Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

November 27, 2020


In the household of my adolescence we had Harvest Loaf in the fall and Chickpea Loaf in the spring (shouts to E.B.E.’s Recipes for a Small Planet).

My mom insists this “Harvest Loaf” is crucially defined by the inclusion of chocolate chips and walnuts into a pumpkin cake. Even more crucially, during a family Thanksgiving zoom call she started talking about “Harvest Loaf” and the only people who had any clue what she was talking about had grown up in her house.

First of all, the suffix “loaf” is basically the opposite of good marketing for almost anything. Examples:

Second of all, just look at this banana bread! Don't Call It A Loaf


To Prepare

If you can’t tell I’ve actually been making this all month, ever since I had leftover pumpkin from that cheesecake. So beyond the tired “mix the dry ingredients and bake at 350 for 70 minutes” here’s some notes on what worked better and worse.

Good Ideas

Low Protein Whole Wheat flour. Also known as whole wheat pastry flour. I bought mine from some (eye-roll, please) in-state mill whose specialty is locally grown and recently milled single-varietal flour. It’s called “zero land” because it was cultivated by the early computer scientists who farmed silicon valley in the 1870s but I’m just pulling your chain I have no idea why. Anyway you get all the benefits and flavor of whole-wheat but with the flawless crumb of white flour, what’s not to love?

Let the batter sit for 30 minutes after you mix it. Something something the whole wheat re-hydrates? Anyhow you get moister cake.

Chocolate Chunks. I tried small chocolate chips, chocolate chips, cutting up giant bricks of chocolate myself, and buying a bag of pre-sized “chocolate chunks”. Thing is: you want some bites that have only pumpkin, and then some bites that are dominated by chocolate, so small and regular sized chocolate chips are out. Cutting up your own baking bars might work fine, but the one I bought was super thick and it was hard to get the chunks small enough without generating a bunch of chocolate shards and shrapnel that I then had no choice but to eat separately while the cake baked and then I was already sugared-up and tired of chocolate by the time my cake was ready so in conclusion pre-sized “chocolate chunks” are the winner ding ding ding.


Freshly ground spices. Even with a mortar and pestle it really only takes a few extra minutes and bam! You’re in flavor country.

OK Ideas

Add Frozen blueberries. If you do this, do it right before you pour the batter into the loaf pan. Just add em and stir gently a couple times. Otherwise your whole cake gets kinda purple and people can’t tell it’s pumpkin-themed. But seriously it’s a bright fruity bite that detracts nothing. I did this after hearing about the death of an acquaintence who was into health food but also the family asked not to put her all over the internet, so anyway the blueberries are homage E.M. She had a real verve for life and the few times I interacted with her were truly joyful.

Bake in one loaf pan or split into two. If you split it into two pans then when you eat half a cake before it fully cools, you’ve only consumed 1/4 stick of butter, which is almost reasonable.

Add a third egg. Much like the right rug, eggs really tie the cake together.

Add frozen pineapple. I tried, but just, don’t. This is a big victory for my wife, as it ruins my general rule of “literally everything is better with pineapple” with which she has never fully agreed.

Grate your cloves and allspices super fine, without decreasing volume. One time I used roughly the same amount of spices but I used a mesh sifter and then kept pestling away such that all the cloves and allspice were a fine powder? Then they were too strong! You don’t want to be cracking your teeth or anything, but no need to finely sift. Alternatively, one time I started with the same amount of spices, sifted twice, and then just threw away the leftover (maybe 1/3 of the starting volume) and that worked great? Look: Vaughnda bought two jars of whole cloves when we moved into this apartment 7 years ago, and the only reason we even unsealed the second one is that I couldn’t find the first one. They’re both more than half full, and not because I’m an optimist.

So anyway

Combine dry ingredients, stir in wet ingredients. Let sit for ~30 minutes. Bake at 350 for 70 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let cool. No, really. Just wait for it. It’s so much better when it’s barely-warm but not actually hot. I don’t know why. Chemistry?


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Hi mom!