Gluten Free Banana Cake | With Lighter Option

Gluten Free Banana Cake | With Lighter Option

Tender and moist gluten free banana cake that’s made easily in one bowl with a rice flour blend, and a sweet cream cheese frosting. There’s even a lighter option if you’re counting calories!

Forkful of banana cake with frosting

This banana cake is softer and more tender than my recipe for the perfect one bowl gluten free banana bread (a recipe I’ve been making in one form or another for over 10 years). And since bananas know no season (as far as availability goes, at least), it’s important to have as many ways to use them as possible.

It’s packed with banana flavor, especially since it calls for the ripest bananas you can possibly find as it’s relatively low in sugar otherwise. I’m talking about bananas that are so brown, you can barely see their spots.

We’re talking about the kind of banana that makes you wonder if you’ve missed that window of opportunity. Those bananas.

Raw banana cake batter in the pan.

Speaking of Bananas…

Whenever I go to the grocery store, I always pick up a bunch of bananas. I prefer to buy them at Trader Joe’s, where I pay for them by the banana, rather than by the pound. That way, I get more banana for my money.

When they’re good and ripe, I either make this moist and tender gluten free banana cake (I usually make the “lighter” version, but not always), my favorite banana bread, or just peel and freeze them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Into a sealed bag they go, where they await smoothies, n’ice cream, or perhaps my 100% whole grain, healthy banana oatmeal muffins.

Tender and moist gluten free banana cake that's made easily in one bowl with a rice flour blend, and a sweet cream cheese frosting. There's even a lighter option if you're counting calories!

A note about so-called light recipes

This is not a tiny cake, but it’s not absolutely enormous either. I only provide nutrition information for lighter recipes. But when I started looking around at other websites that provide nutrition information, it turns out that they often mess with the portion sizes quite a lot!

They might stretch a muffin recipe to make 16 instead of the 12 standard-size muffins it should make. Or they’ll slice a cake into slivers to keep the calorie count low. I think you can guess where I come out on this…

This cake makes 12 normal-sized pieces. Sure, you can slice it into 16 pieces and lower the calorie-count per piece from nearly 200 calories (unfrosted) to closer to 150 calories (unfrosted). But that would be ridiculous. You know you’d just end up having 2 pieces. ;)

I did provide separate nutrition information for the frosting because if you’re really concerned with calories, don’t have the frosting. But it has real vanilla seeds in it. And it’s still delicious even when you use light cream cheese.

Both the “lighter” version of this cake and the regular version are packed with banana flavor and are moist and tender. The lighter version has a bit less fat, but neither version has a ton of sugar.

Both fat and sugar are tenderizers in baking, but I’d almost always rather have more fat than sugar. Fat in baking is more satisfying, so you’re less likely to overeat. Plus, when we’re talking about gluten free banana cake, the bananas are already quite sweet.

Banana cake baked cooling

Ingredients and substitutions

Bananas: Resist the urge to add more mashed ripe bananas. And please do measure by weight, not by banana. They vary so much. Seriously, if you load this up with bananas, your cake will be dense, will take forever to bake, and even when it does it will still have parts that seem raw.

I made this cake 3 times and had to trash it all 3 times before I got the balance just right. And it killed me to waste ingredients just like it does you. For me, though, it’s an occupational hazard!

Dairy: To make this cake dairy free, use the regular (not lighter) version of the recipe, and use nondairy milk. The butter can be easily replaced with Earth Balance buttery sticks by weight. For the frosting, either use a nondairy cream cheese, or just omit. :)

Eggs: You can try using one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground chia seeds mixed with 1 tablespoon lukewarm water until it gels) per whole egg, and 25 grams of aquafaba per egg white. Proceed at your own risk, though, as I haven’t tried those substitutions in this recipe!

Sugars: The balance of granulated and brown sugars in this recipe really gives it a depth of flavor and just the right moisture balance. If you’d like to replace the sugars with a sugar alternative, I recommend using Swerve sweetener, which has brown sugar and granulated sugar varieties.


Tender and moist gluten free banana cake that's made easily in one bowl with a rice flour blend, and a sweet cream cheese frosting. There's even a lighter option if you're counting calories!

whole banana cake baked and forkful of banana cakeTender and moist gluten free banana cake that's made easily in one bowl with a rice flour blend, and a sweet cream cheese frosting. There's even a lighter option if you're counting calories!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 9 to 12 pieces of cake


For the cake
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose gluten free flour  (I used my Better Than Cup4Cup blend)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (72 g) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (55 g) packed light brown sugar

2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup (200 g) mashed VERY ripe bananas (about 2 medium-sized bananas, peeled and mashed)

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) milk (any kind), at room temperature

For the frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)

1 cup (115 g) confectioners’ sugar

For a lighter version of the cake
5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, in place of 6 tablespoons

1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) + 2 egg whites (50 g) in place of 2 eggs

1/2 cup (120 g) light sour cream, in place of 1/2 cup milk

For a lighter version of the frosting
6 ounces light cream cheese, at room temperature, in place of cream cheese and butter

3/4 cup (86 g) confectioners’ sugar


  • Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a 9-inch square baking dish and set it aside.

