marbled banana bread

Less than a week after I delivered the ostensibly completed manuscript for that my second cookbook (just 40 days now!), I received an email from someone was looking for a recipe for a chocolate-vanilla marble cake like the one her grandmother had made, one that had great texture and wasn’t too sweet. She said that no recipe she’d tried had achieved this, and could I help?

what you'll need
the batter begins in one bowl

I became obsessed; I loved the idea and I fiddled until I came up with a marble cake I loved, moist, deeply chocolaty in the dark swirls, but no throwaway blandness in the light ones… and then I added it to the book. Editors love this, by the way, almost as much as mine loved the ten recipes I swapped in in December and the three in January, and the introduction that I didn’t write until February. Seriously, just let me know if you ever want me to write that How Not To Write A Book Book.

and then divides

What a tease, however, that this isn’t that marble cake. (That one is really good though! I thought I’d hand it off to friends and my family basically blockaded the door.) (Geez, Deb, stop rubbing it in.) What I wanted to tell you today is what happened after I figured out how I wanted to marble the cake, which is that I found it so much fun, I couldn’t stop. I started marbling everything. Marbled chocolate graham crackers. Marbled gingerbread bars. And then one day I even made marbled banana bread and I shared it on Instagram Stories and I don’t think I have ever received so many requests for a recipe.

start checkerboarding dollops of batter
a few more alternated dollops

At my typically snail-like pace of output, this brings us up to today. Banana bread is perfect fall/back-to-school food anyway, can we pretend I “meant” to do that? And this version, which is 50% this jacked-up classic (my favorite) and 50% this double-dark chocolate version (seemingly everyone else on earth’s favorite) is thus the literal definition of “best of both worlds.” I know for a fact that all of our weekends will be better with this in it.

stop before you go too far
marbled banana bread

The Smitten Kitchen Every Day Fall 2017 Book TourHave you gotten to check out the book tour for Smitten Kitchen Every Day? It begins the day the book comes out — October 24th — and I’m so excited. I hope your town is on it. I hope this means we finally get to meet. And if you’re in Minneapolis, Nashville, Denver, Atlanta or Montreal… we should have more good news soon (eee!).

Marbled Banana Bread

  • Servings: 8 to 10
  • Print

  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup (145 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (130 grams) plus 1/4 cup (35 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (about 20 grams) dark cocoa powder (I use Dutched but any kind should work), sifted if lumpy
  • 3/4 cup (130 grams) chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick baking spray.

Melt butter in the bottom of a large bowl in the microwave. Mash the bananas right into it until mostly smooth. Whisk in brown sugar, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined. Add 1 cup of the flour, stirring just until it disappears.

Pour half of batter into a second bowl. (You can eyeball it, it’s fine. Or you can know that my batter halves were roughly 365 grams each, but weights will vary with banana sizes.) Into one bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and ground cinnamon. Into the other bowl, stir in the cocoa powder and chocolate chips.

Dollop batters in large (see pictures above for an idea of size) alternating spoonfuls into bottom of prepared loaf pan. Attempt to “checkerboard” the rest in, roughly meaning that you’ll drop a chocolate batter dollop on top of a chocolate-free one and vice-versa until both batters are used up. Use a butter knife or small offset spatula to make a few figure-8s through the batters, marbling them together — but just a little, say, 2 to 3 figure-8s. Any more and the swirls may not look distinct when you cut the cake.

Bake 55 to 65 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free. (A melted chocolate chip smear is expected, however.) Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: The banana bread will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature. I keep mine wrapped in foil.

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145 comments on marbled banana bread

  1. JC

    Your Double Chocolate Banana Bread is up there on my fave bakes of all time, so you’re right about it being everyone’s favorite. :) Has there been any attempts of swapping melted butter for browned butter in that recipe or will chocolate just cancel out that flavor?

  2. Rachael

    I’ve been pining for this recipe ever since you posted it on insta! I even screencapped the stories I was so obsessed. Guess we know what I’ll be doing this weekend… Thanks for this Deb!

