Healthy banana coffee cake with oil, walnuts or pecans and low in sugar. Easy recipe with coffee in it - best made using old, ripe bananas which sweeten the cake naturally. Added buckwheat or rye flour adds un petit French touch although it's just as delicious without.
What Can We Do with Old Bananas?
We always considered bananas as "brain food" as the girls were growing up. So every rentrée, (return to school) and before exams, I'd buy fresh bananas for a healthy energy boost. We'd slice them on our favourite breakfast maple granola, chocolate granola, mashed on Scotch pancakes - or just on their own for goûter, the official small 'snack' after school.
Except the girls refused the lovely yellow bananas that were perfect for eating (not too sweet, not too hard), just after that green stage.
The reason? They'd preferred extra ripened old bananas in this banana coffee cake! So, each day as the bananas aged, speckled and browned to almost black, they'd ask me to make this recipe. It's the perfect healthy treat to use up old bananas.
Tip: Keep bananas out of the fridge.
Once they're well ripened to make banana bread, (dark brown and heavily speckled), start baking with them. Otherwise freeze them until you're ready to bake and defrost before using.
What Ripe Bananas Do in a Cake
The older and riper bananas are, the better they are in a cake. When dark brown and heavily speckled, old bananas perhaps don't look great hanging around the kitchen but their real cake 'ap-peel' is hidden inside.
The older and darker the banana, lurking underneath their heavily speckled skin are bright yellow, mushy fruit that have sweetened naturally as the starches convert to sugar. In fact, extra ripe bananas have three times more fructose than fresh greenish/yellow bananas.
So when mashed to a purée and added to a cake, the result is two-fold:
- ripe bananas give an extra moist cake texture, as opposed to crumbly; and
- they add a natural sweetness so that little sugar is needed, if not at all (depending on your taste).
Mix of Banana and Coffee in a Cake
This recipe originated from Nigella Lawson's Nigellissima. I loved her ingenious addition of espresso coffee powder to banana bread for an Italian touch.
Not to be confused with a coffee cake which normally has a streusel topping and often no coffee in it, this one is a plain, simple banana cake and contains coffee. It's the best combination.
Healthy Banana Coffee Cake - Less Sugar
I'm sure so many people just add sugar since they've always done it. I urge you to try this recipe with much less sugar.
I first cut the original recipe's whopping amount of sugar by more than half. With the bitter coffee and natural sweet bananas, the family agreed that even half the amount wasn't needed.
So I now add just a little and sometimes remove it altogether - especially if serving banana coffee cake with jams or other sweet spreads.
Best Banana Cake Flours
The best, basic flour to use for banana cake is all-purpose flour. For more, see FAQ/Baking Tips. If you use self-raising flour, there's no need to add the baking powder.
Above all, mix other flavourful flours to the basic all-purpose flour - with added sifted chestnut, buckwheat or rye flours.
Like the Corsicans, in France we often enjoy cake like this for breakfast made with chestnut flour. Like the moist banana nut bread (with butter rather than oil), it a delicious combination with banana added to plain all-purpose flour.
Agreed, it's expensive and not often easy to find but buckwheat flour (gluten free) is also delicious. Buckwheat (farine de blé noir or sarrasin) is used to make savoury French thin buckwheat pancakes (galettes de sarrasin).
This is also good with rye flour (farine de siègle) which is not gluten free and traditionally used to make a French gingerbread cake (pain d'èpices). Rye is particularly good at Christmas time, so add some spice to festive it up a bit.
More Banana Recipes Without Sugar
Here are a few more recipes made with naturally sweet ripe bananas without any added sugar.
- Healthy Banana Oat Muffins
- Moist Banana Nut Bread
- Tropical Rambutan Smoothie with banana, Valentina adds just a little honey to adjust the sweetness (Cooking on the Weekends)
- Banana Chia Puddings - from Choclette's vegan recipes (Tin and Thyme).
The recipe below can also make 12 banana coffee muffins. Why not also add a few fresh blueberries in them?
Banana Coffee Cake Recipe
This recipe couldn't be easier. Gather all your ingredients first and weigh out 3-4 bananas to 300g without their skin. The batter is enough for one 450g or 1 pound cake tin or can make 12 muffins.
The detailed printable recipe is below.
First mash together the bananas using a fork, add a pinch of salt and beat in the sunflower oil. Stir in both eggs.
Add the all-purpose flour and the sifted rye/buckhweat flour. Add to the mixture with the baking soda and baking powder.
Stir in the coffee powder until dissolved and ingredients are well combined.
Add the chopped walnuts (pecans or other nuts), either to the batter or on the surface to toast them in the oven. Or do both.
Transfer to a non-stick loaf tin.
Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until a metallic cake skewer (or knife) inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes then upturn onto a cooling rack.
How Long Does Banana Coffee Cake Keep?
Although delicious on the day of baking, the cake matures nicely and stays moist wrapped in foil or stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
This also freezes well for up to 3 months - just defrost the night before.
How to Serve
We particularly enjoy slices of this banana coffee cake at breakfast, topped with cream cheese or peanut butter - or both! This is definitely not very French (oh-là-là!) but we have it with a typical French breakfast bowl of coffee.
The girls love to spread it with unsweetened peanut butter (see my notes on picking a healthy brand in my peanut butter cookie recipe). The two together pack a real energy boost without any added sugar.
So it's a healthy breakfast, particularly before a long walk, running or if needing some brain food before exams. This is what kept Lucie energised to run the 16km between Paris and Versailles!
Need more banana cake? Then try this chocolate banana marble cake.
Healthy Banana Coffee Cake
- 450g/1LB loaf tin non-stick (otherwise grease the tin)
- 3-4 medium bananas (or 300g without skins) very ripe
- 75 ml (3 floz/ ⅓ cup) neutral-tasting oil grape seed/sunflower oil
- pinch salt
- 2 medium eggs organic
- 100 g (3.5oz/ ¾ cup) all-purpose flour see notes
- 75 g (3oz/ ½ cup + 1 tbsp) rye flour or buckwheat flour, sifted
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 50 g (2oz/¼ cup) soft brown sugar optional
- 25 g (1oz/ 2 tbsp) chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/340°F (gas mark 3).
- Mash the bananas to a purée, add the salt and beat in the oil and eggs.
- Sift the flours and gradually beat into the mixture, adding the bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, coffee powder and walnuts.
- Pour the batter into the loaf tin, place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester/knife comes out clean.
- Leave the cake in the tin for about 5-10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire tray to cool.
Also freezes well for up to 3 months - just defrost the night before. Banana Cake Muffins: This batter also makes 12 muffins. Just pour into a non-stick muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes in a hotter oven 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6. Flour: if using self-raising flour instead of all-purpose, omit the baking powder. There's no need to sift but recommend sifting rye, chestnut or buckwheat flours are they are more prone to lumping in the packet. Optional Sugar: We don't add sugar since prefer adding toppings but if you prefer eating this cake on its own, we recommend adding the small amount of soft brown sugar. Also great with coconut sugar. Per 61g serving without sugar: 3g protein, 16g carbohydrates, glycemic index: 10
This recipe was first published September 13, 2015 but is now completely updated