Upside-Down Banana Toffee Cake

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Jennifer Pallian
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This cake is warm and sunny, casual but impressive. It will likely evoke the sound of steel drums and a breeze rustling through the palm trees hanging over your perfect spot on the beach, where you are lying on a sandy towel with salt water in your hair and freckles on your nose and an ice cold beverage weeping condensation on the stand beside you as you close your eyes for a mid-afternoon siesta in the sun between snorkeling and dancing the warm night away... now cue the painful hurtle back to reality; Vancouver's 100 km/hour wind-warning, raindrops-the-size-of-golf-balls, pasty skin, frizzy hair and damp socks reality...

Let's just focus on cake, okay? Bananas, brown sugar toffee, rum, and spices. The cake is made in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. You make the toffee first, arrange the bananas on top, then pour the cake batter over and stick the whole thing in the oven. When it emerges and is flipped, it will be a moist, lightly spiced cake, smothered in warm toffee and soft bananas. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can make the toffee sauce, pour it into a greased 10-inch cake or springform pan, and continue with arranging the bananas and batter on top.

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The recipe calls for ripe bananas, but this is not the time to use the brown, smelly ones. Save those for this.

The cake is really at its best on the first day. After that, the bananas lose their colour and the toffee sinks into the cake... Still totally delicious, I jut wouldn't serve it at a dinner party. I made mine early in the day because of competition with a roasting chicken for oven space, but if (when!) I make it again, I will pop it in the oven just before dinner and serve it warm. Either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream make a perfect accompaniment.

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For the keenly observant, yes, that is a stolen nibble taken out of the side of the cake. I really didn't intend for that to be front and centre, but alas, the truth will out, right?

Upside-Down Banana Toffee Cake

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

For topping:

  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) butter

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 2 tbsp rum

  • 3 large, ripe bananas, laved lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2" pieces

For cake:

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) butter, softened

  • 3/4 cup white sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 tbsp rum

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 3/4 cup whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Add sugar and rum; stir briefly then allow to bubble and caramelize for about 5 minutes, until it becomes rich golden brown in colour. Remove from heat and arrange bananas over toffee.

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In the large bowl of a standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each. Beat in rum, and vanilla extract.

3. With the mixer speed on low, add one-third of the flour mixture, then one half of the milk. Repeat, ending with the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Bake in centre of preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top and toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate.