, which yields 3 9-inch round layers, you’ll want to use 2/3 the recipe. The baking time will be similar, but it’s not an exact science. The safest thing is to check in at the early end of the baking range here, and then every 5 minutes after that.

  280. Frances

    Thanks so much and love your website. I am making banana cupcakes for my son’s 1st birthday. Can I adapt the recipe for cupcakes? Equal swap or should I do something else to adapt it?

  281. deb

    Frances — You can make these as cupcakes. No need to change anything but baking time. I haven’t made them as cupcakes, but I suspect you’ll get about 12 cupcakes per cake layer.

  282. Amy

    Deb, I made your monkey into a bear for my 1 year-old’s birthday party this weekend (posted a few pics here: I am a seasoned baker but Hate (yes, with a capital H) decorating cakes. Your monkey inspired me, though. Not only was the cake ridiculously delicious, I was actually able to pull off the carving and decorating without any profanity. Thank you for being awesome as always!

  283. maddy

    I made this cake for my 1 yr old and loved it. Same guy is turning 3 this year and I want to make it again – if I do option 3, just the 2 9inch layers, how many people will this serve. The first time I made it, it served mainly me for a week…but this time I have to share!

  284. deb

    maddy — The serving number doesn’t really change that much, mostly because people tend to cut 9-inch cakes into the same sized slices, regardless of number of layers. In generally, 9-inch cakes should serve 8 to 12 people, but you can always cut the slices more thinly. If you’re really trying to stretch things, you can look at wedding cake cutting diagrams online where they get much more per cake by cutting carefully into more efficient shapes.

  285. Anna

    I made this. Thank you very much. Wonderful recipe and and delicious! I just drew the face in and the cake had no ears. I was afraid to ruin the cake by carving through 2 layers of cake. I was wondering can you recommend a device for carving out shapes from the cake?

  286. Another Anna

    Hi Deb! I, too, have had my eye on this cake ever since you posted it. My baby is turning one next month and I’d like to make this – however, he may be allergic to bananas. Can you suggest an alternate cake recipe to make this with? I’d be going with option 1. Thanks so much!

  287. Andrea

    Hi Deb. This cake is adorable! My son’s favorite thing to eat is mashed bananas with cinnamon and peanut butter. So, I’m planning to make this cake for his first birthday. But, I’m considering using the peanut butter frosting from your chocolate peanut butter cake instead of chocolate or vanilla. Do you think the combo will work? Thanks!

  288. Becca

    Deb, I’ve been cooking/baking from your site for years now – thank u for all the awesome recipes. I made this recipe last night – so delicious! It’s now my go-to banana cake recipe…cuz every 30-year-old needs a go-to banana cake recipe, right? Lol. Instead of vanilla frosting for the face I made cream cheese frosting. Went really well with the banana and chocolate. Thanks again!!!

  289. Andrea

    Hi Deb – Thanks for your input. I just wanted to report back that the banana cake with peanut butter frosting was a big hit! Everyone at the party loved it. And my son was using both hands to shovel it into his mouth. Ha! Thanks for these (and all of your) great recipes!

  290. I’ve combed through the comments and can’t find an answer, so hoping you see this before next weekend. I made this cake four years ago for my son’s first and it was a huge success! Perfect in every way. Now my son is turning five, and he has requested a banana cake with chocolate frosting, which is perfect since I already have this recipe. We are doing cupcakes though. My question is, how many cupcakes do you think this recipe would convert to? And should I make the large batch of frosting or small? I’ll probably do the large one since this frosting is toooooo good (my mom seriously goes gaga over it and she hates buttercreams). We’re planning for about 40 people, so not sure if I should double this recipe or make even more than that.

    1. deb

      Leslie — Sorry for the delayed response. My estimate is 24 cupcakes, but you might have one or two more. Can never hurt to have more frosting with so many little cups to ice.

  291. Whoops, Nevermind, just saw you answered this question not long ago and I missed it my first time through! Thanks :). 36 cupcakes using the 3 layer recipe was about what I’d estimated myself. Think I’ll 1.5 times the recipe to get enough for 50.