  3. Rebecca

    I love your jacked up recipe and so I’ll have to try this one but I have one question, what happened to the booze?! Do you think it would be good added to this or is there a reason it was left out?

        1. Ashley

          “There is no exact amount of sugar required to be called “semisweet,” but the name generally indicates that no more than 50% of the mass of the chocolate is sugar.”

          The most common semi sweet chocolate in the US is Nestle Toll House Semi Sweet chocolate morsels. Depending on where you live, there is likely an American foods distributor that brings it in. I used to be able to find it in London.

        2. fliss

          I am Australian and when a recipe calls for semi sweet I just use our dark chocolate chips, or a roughly chopped block of the original Old Gold (It is often cheaper then chocolate chips and I love the look of roughly cut chunks).

  4. Jenny

    Looks gorgeous and I’ll get round to trying it some time, but I’m still one of the ones who thinks your jacked up banana bread can never been improved upon. It’s SO good, no additions necessary.

  5. Liz

    So… me and bananas have a thing. As in, they do not like me and my stomach does not like them. Problems arise when I eat them. But, this looks delicious. Anything I could sub for the bananas? Applesauce? Avocado?

  6. Katie

    I’ve made every banana bread on SK (all delicious) and will be trying this one this weekend…AND just saw you are coming to my town (Naperville) in October. My day is made :) :)

    1. Barbara

      Made this with some frozen bananas and HOLY COW was it good! I’m thinking of trying it with peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips next time.

  7. Sharon

    Of all the gin joints….no wait, that’s a different ….oh well let me just say that your recipes are the most reliable out there…which is why you cook book is my go-to wedding gift. This recipe is no exception…just exceptional. I followed it exactly and the result is so good that I fear I will finish the whole loaf before my family gets home. Thank you again.

  8. Crystal

    I am not a fan of bananas but this has me intrigued. The Egg & I in Las Vegas has a banana muffin that is excellent. Simply put, it doesn’t taste like an overripe banana. As far as banana taste how does this cake rate? It looks amazing.

  9. Lovely recipe. Now I need to try marbling. I made banana bread yesterday and my husband despaired that it wasn’t chocolate. It does however have raisins infused with rum and crunchy chunks of walnut (Nigella Lawson’s Domestic Goddess cookbook).

  10. Jane M

    I have baked the Double Chocolate Banana Bread SO MANY TIMES! This recipe is the best of both worlds. PLUS anything marbled is way more fun fun fun!

  11. Kay

    So good! I baked in glass at 325F and it took 70-75 minutes for the center to set but the outside was very well-browned and delicious. I always have to lower the temp for glass or else the outside will burn and the inside will be wet. My kids helped with mixing and they love this chocolatey banana bread.

  12. Maro

    My Yiayia made the most incredible marble bundt cake — deep chocolate batter swirled into orange-scented yellow batter, and none of it very sweet.

    I make it, but it’s not as perfect as hers; the directions are very old-world — a water glass of this, an eyeballed scoop of that, “you’ll learn to know how much.”

    So excited to try this one, and to check out the recipe in the new book!

  13. I just wanted to say, I made this but doubled it and baked it in a 9×13 pan at 375 for an hour. When it came out I let it cool a bit and glazed it with a brown butter glaze. I was nervous but It turned out perfectly!!! I served it as little snack bars at a get together and it was devoured quickly. Thank you!

  14. Margaret

    I have two loaf pans, which unfortunately are both just a little too big for this. So, tragically, I was forced to triple the recipe and split it into two pans. (I added some bourbon to the batter as I am wont to do.) I brought one to dinner with friends, and gave the other to our neighbors, so I wouldn’t eat them all by myself (as I am also wont to do). Thanks for the brilliant idea!

  15. Erika

    What is it with grandmas and marble cake? Mine made one too, in a bundt pan. Two of the ingredients i remember from when I peeked at the recipe 20+ years ago were “1 small can Hershey’s syrup” and Presto flour. As a kid I loved it so much, but based on the presence of Hershey’s syrup, it’s one of those things that is probably better in my memory than in reality.

