Friday, January 13, 2012

Chocolate Banana Upside Down Cake

If you’ve ever eaten bananas with chocolate - ah, yes, there's the old-fashioned Banana Split - you know they are the best of friends. And since I had a couple of bananas on my kitchen table calling out to me, I thought I’d pair them up with a simple chocolate cake. And to make matters more inviting, it also seemed like a good idea to slice and bake the bananas into the cake with a butter and brown sugar caramel.

The cake is made with cake flour for tenderness, cocoa powder for rich chocolate depth and a pinch of cinnamon for a slight taste of spice. It’s an oil-based cake with a good ratio of brown sugar so it will stay moist if you happen to have leftovers.

Needless to say, this cake satisfies a winter urge for chocolate and the gooey caramelized bananas are the crowning touch. If you're like me and hate to see good fruit ripen without a plan, put your bananas to work in this simple dessert.

Bench notes:
- It’s important to use cake flour, which has less protein than all-purpose flour and therefore produces less gluten for a lighter, more tender crumb. If you can’t locate cake flour, you can make your own: For 1 1/2 cups of cake flour, measure out 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and remove 3 tablespoons. Add 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and sift several times to be sure it’s completely blended. (Cornstarch inhibits the formation of gluten.)
- The cocoa powder is "bloomed" in hot water to intensify and deepen the flavor. You can substitute hot coffee if you'd like.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then turn it out. It should still be fairly warm so when you turn it upside down to remove it the topping doesn’t stick to the bottom. I place a platter on top of the pan, invert quickly and then while still holding the plate and cake pan, give them a firm tap on the counter top. Voila!
- I think this tastes even better the next day.
- For something a bit fancier, serve with a scoop of vanilla, cinnamon or caramel ice cream.

Chocolate Banana Upside Down Cake

Serves 12

2 oz (4 T) butter
1/4 C + 2 T dark brown sugar, packed
2 - 3 ripe bananas

1 1/2 C cake flour
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
3/4 t cinnamon
1/2 C + 2 T cocoa powder
1/2 C + 2 T hot water
1/3 C buttermilk @ room temperature
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 C + 2 T canola oil
3/4 C granulated sugar
3/4 C dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs @ room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the sides of a 9-inch square pan.

For the topping, melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook for a minute until blended. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and distribute it evenly across the entire bottom of the pan. Slice the bananas about 1/4” thick and arrange on top of the butter sugar mixture. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until thoroughly blended and smooth.
Mix the buttermilk and vanilla extract.

Combine the oil, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl. The mixture will look like wet sand. Add the eggs and blend well. Whisk in the cocoa mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until well blended. Pour into the prepared pan over the bananas and gently tap the bottom of the pan on the work surface a few times to remove any air bubbles.

Bake for about 33 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick tests with a few moist crumbs adhering. Cool 15 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife around the edges. Place a platter over the cake and invert. Cool completely.


The Devil's Food Advocate said...

This looks so good! I love your bench notes; so informative. A delicious take on an old-fashioned upside-down cake. Thank you.

anno said...

This looks amazing! (a word that has apparently been banned for overuse, I know, but true nonetheless) Bless you and your quest to permit no fruit go quietly into the dark night: a magnificent redemption for overripe bananas.

pastry studio said...

Thank you, Devil's Food Advocate (love your name) and anno. Hope you get a chance to try this in the new year. Cheers!!

Bunny said...

Oh my goodness look at that, its perfect! I doubt if I could get the bananas to come out without leaving half of them in the pan!

pastry studio said...

Hey Bunny, sure you can. Just give it a good whack!

Bryan said...

wow. wow.
holy cow, i cant wait to make this.
so many good things going on here.
i've made enough banana bread for a while. this is a great alternative for the inevitable stash of superripe bananas.

i'll find a way to slip in some dark rum.

i agree about your bench notes, i really appreciate them.

pastry studio said...

Hey, Bryan, I approve of the idea of rum! Let us know how it turns out. And thanks to everyone for the feedback on the bench notes. It's good to know that people find them useful.

Marian said...

It look delicious! I would take a bite right out of the screen!

Greetings from Belgium,

Barbara said...

What can I say? Totally divine.

