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A Black Iron Haven

Skillet Banana Cake

Posted by Rick Mansfield

I was about seven years old or so, riding in the backseat of the car, when Larry Jarrell (riding in the front passenger seat) turned to my Dad (driver’s seat) and asked, “Well, are you ready to go buy some land?” I’m certain that question came from a lot of previous discussion that I was not aware of, but at the time, it seemed very sudden. A year or so later, we moved just north of Ruston, Louisiana, into the house that we built, and the Jarrell’s became our neighbors. The Jarrell’s oldest son Brian and I always got along very well, even though I was a few years older than him. Later he would serve as one of the groomsmen at my wedding.

Many afternoons were spent down at the Jarrell’s house, playing with Brian (he had more games on his Atari 2600 than I did) or in the small thicket of woods between our houses where he and I built a three-level tree house (It sounds much more elaborate than the actual reality). Another advantage to hanging around the Jarrell house rested in the fact that Sharon Jarrell (pictured above) was a fantastic cook. In fact, she was well known for her cooking, often catering events and publishing her own cookbooks.

Recently, I was going through some recipes that we simply categorize as “family recipes.” When you live next to someone long enough, they count as family. This particular recipe of Sharon’s caught my eye because it specifically called for an “old iron skillet.” I had never made the recipe and couldn’t even remember if I’d ever had it before. Kathy and I have made it twice in the last month or so, and I can only tell you that it is incredible. It tastes wonderful hot out of the oven or cold out of the refrigerator.

Sadly, Sharon Jarrell is no longer physically with us, but she left behind a rich cooking legacy, and I remember her whenever I make any of her recipes such as the one below.

  • an “old” 10.25” cast iron skillet (if yours is not old, a new cast iron skillet will work just fine).
  • a second, smaller skillet (or sauce pan)

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 4 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed banana

Mix all ingredients together and pour into old iron skillet. Bake at 350º for about 30 minutes.

While the cake is baking, get the topping ready.


  • 1 cup pecans - (slightly toasted)
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons cream or evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
[Since the recipe calls for roasted pecans, I spread out the pecans in a smaller skillet and cooked them in the oven for about eight minutes next to the cake baking in the larger skillet.]

Bring all topping ingredients to a boil.

Pour over cake when it comes out of the oven. Return to oven and broil to bubbling. Watch to keep from burning.


MacGourmet users, click image to download recipe (or simply drag image to your MacGourmet recipe box).

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below, or you can contact Rick directly at

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