Chocolate Banana Cake is a lightened up chocolate cake made WITHOUT butter or oil. A secret ingredient makes this cake extra chocolate-y. A must try!
Chocolate Banana Cake. Oh, man. This is a good one. And with no butter, no oil, and a no refined sugar option, I think we can say safely this cake is good for you, too.
Or, ya know, not that bad for you. Whichever!
Let me start by saying I don’t even like chocolate cake that much. I know – kind of weird, right? Because how could chocolate anything be bad? But most chocolate cakes leave me wondering where, exactly, the chocolate is OR are so over-the-top rich, anything more than a couple of bites leaves me feeling like I just overdosed on sugar.
I’m firmly in the camp that chocolate desserts should taste chocolatey. The more chocolate, the better! But without being sickeningly sweet. And this Chocolate Banana Cake nails it.
This cake is loaded with semi-sweet chocolate chips that are melty and gooey when this cake is still warm out of the oven (delicious). At room temp (or cold – that’s good, too), the chocolate chips add texture and, really, who doesn’t like biting into little pieces of chocolate? Think of your favorite chip-studded brownie. That’s what the chips do here.
All those chippies are all well and good, but there’s a secret ingredient in this recipe that makes things really chocolatey. Can you guess what it is?
Instant espresso powder!
Yep, it’s true. Adding a bit of instant espresso powder (or brewed coffee) to chocolate based recipes enhances the chocolate flavor. Don’t ask me how it works, just know it works. Call it science, call it flavor pairing, call it magic. It’s delicious. If you’ve never tried this tip or don’t like coffee, fear not! The espresso powder won’t make your dessert taste like actual coffee or mocha. It just makes the chocolate taste, well, more chocolatey.
You’re probably familiar with this tip if you do a lot of baking with chocolate or watch a lot of Barefoot Contessa – which is where I learned about the chocolate/coffee pairing. Thanks, Ina! 👍🏻 If you didn’t know, now you know! All of your chocolate bakes can have that little something extra that takes them from good to great!
Let’s go back to talking about how this is a lightened up dessert, but totally doesn’t taste like one. There’s absolutely no oil or butter in this recipe. The cake is super moist thanks to unsweetened applesauce and mashed bananas. Yay for another use for ripe, brown spotty bananas! The fruit helps sweeten the cake, too, so there isn’t a ton of sugar needed here. There’s just a 1/2 cup of sugar in this recipe – that’s for the entire cake! Not too bad, huh?
A note about the type of sugar you use here – my original recipe calls for brown sugar. I’ve made it that way many times and it’s very good. But if you’re looking for a refined sugar free option, try making this cake with date sugar, which is nothing more than finely ground dates. I used Bob’s Red Mill brand in the latest version of this cake and was pleasantly surprised with the result.
I’ve also made this cake egg-free in the past, replacing the egg with a flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp water). Again, it turned out great. Next time I’ll try using a gluten-free flour blend, just to see how it turns out. I have high hopes because no matter what modifications I’ve tried with this recipe, I am always impressed with this cake. Adaptable recipes are a good thing, indeed.
This chocolate banana cake is one of my favorites because, while I love baking, you don’t want to see me layer and frost a cake. M-E-S-S-Y! And this cake doesn’t even need frosting. Did I mention it’s a one bowl recipe? One bowl and a half hour in the oven and you’ve got yourself a pretty dang delicious (yet light!) chocolate cake.
Just looking at these pictures is making me hungry for another piece, which is a dilemma since the cake I made for this post didn’t last very long. So, excuse me, but I’ve got a cake to bake!
P.S. I’ve been having a bit of a thing with flaky sea salt lately (Maldon is my fave). A sprinkle on top of a slice of this cake is so good, I can’t even.
- 3 ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed OR 1/2 cup date sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 tsp instant espresso powder (optional, but highly recommended!)
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Mini chocolate chips for topping, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
- Mash bananas till no lumps remain; stir in sugar. Add applesauce, vanilla extract, and egg, stirring until combined.
- Add all the dry ingredients, stirring until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
- Pour batter into baking pan. Top with mini chocolate chips, if desired. Bake 25-30 minutes.
- Let cake cool in pan.