  292. Lindsay

    Hi Deb,

    Can I do the two layer option with three cupcakes and one 9×13 cake? Would I have to change the baking time?

  293. Claire

    Feel sadly disappointed that this cake turned out so badly. I had saved the recipe for ages and planned to make it for my daughter’s first birthday. I made the cake today, I followed the recipe using the grams conversion and after baking for longer than it said – and even turning down the oven as it still wasn’t cooked and overcooking at the edges – it was still raw in the middle. I couldn’t have left it in any longer and skewers seemed to be coming out clean.

    I used the cornflour/plain flour conversion too and it had a really awful taste – almost minty or menthol like? I couldn’t have baked it for any longer – and even then, with the strange aftertaste (like you’ve brushed your teeth?!) I couldn’t serve it to guests. Will be trying a simple banana sponge with monkey icing now. What a shame.

    1. deb

      I’m sorry this didn’t work out; I cannot imagine how un-fun that was. Almost every time a cake is burnt at the edges and didn’t cook inside, it was missing some flour. The cornflour conversion… you mean making your own cake flour, yes?

  294. Anna

    I made this last year and it came out very well. I would like to make a two layer sheet cake out of it this year. How can I do this? I scrolled through the comments but did not find anything although I saw some of the people had the same question.

  295. Sarah U

    Deb, we just celebrated our first son’s first birthday today and used this icing to frost a splat cake and a double-layer cake plus 2 dozen cupcakes – what was I thinking? It took 2 large plus 1 small batch!! – and we LOVED this frosting!!! It will be THE chocolate buttercream frosting forever in our home! We made the cakes a woodland bear face but your monkey directions were very helpful in getting the basic shape down (plus Pinterest – NAILED IT.) Thanks for sharing the personal part of your lives with us – your kids are so adorable. It’s your stories that inspired me to want to vow to make my family’s birthday cakes – it definitely feels special even though it takes a concerted effort!! :)

  296. pdub

    Looking at the pictures of your son with the birthday smash cake and candles is so heartwarming it makes me want to cry. So awesome. Must. Recreate. Today was my son’s first birthday, and I followed your recipe for option 2. Some notes: (1) the cakes baked in ~30 minutes only, but my ramekins may have been a little larger so all the cakes a bit thinner. (2) I had a lot of frosting left over. (3) I put my ears at 2 and 10, so my smash cake looked a little mickey mouse like. (4) Cake was adorable, delicious, and enjoyed by all. Thank you!

  297. Rachel

    One more variation to report! Gluten-free monkey cake, made with Jacked Banana bread and cream cheese frosting. For 14 people, I tripled the “Jacked” recipe and made three 9″ cake layers and 6 cupcakes (for the ears). This made enough cake that there was about 1/4 leftover, which was perfect. For gluten-free, I substituted just under 1/2 of flour with almond flour and the remainder with Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour mix. I added mini chocolate chips. For frosting, since it was banana bread rather than cake, I used your cream cheese frosting from the red velvet cake recipe. Left it plain white for inner layers and mixed with chocolate as described in monkey cake recipe above for monkey’s face and outside of cake. It all came together quite beautifully, and was moist and flavorful and delicious. Thank you!!

  298. ZM

    Hi all – I want to make this into a two layer 9×13 cake for my daughter’s birthday. Any advice on how I should “monkey” with the amounts here, as it were? I saw the suggestion to double the recipe but wasn’t sure which recipe to double! Thank you!

  299. NicM

    I made this for my daughters first birthday and the frosting is so delicious and easy that I’ve been using it for all my cakes. I just tried a new variation-instead of chocolate add 1 TB of cinnamon at the end. It was perfect on your roasted apple spice cake!

  300. Alyson Bailey

    Just wanted to say thanks for making me feel like a great mama! Made this for my son’s 3rd birthday – he saw the pictures and instantly wanted it for his cake! He LOVED it (the adults in the room enjoyed the cake too). Wish I could add a pic to show his little excited face.

  301. Katherine

    Yet another “help me plan my make-ahead timing” question:
    My cake layers are currently wrapped in the freezer, for a birthday party on Friday. I don’t have time to do both a crumb coat & final frosting on either Thursday or Friday. (Silly full-time job getting in the way…) What do you think of making the frosting & doing the crumb coat (on a still frozen cake) on Thursday, leaving the cake & covered frosting on the counter for 24 hours, and then doing the final frosting on Friday before the party? Can you think of a better way to do this?

