Making Banana Upside-Down Cake

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This basic cake formula and set of procedures can be used with a variety of fruits. But me, I think upside down cake was made for bananas. They’re just too perfect paired with dark caramel and nutmeg, plus they make a nice compliment to the fluffy, slightly dense and tangy crumb. Start by gathering your ingredients and preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Start with your form. Apply a little cooking spray or small amount of butter to your pan…

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…and spread it around. You don’t want a heavy coating of grease here, just a light smear to discourage sticking.

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Once that’s done, turn your attention to the caramel. Combine about 1/4 cup of water with the sugar in a thin-bottomed saucepan or skillet, the amount isn’t that important since it will all boil out anyway.

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Over high heat (yes I said high) swirl the pan gently. High heat may sound extreme, but not only is it faster, it allows you to leapfrog over the melting and crystallization that happens at a lower temperature.

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After 1-2 minutes of swirling you should see a yellowy tint in the center.

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Another ten seconds and it’ll be light amber.

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About another ten and it’ll be dark amber.

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I press further because I like a smoky caramel. But that’s just me. So. In goes the butter, which will sizzle and sputter, so watch yourself a bit.

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Stir it around until the butter is completely incorporated. That might take a couple of minutes of brisk stirring. Keep going until it no longer looks greasy. If the caramel is starting to thicken up just apply a little more heat to loosen it up again.

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Pour it into the prepared pan…

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…and tilt it this way and that to ensure an even coating.

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Leave that aside while you prepare the bananas. Cut each banana in half…

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…peel and slice down the center.

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Arrange the slices as you like — cut side down — on the caramel.

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And now on to the batter. This is easy stuff. Sift the flour and baking powder into a medium bowl.

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Add in the salt and whisk to combine. Leave that aside also.

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Combine the buttermilk and vanilla. Leave that aside also-also.

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Next, in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the soft butter and sugar.

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Beat it until it’s pale in color, then add the eggs one by one.

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Scrape the bowl, then start adding the dry and wet ingredients, alternating them 3-2. That is, a third of the flour mixture…

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…then half the milk mixture…

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…another third of the flour and so on. Don’t mix too much. A few little streaks of flour between additions is alright. You’ll want to be sure to scrape every so often to make sure you’re leaving nothing unmixed.

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With the batter done, just scrape it into the cake pan.

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Spread it even, then put the pan on a middle rack in the oven.

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Bake about 50 minutes until the cake looks about like so.

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Let it sit for five minutes, then using a butterknife, loosen the sides.

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To turn it out, place a platter upside-down on top of the baking pan. I don’t have a platter that wide so I’m just going to use parchment paper on the back of a sheet pan. Paper goes first, then a pan.

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Grasping both the lip of the baking pan and the lip of the sheet pan with a towel…

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…I flip.

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Knock on the pan, jiggle it a bit, then slowly raise it, allowing the cake to drop out. And there you go. Lovely. If a couple of bananas remain stuck in the pan simply pry them off with a metal scraper and apply them to the top of the cake. Non one will be the wiser.

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To serve slice the cake in half, then slice each half into 4 rectangular pieces.

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Serve with ice cream, oh yeah.

8 thoughts on “Making Banana Upside-Down Cake”

  1. That is beautiful indeed. I don’t think I’ve ever made a separate caramel for an upside down cake. I melt the sugar (often brown sugar) and butter together and pour that into the pan first, but just melting, not caramelizing. I always thought that happened during the baking process. Your way certainly looks much better, no matter which fruit is used. (I’m getting ready for cranberries.) Is there a greater chance that it might burn?

    1. Hey Chana!

      Thanks! Yes, what you describe is the tried-and-true method. This way you get a darker top. To answer your question, the caramel will darken a bit more toward the end of the bake, which is why I recommend stopping at the medium-to-dark amber point when you make the caramel, at least for your first run through the recipe. The caramel shouldn’t darken too much more in the oven because a.) the bananas and batter will keep the temperature down for most of the bake and b.) the baking temperature, 325, is below the burn point for caramel. 325 is unusually low for a cake, but that’s the reason. The cake turns out a little denser as a result, but I think the whole thing works together very well.

      Let me know what you think!

      – Joe

  2. So the banana doesn’t need to be overly ripe to be softer than the cake? Ima try this tonight…le résultat est tout simplement magnifique!

    1. Hey Dave!

      Nope it doesn’t. In fact a little firmness is desirable here since extremely ripe fruit will tend to dissolve in the heart. Let me know how you like it!

      – Joe

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