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Make a banana bread so good, you’ll have to call it cake

Illustration for article titled Make a banana bread so good, you’ll ihave/i to call it cake
Graphic: Libby McGuire

If social media is to be believed (and why wouldn’t it be?), it appears that everyone is already over trying their hand at homemade sourdough bread, because they have accidentally murdered their starters. And it also seems that everyone has rebounded rather quickly, forgetting about their dead yeast babies and moving onto banana “bread.” It could be because banana “bread” is easy to make (you don’t even need a mixer). Or, more likely, it’s because everyone bought lots of bananas when quarantine began in an attempt to eat like a healthy, well-adjusted adult but were quickly foiled by the official work-from-home diet, which eschews most fruits and vegetables in favor of doughnuts and sliced pepperoni. Turning blackening bananas into “bread” is the most obvious—and responsible!—thing to do. Right?

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The reason I keep putting the term “bread” in quotation marks is because it’s totally a cake. I know, I know—it’s technically classified as a quick bread because it’s chemically leavened and made in a loaf pan, and everything in the quick bread/muffin family is a perfectly legitimate breakfast food. But if you bake banana bread batter in a cake pan, it becomes a cake, and there is no reason to be ashamed of eating a slice cake first thing in the morning. Nobody makes up excuses for pancakes, which are cakes made in a pan before being drenched in butter and syrup. At least this banana cake, which is drenched in brown sugar caramelized bananas, is a good source of potassium and vitamin B6.

I will personally guarantee that you will love this recipe, because it’s an adaptation of the extremely popular banana cake I used to make at my old bakery. This, and all banana breads/cakes, will vary in appearance and taste depending on how ripe your bananas are. If your bananas are yellow, your cake will be fluffier and sturdier, since the bananas contain starch, and will have a good, clean banana flavor. If your bananas are very brown, your cake will be denser, flatter, and gooier, because most of the bananas starches have converted into sugars as it ripened, and it will taste much sweeter. Both types of bananas, and all the spotty ones that fall in between, will make a spectacular cake, so use what you’ve got. In the recipe directions I use a mixer, but you can most certainly make this by hand. If you don’t think you can eat the whole cake in one sitting, cut it into pieces, wrap them in plastic, and store in the freezer. This way, the next time you want cake for breakfast (tomorrow), just unwrap a slice, pop it in the microwave, and zap it for a minute or two.

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Illustration for article titled Make a banana bread so good, you’ll ihave/i to call it cake
Photo: Allison Robicelli

Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Cake

For the cake

  • 4 bananas
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. clove

For the topping

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 4 bananas, cut into fat 1" pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13" baking pan with cooking spray or softened butter.

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In a mixer affixed with the paddle attachment, cream the bananas, sugar, brown sugar, and salt together on medium speed for about one minute, then pour in the beaten eggs and continue mixing until everything is fully combined. Stream in the oil and vanilla, then stop the mixer.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves, then add the freshly grated nutmeg. Dump the dry ingredients into the mixer bowl, then mix on low speed until there is no more flour visible.

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For the topping: Scatter the brown sugar across the bottom of the pan, then pour the melted butter all over it. Arrange the banana pieces across the bottom, then pour the cake batter over them. Tap the cake on the counter a few times to help it settle, even the batter out with a spatula if necessary, then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake pulls out clean. After removing the cake from the oven, let it rest for 20-30 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan, place a cutting board or platter over the pan, and invert it. Slowly remove the pan, then go have fun with your cake.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

Ooh, banana upside-down cake. That’s breakfast-of-champions stuff right there.

Before you leave Baltimore for good, could we get a peachcake recipe?