  302. Rachel

    Hi Deb! Is it possible to make this with all purpose flour instead of cake flour? Hoping to make this for my son’s first birthday and I don’t have any cake flour. Thank you!

  303. Mathilde

    Hi Deb,
    I made your “I want chocolate cake” cake recently for my son’s birthday and it was a hit! Thank you so much. I love, love, love your recipes and your writing :-)
    I am planning on making this banana cake next weekend (without the monkey decoration) but would like not to use the same frosting. Do you think the chocolate ganache from this one would work here?
    Thank you!

      1. Mathilde Rousseau

        Thank you so much for your reply, Deb. The ganache worked perfectly and the result was delicious!
        For anyone interested in the proportions: I made the option 3 cake here above with a ganache made of 2/3 cup (160 ml) heavy or whipping cream +
        9 ounces (260 grams) semisweet chocolate, which was just enough for a middle ganache layer and covering all the cake.

  304. Nooshin Felsenthal


    My son is a huge fan of monkeys, so when he saw this cake he was instantly smitten! Made it for his 5th birthday and it was a huge hit! Thank you so much for this recipe – it made his birthday so special!

  305. KM

    Deb – thoughts on this vs the spice cake (made with mashed banana) in SK Everyday for a mini-smash cake and cupcakes? The ingredients/proportions looks so different, curious what the textural/taste differences are. Thank you!

  306. Christy

    My husband, who is not an avid cake baker, and toddler made this for me for my birthday. They used AP flour because that’s what we had, and cream cheese frosting (we used Debs recipe from the red velvet cake, but omitted 1 cup of sugar to give it more tang). It was delicious!

    They accidentally made the 3 tiers which was WAY more than necessary. We kept the batter for the third tier in the fridge and then baked it the following weekend – ate it with no frosting and it too was delicious (albeit more humble).

  307. Camille

    Hopefully this isn’t too off base but thought I’d share as I checked the comments to see if anyone had done this. I made a three tier chocolate cake for my sons third birthday (yes I am over the top). In case it’s helpful for anyone else I used one large batch and one half large batch of icing, with a good amount leftover for piping and any transportation issues. Lovely icing to work with, and appreciated the larger recipe size used here. Also – I started it in my mixer and my Cuisinart wasn’t quite big enough. It looked a bit cuddled so I moved the (more mangeable size) mix to the Cuisinart and any issues went away right away. I didn’t use it to fill the cake (made an Oreo cream cheese filling) And for the layers I used the chocolate cake recipe from the on chocolate cake. I own the sky high cakes cookbook thanks to debs recommendation and it’s great!

  308. Karen

    I don’t know if you’ll see this, Deb, but I wanted you to know that I have made this cake for EVERY ONE of my kids’ birthdays (2 kids, the eldest is now 12, so I’ve made it more than 20 times, plus a bunch of times for my spouse’s birthday). The deal in our house is: you get to pick what you want the cake to look like, but the recipe stays the same. Since the original monkey (option 2) made for my eldest’s 1st birthday, we’ve had a basketball, a boat, a tree, a 3-dimensional representation of our house addition (!), a guitar, a sparkly leotard, the hungry caterpillar, and numerous others – all made with this recipe, which I’ve learned to scale up and down. It’s probably the most successful recipe in my household!!! Many thanks for setting us on the path to birthday cake heaven over the past decade+!

  309. Jes

    Going back to this excellent cake recipe yet again. I made it for a smash cake for my first nephew’s birthday, with cupcakes instead of a layer cake on the side. Didn’t know it’d make me the official smash cake maker for the family, but here we are on smash cake number five!

    I definitely recommend the chocolate frosting for the cupcakes or layer cake, even if you’re doing a different buttercream for the smash cake. It’s like putting a rich chocolate butter on the lightest fluffiest banana bread you’ve ever had. Also, I recommend swapping out your traditional cinnamon with Saigon cinnamon for a more complex flavor (I get mine from The Spice House),