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.
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.
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. : )
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
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 (210g) 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
- 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.
- 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
- To make the cake, whisk together the flour(s), baking powder, salt and cinnamon,in a small bowl and set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.