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Banana-cardamom upside-down cake with salty caramel

Banana bread was always a staple in my mom’s kitchen when I was growing up. Over the years, I have riffed on her recipe in dozens of ways: adding chocolate chips, nuts, or spices; swinging from quick bread to cake; icing or dusting it with confectioners’ sugar. Then, about a year ago, I decided to play with the idea of a banana upside-down cake, topped with banana slice and salted caramel, which both soaks into the cake and drips all around it when the pan is inverted. That little idea turned out to be a total keeper. Here it is.



For the banana topping:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 firm-ripe bananas, peeled

For the cake batter:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (preferably full-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Special equipment: 25 centimeter cast iron skillet


  1. Heat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle

For the banana topping:

  1. Melt the butter in a well-seasoned 25 centimeter cast iron skillet. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring, until evenly combined, one to two minutes. Remove from the heat.
  2. Cut the bananas in half crosswise, then the halves lengthwise in thirds. Arrange the slices, cut-side down, on top of the caramel.

For the cake batter:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and soft butter. Beat on high until light and fluffy, three to five minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions as needed.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the banana mixer until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the skillet over the bananas. Smooth the top evenly.
  3. Place the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned and a cake tested inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. To invert the cake from the pan, run a butter knife around the edge of the cake, and then place the skillet over very low heat to just warm the bottom, about two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and then invert the cake onto a large plate.

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