Banana Upside Down Cake

Banana upside down cake recipe

In the winter, we often turn to the tropics to get our fruit fixes. Bananas are the most popular fruit in America, and they’re quite popular elsewhere, too. I’m happy with oranges, grapefruits, and chocolate (yup, cocoa beans are fruit – great news for fruit-lovers!) but sometimes it’s nice to throw something else in the mix, and I’ll grab a pineapple, some kiwifruits, a few avocados, or a bunch of bananas, when doing my food shopping.

Banana upside down cake recipe

While I was waiting for my yellow bananas to ripen, a few days later I came across these red bananas at the market. I love red bananas, which have a more pronounced flavor than yellow bananas, but are hard to come by in France, and elsewhere. (They should be dead-ripe when you use them. The skin will turn quite dark when they’re ready.) So jumped at the bunch when I saw it, and put those in my fruit bowl to see who would ripen first.

Speaking of differences, I have a different kind of Banana Chocolate Chip Upside Down Cake here on the site (which is low fat), but wanted to do a skillet version. I also wanted to try using teff, a whole grain flour that I’ve been interested in experimenting with. It’s quite prominent in Africa cooking, as it seems to thrive in difficult conditions (which I often feel like I do, too..), but also adds a nutty flavor to baked goods. So when I was at the natural food store to pick up the organic yellow bananas, I grabbed a bag of teff flour, too.

banana-upside-down-cake-recipe-4

After cooking the butter and brown sugar in my skillet, I arranged ripe bananas in the pan, mixed up the batter, and baked up this cake. When I turned it out and cut myself a wedge of the warm cake, I found that the teff gave the cake a pleasant, nutty flavor, although it did make the batter a bit heavier and add some “heft,” which I didn’t mind. I added a touch of ground cinnamon to give it a hint of spice, too, but you could use more than I did. Having a French partner, if you’re American, means you need to dial back the amount of cinnamon you might normally use when baking to avoid the “Trop de cannelle,” when you ask for a second opinion. : )

Banana upside down cake recipe

Banana upside down cake recipe

Regardless of the little bit of cinnamon I stuck in there, this cake was a big hit. It was a nice respite in the winter, and a good addition to my fruit dessert repertoire. (I’ve got the chocolate ones pretty well-covered.) However I’d feel proud turning one of these upside down cakes out any time of the year.

Banana upside down cake recipe

Banana Upside Down Cake
Print Recipe
10 to 12 servings
I made this cake with teff flour. It available at most natural foods stores and online, but I've given measurements for using all-purpose flour. You might want to reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon in the batter if you do. The hardier taste of whole grains seems to call for a little more salt to be added, to my taste.In place of the vanilla bean, you can use 1 teaspoon of vanilla seeds or paste for the bean. For more on vanilla, check out my Vanilla FAQs. Your bananas should be ripe but not mushy-soft. They'll sweeten in the caramel. If you want to leave out the rum, you could replace it with fresh lime juice, or simply omit it.If you don't have a cast iron skillet, this can be made a standard 9-inch (23cm) cake pan (not a springform pan, which would leak during baking). Make the brown sugar topping in a regular skillet or pan, then pour it into a cake pan while it's still warm. Cut and lay the vanilla bean and bananas on top.
For the banana topping
4 tablespoons (55g) butter, salted or unsalted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (110g) packed dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon rum
4-5 medium bananas, (about 1 1/4 pounds, 565g, unpeeled)
For the cake
1 1/2 cups (175g) all purpose flour, or 1 cup (140g) all purpose flour plus 6 tablespoons (55g) teff flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum free
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons (4 ounces, 115g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (125ml) whole or lowfat milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping
1. To make the topping, heat the 4 tablespoons (55g) of butter, brown sugar, and seeds from the vanilla bean, in a 10-inch (25cm) cast iron skillet on the stovetop. (Add a sprinkle of salt if using unsalted butter.) Stir until the butter and sugar are liquified and start to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. Add the split vanilla bean to the skillet.
2. Peel the bananas and slice them in half lengthwise, into thirds, and arrange them over the brown sugar topping in the skillet. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
For the cake
3. To make the cake, whisk together the flour(s), baking powder, salt and cinnamon,in a small bowl and set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a medium bowl using a sturdy spatula, beat the butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer between the additions and scraping down the sides.
5. On slow speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk and vanilla, then the rest of the dry ingredients, mixing only until they're just incorporated. Do not overmix. Scrape the batter over the bananas in the skillet and bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake feels done when you press it in the center. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out relatively clean.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the outside of the cake to help it release from the pan, and turn it out onto a serving platter or cooling rack, wearing oven mitts and taking care to avoid drips from hot caramel. Any caramel bits that may have stuck in the pan can be spooned back over the warm cake.

