Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

published Feb 14, 2023
Banana Bars Recipe

An ultra-moist, sheet cake-style banana bar with tangy cream cheese frosting.

Serves20

Prep20 minutes

Cook30 minutes to 35 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Credit: Laura Rege

Banana bread is one of my favorite things to bake at home — especially because I always seem to have a stash of ripe bananas that need to be used up. Then I found out about banana bars, which have a very similar batter, but are baked in a rectangular pan with one decidedly big bonus on top: gorgeous swoops of not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. If you’re ready to take banana bread to the next level, these bars are a must-bake. Whenever I bake up a batch, it quickly disappears and I find myself stashing some away for a comfortingly delicious afternoon treat before it’s all eaten up.

What Are Banana Bars?

Banana bars can be anything from a dense banana bar cookie to a sheet cake to something similar to granola bars. These banana bars have the flavor and texture of banana bread, served up in a cake-like form and topped with cream cheese frosting.

Credit: Laura Rege

How to Make Soft, Super-Moist Banana Bars

  • Cream the butter and sugar. Use a stand mixer or an electric mixer to beat the ingredients on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  • Add the wet ingredients. Beat in eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Adding the salt to the wet ingredients allows it to fully dissolve. 
  • Add the dry ingredients. Sprinkle baking soda evenly over the batter, add the flour, and beat on low speed until almost combined.
  • Add the mashed bananas. Lastly, add the mashed bananas and beat until just combined.
  • Bake the banana bars. Scrape the batter into a rectangular pan and bake for about 30 minutes at 350°F.
  • Make the frosting. While the cake cools, whip up a simple cream cheese frosting with butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt.
  • Cut and serve. Frost the bars, slice into squares, and top each with a banana chip if desired.

If You’re Making Banana Bars, a Few Tips

  • Ripe bananas are a must. The best flavor and texture comes from using ripe bananas, so start with ones that have at least a few brown spots. Better yet, go for ones that are almost completely brown.
  • Line the pan with parchment paper. Lining the baking dish with parchment paper will make it easy to take the slab out of the pan to cut and serve.
  • Refrigerate the leftovers. Because of the cream cheese frosting, these bars need to be stored in a refrigerator, where they’ll be good for a few days. When you’re ready to eat, let them sit out at room temperature to allow the frosting to soften first.

Banana Bars Recipe

An ultra-moist, sheet cake-style banana bar with tangy cream cheese frosting.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 35 minutes

Serves 20

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the bars:

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup

    sour cream

  • 2

    large eggs

  • Cooking spray

  • 2

    medium or 3 small ripe bananas

  • 1 1/2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

For the frosting and topping:

  • 8 ounces

    full-fat cream cheese

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 2 1/2 cups

    powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 20

    banana chips (optional)

Instructions

Make the bars:

  1. Place 1 stick unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric mixer). Place 1 cup sour cream and 2 large eggs on the counter. Let everything sit at room temperature until the butter is softened.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Meanwhile, coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom and the two long sides of the pan with parchment paper so there is excess paper hanging over the sides to form a sling. Place 2 medium or 3 small ripe bananas in a medium bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher until mostly smooth (about 1 cup).

  3. Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the sour cream, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and beat on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop and scrape down the attachment and sides of the bowl.

  4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon baking soda evenly over the batter. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour and beat on the lowest speed until almost combined, with just a few streaks of flour remaining. Add the bananas and beat on the lowest speed until just combined. Scrape the batter into the baking pan and spread into an even layer.

  5. Bake until light golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Meanwhile, wash and dry the mixer bowl and paddle attachment. Place 8 ounces cream cheese and 1 stick unsalted butter in the bowl and let sit at room temperature until softened.

  6. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the bars cool completely, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Make the frosting:

  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter with the paddle attachment on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

  2. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Add 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

  3. Grasping the excess parchment, remove the banana bar slab from the pan to a cutting board; remove and discard the parchment. Dollop the frosting onto the slab and spread into an even layer. Cut into 20 pieces, and top each piece with a banana chip if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: If you don’t plan to eat the bars within a few hours, loosely cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Before serving, let the bars sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to take the chill off.