Sweet Twist - Meg said...

Looks heavenly! I had to pin it.

Kelly S said...

I also appreciate your bench notes. I made this cake and it was delicious as well as beautiful. Thank you for sharing such amazing recipes,

pastry studio said...

Thank you all for stopping by. Meg, thanks for the pin!

Kelly S, I hope you had fun making this. It's easy and something just about everybody can enjoy. Cheers!

Bryan said...

this cake rocks. mine was def not as pretty, but its flavor is spot-on.
one of the nicest oil cakes i've made in a while-- used a very light non-extra-virgin olive oil which worked great.

divided the batter into two smaller rounds to play with the pattern of bananas which was kind of fun. but next time i should use the warm caramel as glue to hold down the slices.
i let the caramel cool too much and pouring the batter on top caused the slices to float a little.
pesky things.

i'll tell you, up-grading to Valrhona cocoa last year has improved all my chocolate by a mile. this cake is perfect for it.

also, after a friend brought a bottle back from vacation, i've been using Mexican vanilla in my chocolate baking too. it's so different from Madagascar bean extract and pairs really well with chocolate.
i went easy on the rum this time, but might increase the amount next time.

this one, definitely going in the permanent file.
thank you!

pastry studio said...

Hiya, Bryan. I love hearing from you. You always dive right in! Valrhona cocoa is a thing of beauty. Nothing compares, really. Each sort of vanilla has a really distinct flavor. I mostly enjoy Madagascar, but the others are totally lovely as well.

tanya2s said...

So I made this last night to use up some bananas I had on hand-- unfortunately, completely forgot the baking soda so had NO leavening. The flavor was great, but obviously it was as heavy as a brick. Oddly, though, the bananas all floated up to the top of the cake through the batter-- any thoughts as to why? They formed a lovely pattern on top, but it kind of defeated the purpose of the "upside down" thing...

pastry studio said...

tanya2s, so sorry to hear you forgot the baking soda! That would really affect the outcome. I have absolutely no idea how the bananas could have floated to the top. So odd, it really doesn't make any sense!

Hanis said...

Hi there, this cake looked so tempting that I just had to make it right away. Like tanya2s and Bryan, I had the problem with the bananas bubbling up into the cake batter. While the taste is heavenly, they were everywhere. LOL. Now, I followed your instructions to a T - which was very helpful, thank you - any ideas on how to keep the bananas from 'going bananas'? Is there a special way of pouring the cake batter or like Bryan said, use the caramel while it's warm as glue? I did pour it kind of late and the caramel had cooled a bit.

pastry studio said...

Hello, Hanis and thanks very much for your feedback. Oh my, I'm baffled by the floating bananas quandary!! I'm so sorry. The only thing I can suggest is to make sure the brown sugar and butter for the topping is whisked and cooked for a minute or two to caramelize and perhaps slicing the bananas ahead of time so they go in right after the topping is poured and spread in the pan when the mixture is still warm. Perhaps that will help the fruit and topping set up properly before pouring the batter over the fruit. I also poured the batter very gently after mixing so nothing got dislodged.

I didn't have this problem so it's a mystery to me but I really hope this helps. Thanks again for your feedback. I really appreciate it.

Elajr said...

Do you have other suggestion on cocoa to use for chocolate cakes that is just as good or even to a lesser degree but okay? Valrhona is quite pricey for me. I'd really like to try this gorgeous cake. Thanks!

pastry studio said...

Hello, Elajr, and thanks for your good question.

This cake calls for "natural" cocoa powder rather than dutched cocoa powder. Valrhona is dutched. So you can use a regular store brand for this cake. Just make sure it's pure unsweetened cocoa powder and not a cocoa mix for drinks that has sugar and sometimes ground chocolate.

As an aside, in addition to Valrhona, I also like Callebaut's Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder Extra Brute dutched powder. It's about half the price of Valrhona. However, it's only sold in 2.2 lb bags ($15.95) online. If kept in a dark cool storage space (not refrigerated), it will keep for about 3 years.

Here's some very good information about cocoa powder from David Lebovitz:

If you have access to a bulk grocery, it might be useful to see if they carry bulk cocoa powders - natural and dutched - so you can buy small quantities to test.

Hope this helps!