Serving: This cake is best served the day it's made, preferably while warm, but can be served at room temperature. I like it served on its own but it could be served with softly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream or cinnamon ice cream.

Storage: The cake will keep for up to four days, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. I would not recommend freezing it as the texture of the fruit may change.

Notes: For information on substitutions and swapping out ingredients, check out my posts: Baking ingredients and substitutions and Gluten-Free baking and substitutions. Check here for more on types of French sugar. (Those in France can use dark cassonade or sucre vergeoise.)

Banana upside down cake recipe


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54 comments

  • James
    January 17, 2017 5:14pm

    Would like to use all teff, which is how it seemed you made it. However, recipe calls for APF only or APF plus teff. Would all teff work?

    • January 17, 2017 5:17pm
      David Lebovitz

      I made it with a combination and teff and all-purpose flour. Teff is very heavy (and has no gluten) so the cake would be quite dense and probably not hold together well. You need some amount of all-purpose flour (or another flour, that would provide the same lightness and structure) if you wanted to mix it with something else. If you do try it with all teff, or mix it with something else, let us know how it turns out.

      • Adriana
        January 18, 2017 5:57am

        What do you think of using almond meal instead of teff?

        • January 18, 2017 8:27am
          David Lebovitz

          Sure, I think that would be great.

    • January 20, 2017 11:46am

      hello james,
      all teff would not work (it would be a brick-cake) but you could subs a gluten free APF to the normal APF one. if you would like to use a ‘pure’ flour and not a pre-mixed one you could google home-made recipes for GF flour blends – you need something tho hold this cake together, if it’s not gluten it needs to be something else usually provided in the GF APF mixs.

  • Avery
    January 17, 2017 5:22pm

    Which bananas did you end up using?

    • January 17, 2017 5:27pm
      David Lebovitz

      I made this cake twice this week, and I used the yellow bananas in one, and the red in the other. Both turned out great!

  • Barbara
    January 17, 2017 5:27pm

    I really should eat breakfast before I read your columns. The pictures are mouth watering and by the time I finished reading through this one, toast with avocado didn’t sound like what I wanted to eat. And nothing else did either.

  • Claudia
    January 17, 2017 5:28pm

    And how does Romain feel about nutmeg? I’ve always felt that nutmeg and vanilla was the flavor combination for bananas.

    • January 18, 2017 8:31am
      David Lebovitz

      He likes spices but the French, in general, don’t add them by the teaspoon (or tablespoon!) like Americans do, the one exception being pain d’épices. To their palates, the heavy spicing is overwhelming, on its own, or with other flavors, but to other cultures and cuisines (including highly spiced Indian and Thai foods), the spices are part of the flavor.

  • Andrew
    January 17, 2017 5:37pm

    A stunning cake! Will definitely make. I can smell the caramel, vanilla and banana through the screen. I think some crème fraîche d’Isigny would be great with this too.

  • January 17, 2017 5:48pm

    I love bananas. This looks great and one of the reasons is that it’s a lovely dark colour. Insipid looking upside down cakes and tartes Tatin are most off putting.

  • Lisa H
    January 17, 2017 6:01pm

    Oh, my! Cannot wait to try this yummy dessert! I love Bananas Foster and this seems a bit like it. Thank you for the recipe!

  • Paul Underwood
    January 17, 2017 6:36pm

    Your upside down cakes are all the bomb! I still get requests for the cranberry upside cake, which I have done as well with pineapple. Must try this one! Thanks!

  • January 17, 2017 7:35pm

    My winter go-to fruit is definitely the persimmon, but this upside down cake I would totally devour :)

  • Michael Lemaire
    January 17, 2017 7:53pm

    The cake looks amazing. I have never seen vanilla beans included in a cake before. It seems like they would be tough and stringy when cut and served. Do you include vanilla beans in other baked goods?

