Chef Marion Cunningham's Famous Kona Inn Dark Banana Bread Recipe: This Banana Bread Has James Beard Roots by Chef Gigi Gaggero, Host of KSCU 103.3 FM LIVE Food Talk Radio S.F. Bay Area

Bread/Muffins Desserts
a year ago
Chef Marion Cunningham's Famous Kona Inn Dark Banana Bread Recipe: This Banana Bread Has James Beard Roots

Chef Marion Cunningham was a culinary, literary sensation. In 1972, she took a cooking class from James Beard and became his assistant while helping him establish cooking classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Upon Beard's recommendation, she was hired to rewrite the classic Fannie Farmer Cookbook for modern audiences.

Respectively, as a young pastry chef, I would make this dark banana bread recipe for the Ritz Carlton's Afternoon High Tea Service. Through the years, I've also made a few variations to the recipe by using butter and adding vanilla extract. Hope you love it as much as I do. Marion would instruct you to use very ripe bananas for the bread – they should have brown spots covering the skin but not be blackened and mushy.

Cuisine: American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Bake Time 90 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: Makes 2 loaves


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup shortening, softened (I use butter)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 6)
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not in the original recipe, so OK to omit)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Here's how to make it: 

  1. Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs, bananas and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  2. Add dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until the batter forms. Fold in walnuts until thoroughly blended.
  3. Pour batter into two well-oiled and lightly floured 9x5-inch loaf pans. Bake in a preheated 350-degrees F until toothpick inserted in center comes clean, about 65 to 75 minutes. Start checking for doneness after 45 minutes of baking. Everyone's oven bakes differently.
  4. Allow bread to cool in pans for about 5 minutes. Turn loaves onto a rack to cool completely. Cool, and slice thin to enjoy the best flavor. Dust with powdered sugar for additional sweetness.

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Sugar $2 & Up
Walnuts $3 & Up
Shortening $3 & Up

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Chef Gigi Gaggero, Host of KSCU 103.3 FM LIVE Food Talk Radio S.F. Bay Area
She was a lovely woman. I miss her. But this one recipe is STILL so popular and lives on FOREVER!!!
Elisa Schmitz, 30Seconds
Wow, Chef Gigi Gaggero, Our 30Seconds Resident Chef , what a lovely story. And an amazing recipe. Thank you for sharing! XOXO
Delicious recipe! 🙌🏼

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