  16. Sow

    Hi Deb,

    I have a jar of chocolate hazelnut butter I have to use up.. is there anyway I could it here in addition to/instead of cocoa powder?


    1. deb

      Not sure; can’t hurt to mix a couple spoonfuls in but in general, at least peanut butter tends to make baked goods more dry and crumbly, so not too much.

      1. Wendy

        you could put the hazelnut butter in between the layers of the checkerboard bit, then swirl it in, or as my partner does, eat slices of banana bread with a thick swirl of peanut (or in your case hazelnut) butter – how he is not a larger man I do not know!

  17. bcrisp56

    Made this today, gluten-free for my husband. Scrumptious! I used 135g all-purpose gf flour and 30g buckwheat flour. Already half gone!

  18. erineaguayo

    A dignified end for our overripe bananas. I love your double chocolate banana bread, but this came out even better. I let the butter brown, then threw in the still-cool bananas (they had been in the freezer, and had thawed an hour or so) to stop the butter from burning. I also beat the egg til it was frothy, and used a 8 x 8″ pan since I cracked my loaf pan putting it straight from the fridge into a hot oven. I ended up with a thick, incredible cake, almost 3″ tall, with a more sturdy texture than banana bread usually has. Thanks so much for sharing your continued genius in banana bread development!

  19. Sharon

    Coincidentally, I had 3 bananas on the counter, and plans for banana bread. What timing! My kids have deemed this the best ever! So delish! Absolutely perfect.

  20. Jamie Y

    I may be the only person on this sight that thinks your crackly banana bread is the best- i make it so much people know that’s what I make with bananas now!

  21. Nora

    I swear this was fate – I was staring at a pile of overripe bananas in my fruit bowl and poking around for a good recipe when I came to your site and found this at the top of the page! I made it tonight and it is delicious. My husband who hates bananas (!) loves it too and had seconds! Yummmm. Thanks! Also I just want to thank you in general – whenever I make one of your recipes I feel totally confident that it will be great because you’ve tested it so much and explained it so well. I’ve never been disappointed and it feels nice not to have to worry that I’m wasting my time on a dud recipe :) I really appreciate all of your work!!

  22. I don’t know what’s going on, but your ads are making your text jump all over the place. Reading your recipe and story is really hard. Is there a way to make the ads stop resizing? I know you’ve got to monetize, but this is a little ridiculous.

    1. deb

      I’m sorry; it’s not me choosing to give anyone a terrible experience out of greed. Badly coded ads slip through and the second I find out about them, I let my ad guys know and they take them out of rotation. I’m not seeing one today; can you tell me what it’s for so we can get rid of it?

  23. Its almost a month since i baked and was going through your site yesterday for a recipe. And voila, got an update on FB today morning of this lovely marbled banana bread.
    I can almost inhale the smell of it just by looking at the wonderful photos. And definitely wanted to bake it early in the morning. Unfortunately its a working day and a long list of chores waiting to be done. But this is definitely going to be made today evening, no matter what may happen.
    Also, All the Best Deb for your cookbook. Your recipes are always risk free because of the effort you take before posting. It can’t go unrewarded.
    Yo Girl!

    1. deb

      Well, there’s one coming in my new book, but that’s not much help today. You could try swapping the bananas with a cup or so of applesauce; haven’t tested it but it should work okay.

    2. Emily

      Dorie Greenspan has a couple of recipes (traditional marble loaf cake and double chocolate marble cake) that you might look into. I’ve only tried the traditional one, but I remember enjoying it.

  24. susie

    This looks really great! I printed it and hope to make it soon. Your recipes are delicious, and your intro to them always makes me smile, inspiring me to make the recipes!

    I have a small request, though: When printing your recipes, the large header makes the recipe often run over to two pages. If the header (the SK) were smaller, most would fit onto one page, I find. In the interest of saving paper, binder space, and the effects on the environment, wold you consider making the header smaller, or integrating it into the text somehow, so recipes would fit on one page?

