banana tiramisu birthday cake



hope you’re doing great and thriving wherever you are out there in the internet. for me, i turned 28 today and i’d like to report back that the day has been so special. i woke up at 6 am in paris to a facetime call from my sister in los angeles who put hudson on the line so that he could sing me his favorite song: the happy birthday song. i went into the office and after lunch, my lovely coworkers surprised me with beautiful baby cakes from a patisserie that’s been open since the 1700s. they sang me my second happy birthday song of the day, but in french, and i couldn’t help but feel so thankful for a meeting a great group of sweet coworkers that i now call friends.

just when you think that the day couldn’t get any better, my cousin hannah sent me a video of my baby nephew liam singing happy birthday and i spent 10 minutes squealing and rewatching it. then all of my closest friends in the USA woke up and flooded their instagram with all the love, throwback pictures, and the nicest words they could fit into their stories.

after work, i rushed home and walked into my apartment filled with the smells of my favorite soup bubbling away on the stove. my mom and her friends spent the day shopping, but were nice enough to cook me a home cooked meal at my request of my most favorite foods, yookgaejang and pajun. we had dinner, sipped away at a few bottles of champagne, nibbled away at this cake, which all somehow led to me belly-achingly laughing at the ajumas dancing away in my living room. it was all so perfect.

i secretly wish that it was my birthday every day, but at the same time…this day coming around once every 365 days helps me take a step back and feel how fortunate i am to be surrounded by my ride or dies that have been by my side throughout all these years. i’m so…*im not crying* blessed.

if you’re not 27 yet and wonder what it’s like, here’s a little glimpse from someone who lived it. a lot of time was spent processing what to make of my career, balancing time away from my family and friends from thousands of miles away, lots of quiet moments on flights (all 52 of ‘em, yep) talking to God and asking him what i should be doing in this season of my life, failing miserably at dating because i shouldn’t have an excuse here but really, i was living in multiple cities (5 cities to be exact), and lastly pouring all the extra moments i had leftover into a world that only brings joy, this blog! there were also countless moments where emotions were split into the extremes of finding respite in sinking the saddest tears i could conjure up into a wine glass, feeling at peace and sending happy tears to the heavens, and everything else in between. there will probably be a lot more of all of that in 28 too.

a friend messaged me this morning and told me that she and her friends joke about how every birthday since 28 has been their 28th birthday because it was their favorite year. how could you not be pumped after someone tells you that?!

while most of the major aspects of my life will probably be the same, i wish that this year will be spent investing more of my time and heart into a community, serving children, and stretching my faith more to quiet my doubts and worries. i did a poop job at doing these things, but i know that doing these things will for sure help me cry less into a wine glass.

ok. i really apologize if you came here for the cake and you had to read a bunch of mumbo jumbo things about me.

this banana tiramisu birthday cake is an ode to my sweet dad and the terrific man he’s been in my life. for every occasion (our birthdays or valentines day) my dad would pick up the most delicious tiramisu cake from (surprise: a bakery in la’s koreatown) for us to gather around and celebrate with. i’m so sad that this bakery is now closed and that this tradition we had growing up is no more, but i wanted to share the han family tradition with you in form of the most iconic birthday cake there is out there. do i even need to mention? MILK BAR’S!!!!

you get spongey cake layers soaked in a level 9 adulting bitter espresso, thick and buttery banana flavored mascarpone cream, and layers of cold and fresh bananas laced in cocoa powder. it was a process to experiment and make this vision come true, but it was also so much fun. there’s a lot of content out there on milk bar’s birthday cake that can help you with assembling, and i’ve added tips at the bottom of the recipe that i hope will help guide you in starting new tiramisu traditions of your own.

if a tiramisu, magnolia bakery’s banana cream pudding, and milk bar’s birthday cake had a threesome and made a baby – this is it! 

xo, christine


banana tiramisu birthday cake


sponge cake

6 tablespoon softened butter

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

6 large eggs

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 3/4 cup cake flour

3 tsp baking powder

3 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp kosher salt


9 tablespoons softened butter

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

250 grams mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup banana nectar

4 tsp vanilla extract

other things for the filling

5-6 firm and just ripened bananas sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/2 lemon

1/2 cup dark cocoa powder

1/2 cup espresso



  1. preheat oven to 350 f degrees

  2. spray a quarter sheet pan with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper

  3. in a medium mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream butter with mixer until smooth. add in granulated sugar and mix for 4-5 minutes on high until creamed and pale yellow. add in brown sugar, eggs one by one, stream in oil and vanilla extract until the mixture is an even consistency.

  4. in a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt

  5. slowly pour flour into wet mixture, using a spatula fold flour in until evenly mixed. be sure to not over-stir!

  6. pop into middle rack in oven and bake for 28-32 minutes or until golden brown. remove from oven and cool down until room temp

  7. remove the cake from pan and trim top off to yield a flat cake that’s 1 1/2 thick across

  8. cut the cake using a six inch cake ring - you should be able to cut out 2 circles. make one good one and if you aren’t able to make a good second, make the biggest circle and fill the empty space with scraps.

  9. again, your cake pieces should be just about 1 1/2 inches high. take a serrated cake knife and carefully and to your best ability, evenly cut the cake horizontally across to make 4 rounds. stack and place in the fridge to further cool

  10. save the cake crumbs!


  1. in a mixing bowl, cream softened butter with a hand mixer on low or paddle attachment (~5 minutes). sift in powdered sugar in increments until evenly incorporated. should be pretty thick!

  2. plop in all the mascarpone cheese and continue to use the mixer for 1-2 minutes until consistency is smooth

  3. drizzle in banana nectar to thin out icing and mix for another minute or so until evenly mixed in. fold in vanilla extract. the icing should have a thick consistency which is a good thing!

cake assembly

  1. line the bottom of a a 6 inch cake ring with a plate or a cake board

  2. line the inside of the cake ring with an acetate strip

  3. slice bananas and toss in a about 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice to preserve the color. cut the bananas as you go vs. all at once

  4. the cake layers should be from bottom to top: cake, espresso soak, dusted cocoa powder, bananas, frosting, cake, espresso soak, dusted cocoa powder, bananas, frosting, cake, espresso soak, dusted cocoa powder, bananas, cake, espresso soak, frosting, cake crumbs tossed in cocoa powder

    learning lessons and tips: for the expresso soak, it’s basically taking a spoon and liberally drizzling espresso over the cake. be generous here as it’ll lend to a more moist cake. the bananas you dont want the bananas to be too thick. when you lay the bananas in, try to keep the bananas slices from sitting too closely to the edge because you want the frosting to surround each bit to prevent it from browning. the frosting the thick frosting might pull the bananas out of place - that’s ok! just press and smooth over. ensure that your icing is pressed to the sides and around the bananas. the less air you expose to the bananas, the less likely you’ll have brown bananas. the frosting should also be about 1/4 inch thick. acetate strip #2 after your first cake-to-frosting layer, line the edges with a second strip of acetate to give your cake more height. eveness try to get the cake, frosting, and each layer as leveled as possible because not to be a stickler or anything, but it makes for a prettier cake

  5. pop the cake in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving


  1. carefully slide the cake mold off the cake and peel off the acetate strips. this is just as satisfying as peeling a bandaid off.

  2. serve cold!