Banana bread became a pandemic staple for an obvious reason — baking in a loaf pan is possibly the easiest kind of baking there is. And as autumn practically demands a treat that’s simple and comforting and best paired with a warm beverage and some kind of knit throw, here now are the loaf cake (and yes, sometimes bread) recipes that Eater’s editors return to for fall vibes, time and again.
Dorie Greenspan, NYT Cooking
As someone of the belief that the combination of miso and maple is akin to godliness, I am the target demographic for Dorie Greenspan’s miso-maple loaf. Out of the 150 recipes in her new cookbook, Baking with Dorie, it is the one I baked first, impatient to devour whatever emerged from the oven. Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is a plain but potent loaf, faintly reminiscent of pound cake but with a savory edge from the miso. That said, this is not a loaf that screams MISO and MAPLE but rather mentions them in a more normal conversational tone. The two work with the loaf’s other standout ingredients, buttermilk and orange zest, to create a warm, layered, sweet-savory loaf that is incredibly hard to stop eating, whether you’re a miso-maple true believer or not. — Rebecca Marx, senior editor
Everyone deserves easy kitchen favorites, recipes that are more meditation than consternation. One of my go-tos is this stupendously simple zucchini bread, which lives up to half its name with buckets of zucchini, but betrays itself as more of a “cake” than a “bread” with its hefty dusting of turbinado on top. Plop the zucchini strands in a bowl (no wringing out required) with wet ingredients, stir, add dry ingredients, stir, and scrape it all into the pan. In an hour, boom, zucchini cake loaded with green flecks. If you can avoid digging in immediately, it’s a worthy exercise to make it in the evening, let it rest as suggested, and reward yourself with a buttered slice in the morning; but in the spirit of the loaf cake, I say eat whenever you’re hungry. — Nick Mancall-Bitel
Rebekah Peppler, À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way
Many of the things that the French do well, they do simply. A crispy baguette; flaky plain croissants with golden crusts; supple and delicate yogurt cake. There’s beauty in simplicity: How can you improve on the moist tangy flavor of an ever-so-simple, no-bells-and-whistles yogurt cake for an afternoon tea or petit dejeuner? Well, what if the adaptation made it better? The expat yogurt cake recipe from Rebekah Peppler’s À Table — a French cookbook by an American writer — is a rare exception to the rule that everything French is best enjoyed in its purest form. With the addition of poppy seeds and a crumble topping, the expat yogurt cake variation gives the French traditional snacking cake a bit of American flavor, while staying true to its original purpose. Now how about that for diplomacy. — Dayna Evans, Eater Philly editor
Genevieve Gerghis, Bestia: Italian Recipes Created in the Heart of L.A.
Banana bread — so 2020 amirite? You are not. At least, not when it comes to this banana bread. Genevieve Gergis of the Los Angeles restaurant Bestia put this recipe for her homemade butter-topped banana bread in the restaurant’s 2018 cookbook (one that, okay yes, I co-wrote, but the fact I still make this recipe on the reg should tell you something). The difference comes from bananas that are roasted first, a genius move that both amplifies their flavor and sort of cheats the whole “brown banana” requirement. Then, after baking, an entire half-cup of butter is brushed into the loaves’ split tops that makes the cake supernaturally moist, and a sprinkling of sugar while still warm creates a sweet crusty top. Do not omit the walnuts in this one if you can help it; they balance all that sweet banana flavor and also, you’re a grown up — a little texture won’t hurt. — Lesley Suter, travel editor
Pumpkin Tea Cake (but with sweet potato)
Robin Bellinger, Serious Eats
My favorite loaf cake — and one of the only desserts I bake that is consistently a not-disaster — only sort of follows the original recipe. I highly recommend making the very delicious original recipe first, just to get your sea legs. But when you’ve got sweet potatoes sprouting in a cupboard and you’re ready to take some chances, here’s (roughly) how I’ve adjusted this recipe: I substitute in an equal amount of sweet potato mash, from a roasted sweet potato or two; the flavor of the Japanese and Korean yellow-fleshed ones are particularly pleasing. Vegetable oil makes way for a cup of almost vegetal olive oil that adds a really nice earthiness to an otherwise-sweet loaf. Sometimes I’ll tap in a bit of turmeric for that beautiful golden glow, and an extra quarter teaspoon of salt because desserts! are never! sweet enough! I promise that if I can make this loaf, to such consistently excellent results, this recipe really is foolproof. — Elazar Sontag, staff writer
This is less a “recipe” and more just a simple set of guidelines — follow this set of extreme basics, and the world is your oyster. I like a less-sweet version (which might take this further away from the “loaf cake” parameters here), so just a half cup of sugar (instead of the 3⁄4 cup suggested) more than suffices. From there, though, I’ve added everything from extra bananas to chocolate chips to walnuts to swirls of cinnamon sugar (plan to pour the batter into the pan in three separate layers atop each other, and sprinkle a layer of cinnamon sugar on top of each). All yield equally satisfying results. — Erin DeJesus, Eater.com lead editor