      1. ldaghost

        Deb, the person having difficult reducing one of your recipes to one page because of the header may be mistaken, may not be cutting and pasting, or may not be using a Print Preview screen which I only do if I’m on a desktop. In any case, if I cut and paste a recipe, I can delete the header (maintaining your identity, of course) so the recipe fits whatever I need. If she’s using a desktop, she can adjust font size etc, to make it fit. Perhaps you and/or your elves can suggest something. Those of us blessed to have small devices never print a recipe out anymore. We store them in on-line files that we access in the kitchen. Saves paper and permits the addition of notes after we’ve tried a recipe.

  25. karen

    Love this idea! However, as a backyard banana grower with a freezer full of little 3-4″ very ripe fruits, I wish recipes included either a weight or volume measure for the bananas! Best of success with new book – looking forward to it.

  26. Flo

    I only had whole wheat flour in the cupboard but made this anyway — it was delish. Very crumbly and hard to cut into slices but I assume that was because of the flour. Well done, Deb, another triumph!

  27. Catherine

    Made this last night because by some miracle I had exactly three bananas lying around that were way too ripe for anything else. I ate a slice for breakfast this morning and it was the perfect sweet counterbalance to coffee, plus the marbling turned out so pretty. Next time I might add walnuts!

  28. Emily

    Just made this this morning and it is soooo delicious! And I really like the mix of flavors — not having the whole thing be chocolate actually somehow makes the chocolate parts taste chocolatier (is that a word?me) My only suggestion is to marble the bottom layer before adding the second layer of batter on top of it. Cutting through both layers at the end didn’t mix the bottom one fully for me.

  29. Divya

    Just made this today, and it was fantastic! I should add that in my haste, I divided the batter more 60:40 than 50:50, so mine turned out to be more of a chocolate banana bread with regular banana bread swirls …a mistake for which I have no regrets :) This is my second smittenkitchen recipe in a row (first one was the mixed berry buttermilk bundt cake) that has knocked it out of the park, can’t wait to keep baking. Thanks Deb for another winner!

  30. Sue

    Excellent recipe, really clever, thank you. I’ve made the double chocolate banana bread several times – this version really made us smile and even made me leave a message here, first time ever I’ve made a comment online!!

  31. Thanks so much, Deb. I’ve been making a marble cake out of a 60’s era 5 Roses flour cookbook of my grandmother’s for ever, so I am thrilled to add the banana factor. Will make this this afternoon and laugh at memories of my grandmother’s famous/infamous banana bread. I worked at a Dairy Queen through my high school summers, and we always had leftover bananas. My boss would give them to me to take to my grandmother, who would transform them into an amazing, dense banana bread (we joked that it was so heavy, you could use it as a doorstop). I always got at least one loaf to take back to the DQ staff! As I’m on a teacher self-funded leave this year, I can honour that tradition by taking one of these to my school staff.

    Looking so forward to seeing you in Toronto.

  32. So happy to see this recipe…I’ve had some ripe bananas waiting all week on the top shelf on my fridge for something spectacular. I cut down on some of the brown sugar in your recipe and subbed in a little maple syrup. Wow, did that add some flavor to an already stunning bread!

    1. jess

      Shawn (or anyone else): Do you think a straight maple syrup replacement would work? (According to my calculations, I’d need to use 0.45 c syrup and reduce the liquid elsewhere. My question’s about flavor. Was the partial replacement super maple syrup-y?

  33. Hillary

    The marbling tip made the diff, I ten to overdo. I had TWO very large bananas on hand and the bread still came out beautifully. Chocolate and banana combos always grap my attention. The entire recipe took 15 mins to pull together-perk! for last min prep ideas. I can’t pick fav SK recipes, they all work for me!

  34. Alice

    OMG My poor Aunt Punkie’s chocolate loaf cake (so rich it doesn’t need icing, or even powdered sugar) has been usurped by this marvel as my go-to food gift. I made this yesterday to deliver to a friend who’s had open heart surgery. He called my cell about a half hour after I left it on his front porch and raved about it. I meant to leave out a couple tablespoons of the batter to bake for myself and I forgot. So, today I had to make it again for myself (and those at work tomorrow who deserve a treat). Densely rich chocolate and moist banana swirls. Thanks for passing this on. It will go into my regular rotation.

