Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Chocolate-Bottom Banana Bars from Author Cleo Coyle for National #BananaBreadDay

From Cleo Coyle: Two layers of flavor and texture make these bars an outstanding treat. A soft banana cake layer floats over a rich, brownie-like base laced with chocolate chips.

It sounds complicated, yet it's very easy to make, and a perfect snack for afternoon coffee breaks or late-night noshing. These beautiful bars make a great home-baked gift for friends and family, too.

Marc and I originally published the recipe in our 13th Coffeehouse Mystery, but since today is (no kidding) National Banana Bread Day, we decided to re-bake it for ourselves—and re-share it here in the Kitchen with all of you...

Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

☕ A Recipe Note from Cleo

"Lovin' from the oven" is how coffee hunter Matt Allegro described these fresh-baked squares in one of our most popular Coffeehouse Mysteries, Billionaire Blend. And Matt was right.

You'll notice we put a bit of earthy espresso powder in our chocolate bottom layer. Yes, we’re coffee lovers, but here’s the truth. You won’t taste coffee, only a more powerful note of chocolate. As bakers know, espresso powder is a way to deepen the flavor of chocolate in recipes.

These bars pair beautifully with coffee, espresso, and strong black teas. May you bake them with love and eat with joy!

~ Cleo

To download this recipe in a free
PDF document that you can print,
save or share, click here or on the
image below...

Click for the Free Recipe PDF.

☕ Cleo Coyle’s
Chocolate-Bottom Banana Bars

Yield: 16 squares (one 9 inch-square pan)


2 cups mashed ripe* bananas (about 4 to 6 depending on size)
      *See my note at the end of this recipe to ripen bananas in oven

1/4 cup sour cream

3/4 cup canola oil (or cold-pressed coconut oil, melt before measuring)

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten with fork

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon table salt or finely ground sea salt

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup baking cocoa

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Step 1—Prep oven and pan: First preheat your oven to 350° F. Line the bottom of a 9 inch-square pan with parchment paper, allowing the ends to hang over the side like handles. You’ll use those handles to easily lift the baked banana bar slab out of the pan. Coat paper lightly with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Step 2—Make batter: Combine your 2 cups of mashed bananas and sour cream with a fork. Add the oil, sugar, egg, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fork-whisk well (or use an electric mixer) to blend until smooth. Now add your flour and mix until a lumpy batter forms, but do not over-mix at this stage.

Step 3—Create chocolate bottom:
Remove 1 cup batter and place it into a separate bowl. Add cocoa and espresso powder, fork-whisking until the batter is smooth. Fold in chocolate chips, and (optional) chopped walnuts.

Step 4—Assemble: Spread the chocolate batter across the entire bottom of the prepared pan. Take your time, using the back of a spoon to spread the batter all the way into the corners. Be sure the layer is even. 

Now pour your remaining banana batter on top and once again use the back of a spoon to even out the layer (otherwise your bars will bake up lopsided).

Step 5—Bake: Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before transferring to a solid surface to cut into squares.


How to Ripen Bananas Fast

Place yellow bananas on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake at 350 F. for 10 minutes, turning once. Bananas will blacken. Peel right away (be careful, they’re hot!) and cool flesh in fridge before mashing.

Eat (and read) with joy!

Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author
of The Coffeehouse Mysteries and
Haunted Bookshop Mysteries

This is us -- Alice and Marc.
Together we write as Cleo Coyle. 

Visit our online coffeehouse here.
And follow us at these links...

Coming May 4, 2021...

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"He is hardboiled in the tradition
of Philip Marlowe, and she is a genteel
Miss Marple; yet the two opposites
make an explosive combination..."

—Midwest Book Review

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clicking here.

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next book and 

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Free Checklist of Books in Order

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark 
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
18 titles includes the added bonus of recipes.

Click for the Free Recipe PDF.


  1. Love your books, Cleo. Banana bread is always tasty but the chocolate bottoms make it divine. Thanks for the great recipe.

    1. Thank you, Amy. Your nice comment is much appreciated!

      ~ Cleo

  2. Wonderful recipe, Cleo. Nice change of pace from the usual cream cheese. I've got to try this, and it's the perfect day to do it.

    1. Sandi - Cream cheese spread on banana bread is indeed a tasty option. But IMO chocolate makes everything better. :) Cheers for stopping by the Kitchen!

      ~ Cleo

  3. I love banana bread but don't see it around much, even at my local bakery I am not much of a baker but your pictures make it look easy. Thank you for the wonderful post. I hope your next coffeehouse mystery is out soon!

    1. Hi, Toni - You're right about banana bread and bakeries. It doesn't have a long shelf-life, and that's probably why local bakeries stick to other kinds of breads and cakes. I'm happy to know you're looking forward to our next Coffeehouse Mystery and even happier to tell you it's on the way. We have a December 2021 pub date scheduled, so Clare & Co. will be sleuthing again before year's end!

      ~ Cleo


  4. Hi Cleo. Thank you for this. My husband and I both love banana bread and it can only get better with chocolate.

    1. Helen - My thoughts exactly, and thanks so much for stopping by today!

      ~ Cleo

  5. This sounds pretty darn irresistible, and I'm not even a big banana bread lover!
    Bring it on!