  • In a small bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and whisk to combine well. Set the bowl aside. In a large bowl, place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and eggs, and beat well with a hand mixer until smooth and light. Add the vanilla and mashed bananas, and mix with a spoon until just combined. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, and then the milk, mixing until just combined after each addition. The batter will be thick.

  • Scrape the cake batter into the prepared pan, and smooth into an even layer with a wet spatula. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • While the cake is cooling, making the frosting. Place all of the frosting ingredients in a large bowl (or the clean bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Spread the frosting on top of the cooled cake, and slice the cake with a sharp knife into 9 or 12 pieces—or slice the cake bare and frost individual pieces. Serve immediately.

  • Nutrition Information per piece of “lighter” cake, as calculated with recipes.sparkpeople.com (I only provide nutrition info for recipes that I call “light” or “lighter”), assuming 12 pieces of cake:

    Calories 192.8 | Total Fat 6.2 g | Cholesterol 30.3 mg | Sodium 202.1 mg | Potassium 100.8 mg | Total Carbohydrate 31.8 g (Dietary Fiber 0.8 g; Sugars 16.5 g) | Protein 3.0 g

    Frosting adds the following per piece (assuming 12 pieces of cake):

    Calories 45.8 | Total Fat 1.1 g | Cholesterol 4.5 mg | Sodium 43.2 mg | Total Carbohydrate 8.0 g (Sugars 7.7 g) | Protein 0.5 g

  • Originally published on the blog in 2014. Most photos new, video new, recipe modified to make lighter an option, most text new.


Comments are closed.

  • Jeana
    August 7, 2017 at 3:56 PM

    THANK YOU for this delicious use of our too-far-gone bananas! :D You make good GF baking attainable!!
    My question is about substituting different types of sugar, only because I don’t always have each option on hand. This calls for white and light brown sugar. Could I use coconut palm sugar for some/all of either of those? What about honey? And since I’m asking, what about dark brown sugar or turbinado? (maybe this is becoming a larger question… how do these change the end results?)

    • Nicole Hunn
      August 8, 2017 at 12:14 PM

      Hi, Jeana,
      Take a look at the section in the blog post about Ingredients and Substitutions. I gave my best guess for how to replace the sugars with sugar alternatives. You might be able to replace the light brown sugar with dark brown sugar, or possibly with coconut palm sugar, but palm sugar doesn’t have the moisture that brown sugar (dark or light has), so it may change the end result. You can’t replace the white sugar with palm sugar. Hope that helps!

  • Tina
    August 6, 2017 at 1:34 PM

    I measured my bananas, used the right pan and still the cake is in the oven for 45 minutes and not done. Have I done something wrong or is there a typo with the cooking time? Thanks!

    • Nicole Hunn
      August 6, 2017 at 3:27 PM

      Hi, Tina,
      The recipe is correct as written. If your cake isn’t done in 45 minutes, it sounds like your oven temperature is off. It would be burned by then!

  • Susan Beck
    August 1, 2017 at 2:28 PM

    Hi Nicole,
    A question: are you using USA pans when you bake? I have a USA Pan loaf pan and love it. Just wondering if you use their 8″ and 9″ and 13″ x 9″ cake pans when baking?

    Thanks a million!

    • Nicole Hunn
      August 1, 2017 at 6:27 PM

      Hi, Susan,

      I used to use tons of USA Pans, but I rarely do anymore. Frankly, I don’t like the lines in the pans that end up in my baked goods. I still use a muffin pan of theirs from time to time, though. My cake pans now are made mostly by Fat Daddio.

  • […] Lighter banana cake. […]

  • Helen Ottens
    January 22, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    As a diabetic I live by nutritional information. Although I can calculate it myself (I also us Sparkspeople.com) but I appreciate it already being with the recipe. My daughter is the gluten free member of the family and she really enjoys your recipes.

  • Kim
    January 21, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    Can’t wait to make this. If its anything like the GF banana bread, which I seem to make weekly. My son will love this, Thanks again.

  • Samantha
    January 21, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for another “light” recipe…I love them! Hats off to you Nicole:)

  • January 21, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    I just love how you even make “light” stuff look awesome! I’m definitely making this, though I may just have to use regular cream cheese frosting on top :)

    • January 21, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      Good idea, Dana. ;) You might need to thin it a bit with a teaspoon or two of milk at room temp, though, since light cream cheese is much runnier than full fat.