  35. Sarah

    I just made this and I’ve got to say it’s now my favorite banana bread recipe by far! I used frozen bananas (because that’s all I had) and thought it came out perfect.

  36. Laura in CA

    Made exactly as written, baked for 55 min (toothpick came out clean at that time). This is so good. I want to eat the whole loaf right now (in the dark stillness of my house, while the toddler and the husband are sleeping – no one would even know it ever got eaten if they never knew it got made, right?)

  37. Sophie

    tried it, loved it (both chocolaty and banana-y!) but my cake has trouble staying together – which never happens with my regular recipe (from Delia Smith). Why could that be? Undercooked? Bananas not ripe enough? Wrong flour? (I used half-wholeweat – don’t know what that corresponds to in the US, basically it’s the one between regular white flour and wholeweat flour)

  38. Hannah Forman

    This is absolutely delicious!! I got rave reviews – even after reducing the sweet things to 1/2 c. sugar and 1/2 c.chocolate chips. Still delightfully dessert-for-breakfast-like!

  39. Gwen

    Dear Deb,

    I ❤️ you so much. There’s truly no need to follow anyone but you.

    I have a quick question. My husband is gluten free so I used an all purpose gluten free flour for both the marbled banana bread and the brownie cookies but it was far more successful with the cookies. Which g.f flour would you recommend for the bread to give it a better hold?

    1. Grace

      Which blend do you use? I’ve had good success with a lot of quickbread recipes using Better Batter. Just be sure to measure by weight (Better Batter weighs 140 g / cup) and not volume. You’ll probably still find that the bread is a little flatter than you are used to (less rise) but the crumb / texture / flavor is spot on.

  40. I was lazy and wanted it to be a one bowl bread, so made the batter with the 1 1/4 cup of flour and swirled the chocolate in at the end.. not as pretty but still marbled. This is a keeper

  41. Susan Korones Gifford

    I just pulled this out of the oven–it looks good, but my batter was much runnier than the one pictured, and the cake is only an inch and half high! What happened, ya think?

    1. Laura in CA

      Mine was also a pretty short standing bread. I also was wondering if I did something wrong or used too big of a pan? Tastes amazing either way!

  42. Ashley

    I just bought my tickets to your book tour stop in DC mere moments after they went on sale like the groupie-level crazed fan that I am. Yep, Deb, you’re that good. Groupie level good. Can’t wait to see you in person.

  43. Jami

    I’m one of those people who thinks that marbled cakes are dry and unpalatable. This is not the case here. I was intrigued by the banana marbling and goaded into making this by my son. Moist and delicious. I dare say that half the loaf is gone already! Nice recipe!

    Also, I only used half the butter and used half unsweetened applesauce. Noticed no difference. Yum!

  44. Melissa

    Made this two days ago and while it tasted great that day, this is one of those recipes that gets better and better with age – it was absolutely perfect for breakfast this morning. I used a chocolate bar that I chopped into chunks because it’s all I had on hand, and also had to sub 1/4 cup white sugar as I only had 1/2 cup of brown left in the cabinet. Like one of the other reviewers, I did have some trouble with the cake staying together, but I suspect it’s due to the fact that I was overly cautious with the marbling and didn’t blend the layers quite enough. Next time I’ll be sure to be a bit more aggressive with my figure-eights. Thanks again for another winner, Deb!

  45. The minute I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. I prefer to bake with weights, so I took my 3 bananas and weighed them. Two 6-7 inch bananas and one I’d frozen for smoothies, 100 g. Together they weighed 317 grams. According to Rose Beranbaum’s cups to weight, 1 cup of mashed banana is 227 g.

