If you ask Lori Stetzar, baking and math go hand in hand.
The Scranton High School math teacher craves the exactness that comes from solving an equation and from baking a cake.
“It’s so funny because people will say to me, ‘I tried to make (your recipe) and it didn’t come out like you did it,’ and I’ll say, ‘Did you follow it exactly?’ … Measurements matter,” Stetzar said during a recent phone interview from the Scranton home she shares with her husband, Bill.
“If it says a teaspoon, it’s not 2 teaspoons. If it calls for baking powder, you can’t use baking soda. There’s no eye-balling in baking; you have to be exact,” she added. “I think my brain likes that part of it; it’s the math part of me.”
While Local Flavor hasn’t been to math class in a very long time, we can appreciate the subject for its part in yielding delicious cupcakes, pies, cookies and other baked goods Stetzar makes.
The top banana, though, is her Banana Cake (pun intended), a hit with everyone from friends to family to colleagues that earned her a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore. Stetzar started to make the dessert years ago after stumbling across it online. Initially, the fact that the cake bakes at such a low temperature for a longer period of time than other recipes she had seen appealed to her. It’s then transferred to the freezer. This makes for a super dense yet incredibly rich and moist finished product.
Stetzar advised bakers that their bananas must be fully black all over before incorporating them into the mixture.
“They need to be even more ripe than you think they should be,” she said. “The darker they are, the sweeter your cake will taste.”
Aside from her famous Banana Cake, Stetzar bakes goodies for friends and family – which also includes two children, Taylor and Cole, and a dog, Roxy – as well as for parties and special events. She makes different kinds of cupcakes, including Guinness Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache topped with Bailey’s Irish Cream Frosting as well as a cupcake version of her Banana Cake. She’s also known for pies such as her Whipped Peanut Butter Pie and variations on brownies, including Chocolate Cookie Dough Brownies (with edible cookie dough). Stetzar also makes different types of cookies, including her mother’s Welsh variety.
While some people like one or the other better, Stetzar loves to both cook and bake. She attributes this to having older sisters. She is almost 20 years younger than her oldest sisters, and as a kid, she spent lots of time with them and their families, hanging out in their kitchens. As they cooked and baked, they showed her the ropes, and it became second nature to Stetzar.
“I grew up surrounded by it for all of those formative years,” she said. “I absolutely love to do it, for my family, for friends. I love being able to create something, and I can trace it back to those days with my sisters.”
Lori Stetzar’s Banana Cake
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (4 to 5 bananas)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (room temperature)
2 1/8 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (you can make your own)
Cream cheese frosting, for topping
Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan and preheat oven to 275 F. Mash bananas in a bowl and mix in lemon juice. Set aside. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and salt). Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time and vanilla; mix until incorporated. Add one-third of the dry ingredients then alternate with half of the buttermilk. Add another third of dry ingredients followed by the rest of the buttermilk. Finish with the last third of dry ingredients. Scrape bowl in between additions and mix until each is just incorporated. Stir in mashed banana. Bake for approximately 60 to 75 minutes or until the top is set and a uniform golden brown color. Remove from oven and immediately place in freezer for 45 minutes. Remove from freezer and ice with cream cheese frosting.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT