The Fudgy Banana-Brownie Cake You Can Eat for Breakfast

September  7, 2018

I didn't set out to make a cake. I set out to make banana bread—and wholesome banana bread, at that. It was 11 a.m. on a Saturday, and I'm pleased to report (fine, humble brag) that I'd just completed a workout. I was feeling virtuous and unstoppable, like the kind of people I always see smiling in yogurt commercials. The kind of people who, I suspect, wouldn't turn a blind eye as a large bunch of bananas purchased a week ago turned into something resembling a gnarled knot of tree branches.

The only thing I want to eat for breakfast ever again. Photo by Rocky Luten

These people, I realized as I took a spin through my pantry and fridge, also might've had the foresight to get the other ingredients needed for wholesome banana bread. Like wheat flour, eggs, Greek yogurt, and maybe a handful of dark chocolate chips.

With a sigh that made me look more like someone in a painful-rash commercial, I took stock of what I did have, and started pulling out measuring cups and a mixing bowl. There were a few items with promise: almond flour, aka, finely ground almonds, leftover from recent experiments with aquafaba macarons. Almond butter, aka, even more finely ground almonds. I'd never used almond butter for baking, but I suspected it could help to bind the other ingredients as well as contribute a nutty texture and a moist, dense crumb (my favorite when it comes to banana bread). Either that, or it'd do the opposite and turn the whole thing to soft, hopeless mush. I had coconut oil, which I've used before in lieu of butter. And as always, I had a large box of Dutch-processed cocoa, which I'll put in anything from plain vanilla yogurt (pudding in a pinch!) to chocolate baked goods to coconut butter.

There's a fine line between "cake" and "bread" and I don't want to know where it is. Photo by Ella Quittner

I'll skip to the punchline: I was as shocked as you probably are at the degree to which the resulting "bread" was delightfully tender, chocolatey and dense, and chock-full of banana. The almond butter and coconut oil worked some sort of textural magic, resulting in a super moist crumb that, coupled with the deep chocolate background, was downright fudgy. With its low, round shape and festive decor, what I'd produced was decidedly more of a cross between a cake and brownie than a bread. I didn't mind one bit.

With only ingredients I use regularly for breakfast—almonds, bananas, coconut oil, a bit of maple syrup—plus a few other innocuous ones, like unsweetened cocoa and baking powder, it dawned on me: I'd accidentally made a vegan cake. With no gluten, no grain. And no refined sugar.

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Like any well-adjusted adult—right?—I set out to get the people close to me to admit they loved a cake with no butter or sugar.

"What is this?" my sister Clementine—a noted sweets fiend and eschewer of all things dubbed "okay for you"—asked, her mouth full of cake, when she called the next day. She was, she told me, hunched over on a street corner, scarfing it down like a rabid animal. She'd snuck a little sample on her walk home from work, and unable to make it all the way to her apartment before polishing it off, had taken up temporary residence between a crosswalk and a construction site. I explained, gleefully: a banana-brownie cake that happened to be vegan, gluten-free, and refined-sugar-free. A cake she could eat for breakfast without concern.

She paused as she considered whether to spit it out and run to the nearest patisserie for an emergency sensory reboot via pain au chocolat.

"It's just so good," she said, sounding baffled. I could hear her take another bite as she ended the call in a daze.

The next day, Clementine reached back out with a text message: "Could I have the recipe?"

Like someone so organized, I could star in a series of yogurt commercials, I wrote it out immediately and sent it to her that very same afternoon:

Can't Get Enough Cake? We've Got You.

Do you have any favorite desserts that just so happen to be vegan? Let us know in the comments.

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Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


Tanya F. March 4, 2019
I can't say I loved this cake. I regulary make gluten free vegan cakes. This one was a little underwhelming for me. I served it to six others that are pretty open minded dessert eaters and they weren't so fond either. Sometime below added chocolate chips. I think that would improve it, but not enough for me to make it again unfortunately. I'd prefer a chocolate olive oil cake or banana bread itself.
Lafcadio September 8, 2018
I added chocolate chips to this, which I am not proud to admit. But. It was good.
Ella Q. September 8, 2018
That sounds fantastic! Why not double down?
Eric K. September 7, 2018
Hello, gorgeous (cake). *in Fanny Brice voice*