  • Rene
    January 21, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    Thank you!! for telling us what flour blend you are using. I hope you continue with all your recipes going forward.

  • Chris
    January 21, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    OH, PLEASE Nicole!! Don’t throw it away! If it’s the least bit edible, a “bad” cake can be made into bread pudding!! And banana bread pudding is f.a.b.u.l.o.u.s.!!! Yeah, ask me how I know…it happened. Stuff happens. If you can make lemonade from lemons, I figured I could make bread pudding with a banana cake failure! Of course, it hasn’t happened since and we’ve all lamented that! I guess I could just make it with a perfectly GOOD banana cake!! Oh, and fat-free stuff is NASTY!! I’m sure wishing I had grabbed the discounted bananas on the “dead” rack when I got groceries yesterday…..

    • January 21, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      Chris, it happens sometimes. Not often, but it does, and can’t be avoided. It’s an unavoidable (albeit small) part of recipe development.

  • Lisa B
    January 21, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    Nicole, this is the first time I am commenting. First—love, love, love your site. Second, love your cookbooks. Third-;love that you are doing some light recipes for those of us who are calorie concious and have a sweet tooth and finally, like the pinterest make gluten free pin site. You are rocking all things gluten free and you do it well!

  • Erin Lowery Baerwaldt
    January 21, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    You are truly my hero! Thanks for thinking outside the box to make lighter versions of recipes (AND hunting down their nutrition facts because i know you are an army of one!). Just want you to know i think you are amazing and REALLY appreciate everything you do for us!

    • January 21, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Erin! That means a lot to me. :)

  • MIchelle
    January 21, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    This sounds so good! Perfect afternoon snack- not you rich, but still a nice treat. And you are absolutely right about the serving size thing!

    • January 21, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      Yeah, no monkey business with serving size. That’s cheating!

      • Michelle
        January 21, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        And hopefully you knew I meant too rich not you rich. Sigh…. really should have taken typing instead of ceramics in high school…

  • Cindy
    January 21, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    Nicole!!!! Were you peaking through my kitchen window looking at the 5 almost black bananas that are begging to be made into bread or cake? Woohoo!!! Thanks!!! ~ Cindy

    • January 21, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      Don’t be alarmed, Cindy. I mean no harm and am only peeking in your kitchen window for recipe ideas. :)

  • Danelle
    January 21, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Nicole….this looks great. I love banana bread and so does my husband(he’s my GF household member).
    One question….finding flours isn’t easy where I live but I have been able to purchase betty crockers GF flour blend in my stores ( and I have a family member who can provide it for me really cheap…they work for a joint company and they get a discount. I used it over the holiday’s with your angel food cake recipe with great results and I wondered if you had tried this flour or if you will be testing it to give us all some feed back on what you think?

    • January 21, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Hi, Danelle,
      I have only minimal experience with the Betty Crocker all purpose flour blend (I have only used it once), and judging from that and from the ingredients list, I would say that is quite similar to my basic gum-free flour blend, just with added guar gum—and they do not use superfine rice flours so it is rather gritty. The problem with gritty rice flour blends is that, even if you personally don’t taste the difference, your guests and/or family may and then it tastes, at best, ‘good, for gluten free.’ (which I can’t stand! it should be good, period!). That basic blend is okay for some applications, but isn’t ideal for most. So if you can get it really cheap, I say go ahead and try it in simple recipes like quickbreads, cookies and cakes, but keep in mind the grittiness and that it will not work in all of my recipes. You’ll have to experiment! Hope that helps. :)

  • Jennifer S.
    January 21, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    I love you and envy you all at the same time. Oh to be the person who doesn’t have to watch what they eat!! I’ve wondered several times how or why you are not 500lbs will all the yumminess that you make and have to taste over and over to make sure that it’s right just for us! I thank you for the bottom of my heart for recipes like this but I’m still jealous!!! lol…

    • January 21, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      Oh, it’s not that I never ever gain weight or anything, Jennifer! It’s just that I don’t count calories as that would leave me feeling deprived and I would be more likely to overeat/eat when I’m not hungry/fall off the wagon. And I find that eating higher-fat, lower-sugar foods keeps me satisfied and happy without overeating. And much of what I make goes: into the freezer, into the children, into my husband’s office, to our neighbors, to anyone who will have it! :)

      • Anneke
        January 21, 2014 at 4:35 PM

        I have a nice image now of your children standing next to the freezer, mouths open, waiting to see if the baked goods go into them instead of into the freezer!

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