Sugar High: Baking the Perfect Banana Upside-Down Cake

Jul 8, 2014
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This topic was definitely inspired by Jeffrey Steingarten's article in Vogue magazine about baking the perfect coconut cake.

Fans of each type of cake would find various standards, expectations, and aspects to enjoy about a cake... so I thought that each cake would be worthy of examination.

Brazilian bolo de banana is an upside-down cake with caramel and bananas at the bottom (er, rather...the top...?) and a cake body of vanilla.

What is the best banana to use? There are many cultivars of bananas. Some are sickly sweet (I count the señorita bananas and latundan cultivars among these), others strike the perfect balance between starchy and sweet (the lacatan and cavendish), whereas plantain tastes unpleasant until it is cooked after which I consider it indistinguishable from the second category except for maybe that it doesn't turn dark and mushy.

What is the best caramel to use? I would personally just boil a can of evaporated milk until it turns brown, but more artisanal approaches to creating the caramel involve real sugar and butter. Sugars, when they're heated, go through various stages: syrup, caramel, gummy, and hard candy.

What is the best cake body to use? With a starchy fruit like banana, perhaps a vanilla pound cake is the best accompaniment, unless your definition of a good cake is one that is light and fluffy in which case a chiffon cake or angel food cake would be the best. I've even considered rather offbeat cake bodies such as banana bread and Indonesian martabak manis (a thick pancake that uses both yeast and baking powder in its recipe, which I believe grants it the characteristic citrine texture--not flavor, but the "crumb" of the cake resembles that of the pulp of a pomelo or orange...they can peel out in strings, almost like string cheese.)

Add-ons? On the one hand... Keep it simple, stupid. In an upside-down cake, caramel and fruit should be enough. It's just that I'm such a showoff, and a total sucker for fillings, glazes, and especially icing!

What about you?


Jun 27, 2014
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Wow i have bake a banana bread before but i have never tried my hands at a banana upside-down cake...i think this is a recipe that the kids would enjoy making.

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