  • Iris
    January 17, 2017 8:29pm

    Wondering if spelt flour would work as well…………..

  • Lise
    January 17, 2017 10:24pm

    Trop de cannelle. Sounds familiar. I wonder if there’s a cinnamon appreciation gene that many Europeans are lacking. I’m Belgian but lived in the States for a while and I get this comment all the time from my partner (and his family). “We really like what you bake but what’s with the cinnamon?” Frustrating. Thinking I brought cinnamon from a recent trip to Sri Lanka so I have absolutely the best stuff in my pantry, not being able to use it like I would. AARGH.

  • Sue
    January 17, 2017 10:58pm

    David, I love your emails, and always follow the link to see the rest of the story. This banana upside down cake sounds really really wonderful! And your photos make it possible to eat with our eyes!

    I have a tiny quibble. Served on “it’s own”-typo for “its own.”

    I know you work so hard on these posts to make sure everything is accurate, and your accounts of how difficult that is to achieve, I feel a bit ashamed to have pointed this tiny error out.

    • January 18, 2017 8:32am
      David Lebovitz

      No problem : ) I’m using a recipe plug-in now, which makes the recipes possible to be printed out, but means that I have to plug all the ingredients and instructions into individual modules, so it’s harder to catch those things. Thanks for letting me know so I can correct it.

  • rainey
    January 17, 2017 11:16pm

    A very appealing alternative to banana bread and chocolate dipped frozen bananas!

    Can’t wait to try it but I just cleaned out my supply of ripening bananas over the weekend.

  • Wendy A.
    January 17, 2017 11:30pm

    Love the recipe as it also saves on electrical use with not having an oven on to bake a cake. Never had read one could make a cake this way.
    Did some reading about bananas and discovered IF the yellow variety of banana (and I guess other types too) are pulled apart when arriving home, the ripening will slow down. If they are left as a bunch, they will ripen more quickly.
    Thanks for always having such interesting recipes and photos, not forgetting your anecdotes too. Happy New Year.

  • Elizabeth
    January 17, 2017 11:53pm

    Confused. Bananas sliced in half lengthwise, in thirds. In thirds lengthwise or across?? The picture would suggest lengthways, I.e., 6 thin, long slices per banana.
    And it looks glorious!

    • January 18, 2017 8:39am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, slice them lengthwise, into thirds (three pieces). So you should end up with three lengthwise slices.

      • Lee
        January 19, 2017 8:40pm

        So 1 banana = 3 slices? 1 banana > 6 slices seems rather thin slices. 4 bananas would be 12 slices?

  • kelly
    January 18, 2017 12:25am

    Beautiful, and I sooo have plans for this one! Now, not to get off task, but recently heard that some cultures, including India, have culinary uses for banana PEELS. As a waste-not type who is always eyeing the scraps, I am intrigued. Banana peels are bitter. And a weird challenge. Ideas?

    • M
      January 18, 2017 6:06am

      Hi Kelly,

      Here is one such recipe from the south of India – http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/banana-peel-thoran/

      We use the banana peel of extremely raw bananas, so it firm, holds shape and doesn’t taste bitter. I haven’t come across anyone using peels of ripe bananas here in India, not sure about other cultures though!

      • January 18, 2017 8:40am
        David Lebovitz

        I would just make sure to get organic bananas if you plan to consume the peels. Conventional bananas are heavily sprayed so I seek out organic bananas for that reason.

        • Bebe
          January 18, 2017 4:00pm

          My late cousin ate a banana every day. Finely chopped the peels and put them around his azalea plants. Fabulous azaleas so they must have loved bananas, too.

  • Bonny
    January 18, 2017 12:26am

    Just gobbled up the first slice of this delight. Not having teff, I substituted 1/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour.
    It came out of the pan easily after an 8 min rest. The smell is amazing. The texture is fine. I loved it.

    • January 18, 2017 8:40am
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for letting us know the whole wheat flour works well!

  • January 18, 2017 11:25am

    I’ve seen teff around a bit, but I really want to bake with some to see what it’s like.

    I’ve also never heard of red bananas, they look so cool.

    Delicious looking cake, I love bananas.

  • January 18, 2017 4:40pm

    I love the idea of making an upside down cake in a cast iron skillet. And the teff flour sounds fascinating- I’ll have to go hunt some down.

