Bananas and I have a curious relationship. I can eat a little but of the fruit but not a lot by itself. I find the texture extremely mush and overwhelming when it starts to get a bit ripe. I prefer the fruit seasoned or thrown into desserts or shakes. In this upside down cake, the fruit is thrown into the cake batter and also used to line the surface of the cake with a combination of sugar and maple syrup. I've also added a little bit of ghee for its wonderful nutty aroma and a bit of ground green cardamom to add a little pop to the fruit.
An upside down cake in itself is a marvelous invention. Typically a combination of fruit and sugar form the lowest layer of the cake and as the cake bakes, this layer starts to caramelize and release it's fragrance and flavor into the rest of the cake. Once the cake is flipped over, a shiny, glistening layer of syrup containing notes of caramel and fruit is revealed. There are a few things to keep in mind when baking upside-down cakes that I have found useful;
- Caramelize the sugar/sweetener minimally just before it goes into the pan. Too much and you will end up with a very bitter and unpleasant burnt top layer.
- Bake at low temperatures for a longer period than you would a regular cake. This prevents the fruit and sugar from over burning.
- Your cake batter shouldn't be too much, I find that a volume that gives you anywhere between 1 to 1 1/2 inches height when baked is best. Too high and your cake will be unevenly soaked by the syrup. You want a good fruit, syrup and cake ratio when the cake is finally baked.
ghee and cardamom scented upside down banana cake
makes one 9-inch cake
3 over ripe bananas
2 ripe bananas*
4 Tbsp melted ghee
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup maple syrup (I like the dark amber grade)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
seeds from 4 green cardamom pods, ground
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 stick/4 oz/110g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup creme fraiche**
Using a fork smash the 3 overripe bananas in a medium bowl. Microwave the bananas for a minute on high heat and then transfer the fruit into a fine mesh strainer and sit over a bowl to drain the liquid for 1 hour. Avoid the temptation to press the pulp. Discard the liquid. Cool the pulp completely to room temperature before using.
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Grease and line a circular 9-inch baking pan with 2 Tbsp ghee and parchment paper. Slice the remaining two ripe bananas across their length and spread the slices on the surface of the prepared baking pan to cover the entire area. Keep aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup of the sugar, cream of tartar and water on medium-high heat until the sugar just starts to caramelize and starts to turn a light amber color. Drizzle the hot liquid over the sliced bananas in the pan, followed by the maple syrup. Keep aside.
In a medium bowl dry whisk the flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda and salt and keep aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, 2 Tbsp ghee and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar on medium-high speed for about 3 to 4 minutes using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Then whisk in one egg at a time, until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on low-speed until just combined. Then add the cooled, drained banana pulp to the batter and remaining sifted dry ingredients and whisk until combined and no visible flecks of flour remain. Transfer the batter to the cake pan and spread it evenly using an offset spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the center. Once baked remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan over a wire rack. To release the cake, run a knife around the edges of the cake and then place a serving plate over the baking dish, then carefully invert the cake over the plate and remove the pan. Peel the parchment paper off.
Serve the cake warm with a little bit of creme fraiche on the side.
* You can use 5 over ripe bananas but it is much more difficult to maneuver slices of an overripe banana much less cut it . For this reason alone, I recommend using bananas that are not too soft for the topping.
**This cake is sweet, so I don't typically sweeten the creme fraiche but if you want to you can. About 1 Tbsp of confectioner's sugar or maple syrup can be mixed in.