Ina Garten's Banana Cake Recipe

Is there anything better than enjoying a sweet slice of homemade cake with a cold glass of milk? How about chocolate banana cake with cream cheese frosting? We didn't think so. It's no secret that Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, knows her way around the kitchen. From classics to new takes on old favorites, you're sure to eat well if you follow along with one of her recipes. All the same, little tweaks to tried and true recipes are always a fun way to experiment and get creative in your own kitchen.

Recipe developer Autumn LeAnn did her own spin on a classic treat you will be absolutely obsessed with. LeAnn turned Ina Garten's old-fashioned banana cake into a decadent chocolatey treat that's perfect to whip up for a backyard get-together, casual birthday celebration, or even afternoon tea time. A few simple tweaks turn Garten's traditional cake into a chocolate lover's dream come true. Thankfully, no extra steps are involved, and the cake is still simple and quick to make — although it looks like it came straight from a bakery case. It's rich enough to be an incredibly satisfying dessert, and the banana content makes it feel like a wholesome breakfast option. (Isn't cream cheese frosting basically the same thing as a bagel with cream cheese, anyway?)

If you're already hooked on the idea of Ina Garten's old-fashioned banana cake with a twist, we have you covered with a step-by-step guide on how to prepare it.

What did we change?

Ina Garten is known for her delicious recipes, and this banana cake is certainly no exception. Nevertheless, for anyone who loves chocolate, Autumn LeAnn's recipe is undoubtedly the way to go. When thinking of how to put a fun twist on Garten's cake recipe, LeAnn came to the conclusion to replace some of the flour with cocoa powder, and incorporate some chocolate chips "to make it a chocolate lover's version." Just about anything with some added chocolate is always a good idea in our books, and we're definitely fans of this decadent variation.

Even though LeAnn uses orange zest like Garten does in the original recipe, LeAnn does note, "If you're not a big fan of chocolate and orange flavors together, you can leave out the orange zest in the recipe." Her and her sister had opposing views on the matter, and she concludes, "It's totally down to your personal preference here!" So, without further ado, let's get into how you can make this delicious cake ASAP.

Gather the ingredients to prepare Ina Garten's old-fashioned banana cake with a twist

Start by gathering the wet ingredients. First off, you'll of course need ripe bananas. (Spottier ones have more sugars and blend smoothly.) A mix of white granulated and brown sugar adds sweetness and caramelized aromas. You'll also need a neutral vegetable oil. If you're used to using coconut oil, LeAnn says, "Melted coconut oil could be used, but [it] may impact the texture of the cake a bit." Next, extra-large eggs bind the ingredients for a fluffy consistency. Sour cream adds moisture to baked goods, but if you want a substitute, "plain Greek yogurt could be used," as per LeAnn. Pure vanilla extract adds just the right touch of warm sweetness. For a citrusy contrast and fragrant notes, grate orange zest into the cake batter.

As for the dry ingredients, all-purpose flour and cocoa powder create a chocolatey base. If you want your cake to rise, don't forget the baking soda! A pinch of salt in baked goods is the unexpected touch that enhances other flavors. If you like a bit of crunch in your cake, add some walnut pieces. If you don't like walnuts, LeAnn says, "Peanuts or pecans would be great choices." Be sure to include chocolate chips in the batter.

Cream cheese, unsalted butter, and confectioner's sugars combine for a simply delicious frosting. If you're craving more chocolate, LeAnn recommends "substituting ¼ cup of the confectioner's sugar with cocoa powder in the frosting."

Mix the bananas and sugar, then add the oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest

Before you start mixing, set your oven to preheat to 350 F. Get your recipient ready as well — grease a 9x2-inch round cake pan, and then set it aside. Next, set up an electric mixer with a paddle attachment if you have one. A hand mixer will also work, just be sure to mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Peel each banana, and add them to the mixer bowl. Then, measure out the granulated sugar and the brown sugar, and pour them in as well. Mix them together at low speed until they have properly combined. Keep the mixer going, and pour in the vegetable oil, eggs, sour cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and the orange zest, if you decide to use it. Continue mixing at low speed until the blend is smooth.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and then add dry mixture to the wet mixture

In a separate bowl, sift the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Make sure the mixture is uniform in color so that the cocoa is evenly distributed into the flour. Then, turn the mixer to the low speed, and slowly pour the dry ingredients into the wet batter. Continue mixing at low until they have just combined. Be sure not to over-mix to keep the batter light and fluffy. After all, no one wants to chew their way through a dense and gummy cake!

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake it

Stir in the chocolate chips, and if you're using chopped walnuts, now is the time to add those to the cake batter as well. Once the batter is ready, pour it into the prepared cake pan. The oven should be preheated at this point, so go ahead and place the cake into the oven. Set the timer for 45 minutes, however you might need an extra five minutes for the cake to finish baking. You'll know it's ready by testing the center with a toothpick — when it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack to make it easier to frost.

Make the frosting, and spread it on top of the chocolate banana cake

While you wait for the cake to cool down, get the frosting ready. You'll need to use the electric mixer with the paddle attachment again. Add the cream cheese, butter, and the remaining vanilla extract to the bowl. Mix at low speed without whipping until the ingredients are combined. Then, add in the confectioner's sugar, or for the ultimate chocolate delight, follow LeAnn's advice and use part sugar, part cocoa powder. Mix the sugar in until the frosting is smooth, and you are ready to decorate your cake. 

Using a spatula, spread the frosting in a thick layer to cover the entire top of the cake. To decorate (and add a satisfying sweet crunch), sprinkle some walnut halves and chocolate chips over the top. This will create a truly picture-perfect presentation you will be so proud to show off to your guests.

Serve and enjoy the delicious banana cake with a twist

Congrats, because you made it to the best part of the recipe! It's time to serve up and enjoy this delicious banana chocolate cake. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the cake into slices. You should get about eight servings from the cake, but feel free to make them smaller to stretch it out or larger if your sweet tooth simply wants more. The frosting topping with walnuts and chocolate chips is complete by itself, but if you want to add more decoration, thin slices of fresh banana would be a nice finishing touch. Be sure to snap a picture of your creation to post on social media before you dig in, and wait for all of the likes and compliments to flow in.

Ina Garten's Banana Cake With A Twist
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A few simple tweaks turn Ina Garten's banana cake into a chocolate lover's dream come true.
Prep Time
Cook Time
slice of chocolate banana cake
Total time: 55 minutes
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
  • zest of 1 orange, grated
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups (½ pound) confectioner's sugar, sifted
Optional Ingredients
  • ¼ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • walnut halves, for decorating
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease and flour a 9x2-inch round cake pan.
  3. Fit an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, and in the bowl, mix the bananas, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on low speed until combined.
  4. With the mixer still on low, add the oil, eggs, sour cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and orange zest. Mix until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. In the mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips and the chopped walnuts, if using.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
  10. At low speed, mix the cream cheese, butter, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. (Don't whip the mixture.) Add the confectioner's sugar, and mix until smooth.
  11. Spread the frosting thickly across the top of the cake.
  12. If you want to decorate the cake, add walnut halves to the top.
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