  • AP
    January 18, 2017 5:55pm

    The vanilla bean looks lovely on the cake!

    And I think nutmeg might work as a nice subtle spice too.

    I love the variation in flour – I buy these interesting flours on impulse and then rarely know what to do with them.

  • Angella
    January 18, 2017 6:30pm

    Yellow bananas are Cavendish which have become a monoculture in the last 40-50 years because they shipped well despite inferior flavor.

    It is almost a waste to use delicious red bananas when your upside-down cake is a great way to rescue the Cavendish.

  • January 18, 2017 11:24pm

    David is this good for bananas that are a bit too ripe, I usually freeze those for banana bread and cake making.

    • January 19, 2017 6:19am
      David Lebovitz

      “Your bananas should be ripe but not mushy-soft” – If they are too ripe, they will not hold their shape and turn to mush. If your bananas are soft and gushy, I advise not using them.

      • Roslyn MacAllan
        January 20, 2017 2:51am

        Merci David

  • January 19, 2017 11:57am

    I have never heard of red bananas. Will look out for them in future. I can just taste that cake, looks so scrumptious.

  • Bonnie
    January 19, 2017 4:47pm

    Made as written, with only two bananas, sliced obliquely, using the option without the teff. And it was perfect. No leftovers. Very well received.

  • January 19, 2017 10:43pm

    What a fabulous idea – never thought of using bananas in an upside down cake but it makes total sense!

  • January 20, 2017 10:08pm

    very interesting re: teff for this recipe and your having to forfeit heavier dose of cinnamon! The vanilla bean and rum for the banana cinched it for me though, thank you for this!

  • bell
    January 21, 2017 11:11am

    David, this is delicious! Not 10 minutes after being plated, my roommates managed to devour half of this cake. I made it with all APF and lime juice without any problems. Thanks for sharing with us! :)

  • January 21, 2017 3:25pm

    Oh, I saw red bananas yesterday and was wondering what I could do with them! Thanks, I’ll go buy some and try this cake–I don’t really cook anymore but this looks too good to pass!

  • Sue MacLeod
    January 23, 2017 3:17pm

    Fantastic! I made it last night for a party of 6…Didn’t use the teff flour, just APF and yellow bananas…It was beautiful…light, so flavourful, with a rich banana/caramel top. Very impressive to look at but even better to devour! Thank you David! This is a keeper :)

  • Xenia
    January 23, 2017 4:46pm

    I made it last night for a dinner party. Huge hit. It was so good. I didn’t use the teff and omitted the rum (don’t like the flavor) – will make again. One suggestion – place a baking sheet under the pan. There was some over dripping from the sauce.

  • Kevin
    January 26, 2017 8:59pm

    Looks amazing. Quick question. Do you remove the vanilla bean before serving?

    • January 27, 2017 7:45am
      David Lebovitz

      I leave it in because I like the way it looks. (Like bay leaves, I think people know to eat around it.) But if you feel like you should remove it, you can.

  • Elyn
    January 29, 2017 7:44pm

    Thank you David! You are a treasure!

  • Lorraine
    February 1, 2017 3:55am

    This cake is spectacular. Thank you for posting the recipe. I just had my third piece for the day, this one slightly warm with a generous scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Heavenly.

  • Patricia Liu
    February 1, 2017 11:55pm

    This cake looks divine, you are a wizard!

  • Michael Somerville
    February 2, 2017 2:39pm

    I just wanted to report that when I came home to make this yesterday, I didn’t realize there was only about 1/4 cup of granulated sugar in the house. I divided it between the caramel and the cake and topped up with maple syrup, while not adjusting any other measurements. I baked it for 20 extra minutes covered in foil (55 total). Other than being slightly moist and dense, it was still divine. Thanks!

  • Sarah
    February 7, 2017 12:22am

    David – I don’t have a cast-iron pan but can I use an enameled pan – like le creuset?

    • February 7, 2017 6:30am
      David Lebovitz

      Am not sure what type of Le Creuset pan you’re referring to (most of mine are either two-handled casseroles and gratin dishes), but if you have one that resembles a skillet that should work. Otherwise you can make the topping, pour it into a solid (not springform) cake pan – similar to these, and make and bake the cake in that.

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