According To Paul Hollywood, Banana Bread Isn't Bread At All

When it comes to baking knowledge, "The Great British Bake Off" judge and celebrity chef Paul Hollywood has certainly earned the rank of expert. So, you can trust him when he disputes the notion that banana bread is actually bread. According to Hollywood, banana bread is actually cake!

Hollywood explicitly dispels the idea of banana bread as bread over various social media forums. He praises the deliciousness of banana bread in a 2020 Instagram post, but admits that it's "technically a cake." Then, in an instructional video on his YouTube channel for orange and chocolate banana bread, Hollywood says the recipe is "cake, really."

His assertions ring true if you consider some basic differences between cake and bread. While there are plenty of sweet breads, cake is always sweet and tends to have a much higher sugar content when compared to bread. Furthermore, there's a marked textural difference between a chewier, drier bread crumb and a denser, moister cake crumb. Bread and cake are both baked goods but they use different leavening agents; Bread typically uses yeast, while cake uses baking soda or baking powder. Consequently, bread requires time to rise before it bakes, while you can throw liquid cake batter directly into the oven.

Banana bread is served in a loaf pan and cut into bread-like slices, but it shares more similarities with cake. It is sweet, dense, and moist, using eggs and baking powder as leavening agents.

The difference between banana bread and banana cake

We'll cede the argument for banana bread as a cake, but that leaves us to wonder why there are recipes for banana bread and banana cake. Is there a difference between the two recipes? The answer is, yes and no. They're both rich, moist, banana-forward baked goods with the same basic ingredients, including mashed bananas, flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. However, banana cake uses greater proportions of these ingredients and often adds milk or buttermilk to maintain moisture. Since banana bread is packed into a small loaf tin, the bananas and butter are enough to keep the loaf moist. Banana cake recipes also have more sugar, and often a mixture of brown and white sugar, making for a sweeter, fluffier cake. Banana bread has a moist and dense texture similar to pound cake.

Banana cake has a larger surface area, whether it be a round-layer cake or rectangular sheet cake. Most banana bread recipes don't call for icing; at the most, they'll provide a separate and optional recipe for a thin glaze. On the other hand, a hearty slathering of icing is a must on banana cakes. Perhaps it's the lack of buttery, sugary icing that accounts for the different times or occasions we eat them. Many view banana bread as a breakfast treat, while banana cake is more of an indulgent dessert.