Banana and Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake

organic bananas Banana & Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

I’m happy to be taking care of two things with this recipe. One is that about a week ago, I was late to the market, arriving near the end, when everyone was packing up to leave. Scanning quickly to see what I could procure in a short amount of time, I passed by a stand where one fellow lorded over an enormous pile of organic bananas, and was hollering, “Un euro, deux kilos!Un euro—deux kilos!

Since that’s roughly a buck for a little over four pounds of fruit, I stopped right there, and took as many as I could carry off his hands. And then, he threw another bunch in my basket after I paid. So I had a whole bunch of bananas…five, to be precise…which was great. But I was a little concerned about having what looked to be like around fifty bananas for just one person.

Banana & Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake Banana & Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

Once home, as they started ripening during the week, seemingly all at once, a mild panic set in. So I called into service a recipe from my archives, one of my all-time favorites: Banana and Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake.

When I had my site revamped a few years ago, recipes from the older site weren’t able to be part of the transition. So they’re still there, in the old format, and I can’t change them nor can readers comment. And I kind of forget about them, until someone mentions them to me. So aside from making a dent in my banana stash, I got to re-visit that recipe.

(Plus, in a burst of altruism, I was able to take care of a third thing, helping the poor mec out: he didn’t have to pack up all those bananas and carry them back with him.)

The recipe for this cake is something I developed for a magazine that specialized in low-fat, or “healthy” food quite while ago. Instead of feeling cornered by having to bake with that restriction in mind, I found it a good challenge, because you can replace the traditional overload of butter or eggs with things like chocolate and fruit puree. Not that they have less calories, but you can easily get away with using less of the ‘forbidden’ ingredients, if you replace them with very flavorful ones.

Banana & Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

Here I used ripe banana puree and low-fat sour cream. You can use regular sour cream, but once baked into the cake, if anyone can tell the difference, I’d say that’s one sharp palate they’ve got there. And I use chocolate pieces, which give the cake little bursts of chocolate flavor, and happens to be exactly the right of chocolate to go along with the the bananas in a pool of deep-dark sugar.

Banana & Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake Banana & Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

Every time I make this cake, I wonder why I don’t make it more often. Who wouldn’t like a tender cake studded with melting chunks of chocolate, the rich-tasting batter scented with a hint of cinnamon, and rows of bananas lined up on top, gooey and caramelized in a pool of brown sugar topping?

Banana & Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

Curiously, once I got through all the bananas, I was at another market yesterday—late again, and the same thing happened. I guess there must be a surfeit of organic bananas in Paris right now. Which, once again, I’m peeling through as fast as I can.

Banana Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake

One 8-inch (20 cm) square cake

When I originally developed this recipe, as mentioned, I was writing for a magazine that requested low-fat recipes, hence the single egg white. But if you’re not all that concerned, simply add an additional egg, yolk and all, and reduce the sour cream by one tablespoon.

If you live somewhere where sour cream isn’t available, you can use buttermilk, plain whole milk yogurt, or fromage blanc. You’ll notice that you can use either butter or water in the topping. If you’re skeptical, I can honestly say that the non-butter version is really good. But for non-believers, go ahead and add a few tablespoons of butter instead.

For the topping:

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (60 g) packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water or butter; cubed, at room temperature
3-4 ripe medium bananas
a few drops of lemon juice

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups (210 g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) melted butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup (250 g) banana puree (about 2 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream, regular or low-fat
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1. To make the topping, place the brown sugar and water or butter in an 8-inch (20 cm) square cake pan. Warm the pan directly on the stovetop over low heat, stirring until the sugar is thoroughly moistened.

If using water, simmer the mixture for about 45 seconds. If using butter, stir just until the sugar is moist and bubbling, then remove from heat. (It won’t melt completely smooth, and there may be a few bare spots, which is normal.) Let cool to room temperature.

2. Peel and slice the bananas in 1/4-inch (1 cm) slices. Arrange them in slightly overlapping rows over the melted brown sugar. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Mix in the granulated sugar.

5. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, egg, egg white, banana puree, sour cream, and vanilla.

6. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until almost combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the chocolate pieces.

7. Scrape the batter into the pan over the bananas, then use a spatula to carefully spread the batter over the sliced fruit.

8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake feels just set in the center when you touch it.

9. Cool the cake for about 20 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the cake to help it release from the pan. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.

Serving: The cake is best served warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or by itself as a snack. If made an hour or so in advance, it can be inverted on the serving platter, and left with the cake pan over it, to keep it warm. Otherwise is can be rewarmed in a low over, covered with foil. Or enjoyed at room temperature.

Storage: The cake can be made up to two days in advance, although it is best the day it’s made. To freeze it, wrap it securely in plastic wrap; it can be frozen for one to two months.

Related Recipes and Posts

Banana Loaf Cake

Upside Down Cake

The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream Ever

Fruitcake Bars

Warm Spiced Chocolate Cake

Quick Coconut Saffron Ice Cream

German Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients for American Baking in Paris

Chocolate FAQs

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  • March 17, 2010 7:25am


  • March 17, 2010 7:36am

    Maria: Since you live in France, you perhaps are familiar with the natural hesitation there is when dealing with people one doesn’t already know. In Paris, they’re used to foreigners and such, but my advice is to go in an advance and speak to them, so they get to know you. And you might want buy something, to show that you’re there to appreciate what they do. (It doesn’t have to be grand, just a gesture.) I’ve seen people run into a chocolate shop, take a bunch of pictures, and then quickly leave without actually “seeing” anything.