    I’m not sure I liked the chocolate chips. Their melting pockets caused the bread to fall apart. I’d put this in the ‘snack cake’ category, but who cares!! My husband immediately ate two large slices and I had one. There goes the healthy meal I’d planned. Super good recipe. Now, if we can just get peanut butter in it.

  46. Stacey

    I followed the recipe exactly and next time I make this (tomorrow?!), I will reduce the chocolate chips from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup. A hit!

  47. Alexa Galtman

    for all interested as marbled muffins of a normal size they taste delicious 1 got 12 and they took 20min at 350 degrees. they are delicious!

    1. Viviane

      thanks! I was wondering about muffins. I tried the loaf and it was delicious… will try muffins next. I have a bake sale to bake for this Friday…

  48. Grace

    Debs..the next time you ‘marble’ a batter, could you please do just a quick video of the method and a shot of a slice once you’ve baked it would be nice, too. That’d be so helpful. I guess I am an over-marbler. My cut slices look more like I did a poor folding job rather than a deliberate swirling. I think the top of the batter looks like it isn’t swirled enough compared to what has happened below the surface.

  49. Alex C.

    This was my favorite banana bread of yours yet (and I’ve made them all)! The swirls made for such a lovely loaf, and then I gussied mine up even more with banana slices on top–one half dusted with cocoa powder, the other with brown sugar. The perks of having 4 “brown, spotty, past their prime and about 36 hours from luring in fruit flies bananas” when a recipe only calls for 3. Love, love, love them!

    P.S. Was hoping those of us in Phoenix would also be getting some good news soon … maybe that we were a pit stop on your way back to NY?! There’s no place more beautiful in the winter :)

  50. Angela

    Ahhh! I’m so excited you are coming to Denver. I moved from Chicago 2 years ago and my husband wasn’t looking forward to listening to me moan about you being there and not here.

  51. Molly G

    Oh my goodness! I saw the post on instagram yesterday and I made it as soon as I got home. It was absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. My pregnancy cravings were thoroughly satisfied. This one is going on rotation!

  52. Leah

    Didn’t have any languishing bananas, but did have too much zucchini…so I made a mash up with you zucc bread recipe to make marbled zucchini bread. So delicious!!! Have another loaf in the freezer, we’ll see how long i can hold off!

  53. Melanie

    I made this with four (medium-ish) bananas and white whole wheat flour, and it was perfect! I was nervous, because I’ve never marbled anything before, but the instructions were really clear, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out!

  54. Erin

    I made this tonight with 3 children running around making mayhem. I got halfway through the recipe (already divided the batter) and realized I forgot the bananas. I added them at the end. I also used almond extract (1/4 tsp) instead of vanilla. It is still delicious. Need to work on my marbling (and reading).

  55. spiralstyle

    I just made this marbled banana bread and I may need to buy a new wardrobe in a larger size. I can’t get enough of it. Delicious!!! I made it exactly according to the recipe. It is moist, chocolaty and the banana flavor is subtle. Another Smitten Kitchen winner. Thank you!!!

  56. smathes1

    Made this last night– perfect for a rainy afternoon. I made it in a 8×8 baking dish, checkerboarded the batter in 3×3 blobs before swirling and it was done after 45 minutes. The chocolate part is SO CHOCOLATEY, and yet I was pleasantly surprised how “not too sweet” this tasted. That’s my primary concern with baked goods (I don’t love sweets) and this also means I have no problem eating it for breakfast right now :) Thanks for another great one, Deb! Excited to see you in Boston.

  57. smathes1

    Oh, Deb- one more thing: because you’ll be in Boston on day 2 of your book tour (hooray!), for those of us who pre-ordered your book on Amazon, do you know if it will ARRIVE on 10/24, or SHIP on 10/24? I just want to be sure I’ll have a book for you to sign.

  58. jessicaaber

    I will add my voice to the chorus of praise. I make your Jacked Up Banana Bread all the time to great acclaim, but have never made Chocolate Banana Bread. This marbled bread was awesome and possibly even better than the Jacked Up Banana Bread. I particularly loved how you limited the number of bowls by starting with the same base batter. Another winning SK recipe! Thanks!