Pillow-soft banana cake gets a fine crumb from a blend of alternative flours (coconut, millet, and sweet rice) crowned with glossy coconut milk ganache kissed with a splash of dark rum. Gluten-free and optionally dairy-free.
The trickiest flour that I worked with while developing recipes for Alternative Baker was coconut flour. Made from dried, unsweetened coconut that has had a large amount of its fat removed, coconut flour is incredibly fibrous, dry, and THIRSTY. It drinks up liquid in recipes like a sponge, meaning that you need far less of it than you probably think. But when properly balanced with liquid ingredients, coconut flour can produce fluffy, moist, and meltingly tender baked goods. Like this cake.
The first cake I baked with coconut flour was an attempted variation of the chiffon cake in Alternative Baker, and my first try went straight into the compost post-baking. Folding the whipped egg whites into the batter was akin to mixing cement, and the results tasted about the same. But I didn’t give up on coconut flour, and the coconut flour recipes in the book turned out to be some of my favorites: Coconut Cream & Raspberry Tart, Triple Coconut Tres Leches Cake, and Cashew Lime Blondies.
When coconut flour’s dry properties are properly harnessed, it can turn out feather-light baked goods with mild, sweet flavor. It’s one of the few truly neutral-tasting flours, and it’s also full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
I had another run-in with coconut flour while developing recipes for the coconut flour issue of my Alternative Baking column in GFF (Gluten-Free Forever) Magazine last spring. I wanted an easy banana coconut flour loaf studded with chocolate, and I decided to make it dairy-free and sweetened with coconut sugar. After testing 5 dense, heavy loaves that never fully baked through, I finally admitted defeat.
I found a more traditional banana cake recipe online, adapted it to use coconut flour, and it baked up light and fluffy on the first try. (I’ve since lost track of which recipe it was, so please let me know if it’s similar to yours so I can give credit where it’s due!) Though more involved, the results were well worth the extra effort of creaming butter and sugar, separating eggs, and folding in whipped egg whites. Unlike my super-healthy banana bread bricks, this version was gluten-free but used dairy as well as refined sugars. But the result was so perfectly luscious, I didn’t want to change a thing.
When I saw Amanda’s beautiful coconut ganache-slathered brownies last week, I remembered the banana cake. I baked it up as written to see if I still loved it as much as ever, and I did. But then I started thinking what a shame it was that the ganache was dairy-free but not the cake, and I decided to give it a go with Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Butter (I’M OBSESSED) and a mix of cashew yogurt and almond milk for the dairy. It worked like a charm. I’m happy to say that the dairy-free version is indistinguishable from the original, so I’ve included both options.
Coconut flour gives this banana cake a bit of pleasant texture – nothing as distracting as shredded coconut, but a bit more nuanced than your garden-variety AP flour based cake. Blended with sweet rice and millet flours, plus a bit of tapioca for extra softness, the cake bakes up light and springy with a meltingly tender texture. The flavor is slightly tropical thanks to ripe bananas, brown sugar, and a pour of vanilla extract, and a hit of rum in the ganache plays up that island flavor profile.
I’m on a bit of a banana dessert kick at the moment so I’m dreaming up some more variations of this cake… maybe a maple buckwheat version topped with whipped mascarpone, or a teff version topped with tahini buttercream. Jay also suggested folding some coarsely chopped chocolate into the cake batter for extra chocolate – I like the way he thinks.
Shout-out to my sweetest friend Amanda for the minimalist styling inspiration for these photos! You always make chocolate look glossy and delicious. <3
*Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this gluten-free banana cake, I’d love to see! Tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
- ½ cup (80 g) sweet white rice flour (preferably Koda Farms or Bob’s Red Mill)
- ½ cup (60 g) coconut flour (preferably Bob’s Red Mill)
- ½ cup (75 g) millet flour (preferably Bob’s Red Mill)
- 2 tablespoons (15 g) tapioca flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (increase to ½ teaspoon if using unsalted butter)
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (150 ml) plain dairy-free yogurt (I use Forager Cashew Yogurt)
- ½ cup (120 ml) plant milk (I use fresh almond milk)
- 8 tablespoons (115 g) salted vegan butter (I use Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Butter), at room temperature (or salted or unsalted dairy butter)
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (130 g) packed organic light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (245 ml) mashed ripe bananas (from about 2 large bananas, 240 g out of the peel)
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) organic granulated sugar
- ½ cup (120 ml) well-shaken full-fat canned coconut milk
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cacao mass), finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (20 ml) GF dark rum (such as Meyer’s or The Kraken)
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line an 8x10 or 9-inch square pan with parchment paper on the bottom and all sides (or coat lightly with soft vegan butter).
- In a medium bowl, sift together the sweet rice, coconut, millet, and tapioca flours with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Stir together the plant yogurt and plant milk and set aside.
- In a large bowl with a wooden spoon (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat together the vegan butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
- Stir about one-third of the flour into the butter mixture, then stir in half of the yogurt mixture. Repeat, ending with the remaining flour mixture. Stir in the mashed banana.
- In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or in a large bowl with an electric egg beater or whisk) whip the reserved egg whites until foamy. Slowly add in the sugar and whip on medium-high until the whites just hold firm peaks. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining two-thirds until no streaks remain. Gently pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
- Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs, 40-50 minutes. Let cool completely.
- In a small saucepan set over medium heat, warm the coconut milk to a bare simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let sit for a minute, then stir until melted and smooth. Stir in the rum and salt. Let the ganache cool at room temperature until it holds a shape left by the spatula, stirring occasionally, about an hour (you can speed this up by placing it in the refrigerator for 5 or 10 minutes at a time). If the ganache becomes too firm to spread, just warm it over a very low flame.
- Swirl the cooled ganache over the cake and let cool or chill until firm enough to slice. Lift the cake from the pan, peel away the parchment, and cut into 12 pieces. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, refrigerated airtight, for up to 4 days.