    Most of the chocolates are made outside of Paris; because of the space required, few places in Paris have the luxury of making their chocolates on the premises.

  • Rosemary in Utah
    March 20, 2010 3:17pm

    Made this today, subbed 1/4 cup pecans for 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Wonderful!
    Bananas are not expensive here, especially if ripe. The bottom, covered with banana rounds (which is the top after baking and inverting onto a plate) is not as bright & flashy as as pineapple upside-down cake but just as appetizing. We loved this!

  • outi Onorato
    March 24, 2010 8:41pm

    5 bananas in one cake and chocolate too! Very clever.
    I made something from your archives today, as in “Ripe for Dessert”.
    The Rhubarb Almond nougatine Tart. Fabulous!

  • Terri
    March 27, 2010 6:10pm

    Made this cake today and it is fabulous! It may just be the best thing I’ve EVER baked.

    Thank you!

  • bchan
    March 30, 2010 8:51pm

    I made your cake this weekend but forgot to read about the extra bananas needed for the topping. I used some apple slices instead and baked it in two loaf pans. It was wonderful and the recipe is a keeper. I’m so glad that you think of low(ish) fat and delicious recipes.

  • April 20, 2010 11:27am

    LOVE this cake! Certain to become one of my go-to’s. I’m working on a gluten free recipe for it as well. In the meantime, here’s my version, made it with Muscovado sugar:

  • Fiery Elephant
    May 1, 2010 9:26am

    I’ve been very keen to try this recipe since it was posted but an inclination to bake and ripe bananas never seem to coincide in my house – till today. I used yoghurt instead of sour cream. An egg plus an egg white. A loaf tin – about 8 x 28 cm. I required two and a half bananas for the base. And three for the cake. I mixed the batter very little. And it looked a little like it might split (but didn’t). After I poured half into the tin it occurred to me that I hadn’t buttered the tin. I checked the recipe again and there was no instruction to butter – but I thought perhaps David had used a non-stick tin (though the recipe didn’t specify). I considered emptying the batter out of the tin and removing the bananas so I could grease it, but didn’t and decided I would post an irritable message here instead if (as I expected) the cake stuck to the tin. I baked it for 45 minutes and it still looked quite pale so I baked it for another fifteen ish minutes, by which time the cake was quite brown. Removed it and it deflated completely. I suppose that means it was probably under-done…(?) After an hour I thought I’d see if I could get it out and it hadn’t stuck to the sides at all. Was that because of the butter in the caramel? Anyway, it was very easy to get out of the tin. It doesn’t look quite as nice as David’s. The bananas aren’t identifiable on the top. I mean you can tell that SOMETHING is on the top but you can’t really tell they’re bananas. And it IS delicious. It doesn’t really seem under-done on the inside. But next time, perhaps I’ll split the batter between pans… or use a large round tin as I don’t have a square one. Thank you David for the recipe. Wonderful!

  • May 2, 2010 4:09pm

    I like how the topping doesn’t have a ton of butter, and you make it in the pan. I used it with Alice Medrich’s low-fat brownies.

    Also, I tried to comment on your almond tart recipe, but it’s closed off. The photos really helped, and I’ve already made it three times! Even did it with coconut, chocolate chips, and nibs (so it’s like a Girl Scout cookie).

  • novi Saputri
    June 23, 2010 6:28pm

    Just tried this one.. totally superb! I love the chocolate chunks and caramel…

  • November 17, 2010 9:04pm

    I made this a while ago and have been dreaming about it ever since. It is literally my favourite banana dessert.

  • December 6, 2010 7:21pm

    I love this cake! I think it’ll be my new go-to banana bread recipe. I also completely forgot to put the butter in (I swear I meant to) and the cake didn’t suffer any side effects at all. When I make it again, I might try it with the butter to see if there’s a difference, but there definitely wasn’t anything lacking in taste without it. Thanks for another great recipe!

  • Maria Farrar
    December 18, 2010 2:00am

    Dear David,

    I made this cake today with my friend and have never had such a sensation in baking something. As soon as it came out ‘upside down’ out of the tin, the caramel and banana looked so gorgeous, it made us so happy. Why, the taste, of course, lived up to it every bit: the bitterness of the chocolate cut through the sweetness. Truly an amazing dessert, hot, with vanilla ice cream. I thank you for your existence.
    M xxx

  • Emilie
    December 19, 2010 6:10pm

    Just made this cake for my brother’s visit.
    IT IS DELICIOUS! He can’t get enough!
    I had to use light brown sugar because i was out of white sugar, and it still tastes absolutely delightful!
    This recipe is definitely going in my good book :)
    thank you!

  • kd in Cincy
    February 1, 2011 6:11am

    I made this last night. It was beautiful and delicious even to those who don’t like banana bread in our house; they asked for seconds, and thirds. I also do not like chocolate chips in my banana bread, but in this cake with the glaze, they are perfect.

    Although, I took it out too soon seeing that it was “set in the center” and starting to brown. Next time I will put it on the bottom shelf of the oven and cover it with foil once it is set so that it doesn’t get too brown. (I ended up putting it back in for about 10 minutes and all was fine.)