Easy reduced sugar recipe for moist banana loaf or cake – made with chestnut flour and dressed up French style, topped with walnuts and figs.

Banana chestnut loaf with walnuts and figs

The wind has helped bring Autumn to Paris with skydiving leaves. At many metro exits, guys are selling roasted chestnuts on their familiar beaten-up trolleys. As that  first smell of woodsmoke hit me in the garden today, my thoughts returned to chestnuts.  With three bananas looking at me in the kitchen, rather heavily speckled and brown, it’s always a perfect excuse to conjure up a moist banana chestnut loaf.

Reducing Sugar in Cakes and Desserts

The kids love banana bread for breakfast: you may have tried this banana chestnut coffee cake recipe, inspired by a UK celebrity chef with the coffee but, in the end, it needed LESS THEN HALF of the sugar.

If you know my recipes by now, I’ve been so inspired by French pastry chefs. Ever since I learned that too much sugar kills the flavour of pastries and cakes, I consistently reduce sugar. As bananas are naturally sweet enough, even adding a little soft brown sugar is treat enough. Although I have added sugar in the recipe below, many times I make this without adding any sugar at all – although I appreciate it’s an acquired taste. I’ll leave that up to you!

Are Chestnuts and Conkers the Same?

The conkers from horse chestnut trees are not edible – unlike the sweet edible chestnuts so popular in France.

The edible chestnuts are so popular in both France and in Corsica. As you may know, my husband is Corsican, and they love using chestnut flour in many recipes (have you tried this Chestnut Flour Tart with Pumpkin and Mushrooms? It’s Autumn on a plate!)

It adds that nutty intrigue and so that it’s not overpowering, use a a mix of plain flour with the chestnut flour, depending on the recipe. In this recipe, I add an extra two tablespoons of chestnut purée, which just adds that extra chestnut flavour and makes this cake extra moist.

Just so you know, chestnut flour does tend to make cakes rise less, so although it doesn’t look the most photogenic of cakes, the taste is what counts. It’s so good!

banana bread with walnuts and figs

What is a Popular French Cake?

I find a French “cake” rather amusing since it can be a bit confusing.  The French call a Cake (pronounced KeK) – but it’s not a round cake as we know it like a sticky orange caramel cake, or chocolate ginger passion cake.  It’s appearance is more like a loaf in shape, as the cake is baked in a loaf tin. French cakes like chestnut cake in Corsica are popular and so merging the two with British banana bread meets together in this moist banana chestnut loaf.

If you look around the patisserie windows around Paris, you’ll see that many French pastry chefs top their cakes with fancy frills. They are topped with the likes of quartered fresh figs, walnuts, candied fruits like orange or cherries. Even the barest has a honey glaze on it. So it’s rare to see a bare, naked-topped French cake in any Parisian pâtisserie. If you do see one, tell me and I’ll eat my cake!

As a result, we often get mixed up between banana bread, banana cake and banana loaf. I’m calling it a loaf but perhaps I should say cake, like the French? Does it really matter? Just try it and you’ll decide for yourself.

French Chestnut Banana Cake

Banana chestnut loaf with walnuts and figs
5 from 2 votes

Moist Banana Chestnut Loaf

Author: Jill Colonna
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course : Breakfast, teatime
Cuisine : French, British
Keyword : reduced sugar cake recipes, banana bread,, chestnut flour recipes, banana chestnut cake, banana loaf recipes
Servings : 12 people
Calories : 187kcal


A rustic yet moist Corsican-inspired banana bread recipe using chestnut flour and chestnut paste and glazed with melted honey - ideal for teatime or breakfast.


  • 3 bananas very ripe
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 50 g (1.75oz) soft dark brown sugar
  • pinch fleur de sel salt
  • 100 g (3.5oz) plain flour (all-purpose)
  • 50 g (1.75oz) chestnut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 85 g (3oz) unsalted butter melted
  • 2 tbsp sweetened chestnut paste (I use Clément Faugier)
  • 30 g (1oz) walnuts

Glaze & Topping (optional)

  • 2 tbsp honey to glaze
  • 2 fresh figs chopped


  • Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/340°F (gas mark 3). Lightly oil a 450g/1LB loaf tin.
  • Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl, then mix together the eggs and sugar until bubbly.  Add the salt, flours, baking powder, and cinnamon, if using.  Add the melted butter and mix until smooth.
  • Pour in the batter in to the loaf tin.  Top with walnuts and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  If not, bake for another 10 minutes.
  • Leave to cool in the tin then tip the loaf out on to a wire rack to cool further.
  • To decorate, gently heat the honey and brush it on the top of the loaf, adding extra walnuts.


Top with either more banana slices, fresh figs or other seasonal fruits for decoration.
Delicious served warmed with a scraping of butter or chestnut spread.

This recipe was first published 21 October 2017 but is now updated with a recipe card and updated text/photos.

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Comments (6)

5 stars
we love chestnut flour but never thought of adding it to banana bread. Love the figs and nuts on top

Thanks Amelia – it adds that wee bit of rustic deliciousness!

Boy, that is one gorgeous loaf, cake, bread or whatever you want to call it! My kids would love it, too!!

Thanks Liz. Hugs to the kids!

This does look lovely Jill, and I love that it’s moist! Can’t stand a dry cake (or loaf)! The decorations on top really make it special.

I understand the problem with describing the different types of cakes in French as Italians do the same, but only much worse. I get so confused when someone says torta or pizza, but don’t mean what I thought they meant. They simply don’t distinguish or have other words for cakes, pies, loaves, etc. You’re just meant to “know” what it is! In this respect, it’s MUCH easier to discern in English!

Thanks, Christina. It’s amazing what a wee brush of warmed honey and a few slices of fruit can do. Isn’t it funny it’s like this for cakes in Italy, too?

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