April 21, 2021
The banana originated in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific islands. Its name is derived from the Arabic word “banan,” which means finger. One of the first plants to be cultivated, the banana bears the scientific name musa sapientum, which means “fruit of the wise men.” There are plenty of flavorful varieties all over the world, including the little sweet bananas, redolent of honey, that I grew up eating in India. The Cavendish banana, named after the seventh Duke of Devonshire, is the most popular grocery-store variety in America.
Many parts of the United States are conducive to banana trees including Florida, California and Texas. It is not uncommon to see clusters of bananas hanging down from trees in backyards. Being partial to the tiny red or yellow varieties that appear occasionally in grocery stores, I was thrilled to pick up an entire cluster of tiny bananas from a young grower at the farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago. Sweeter and more intense in flavor, it made for a delicious base for an upside-down cake.
Serves 10 to 12
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons cane sugar
7 to 8 small bananas
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Zest of 2 oranges
Sliced oranges for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush melted butter on a 9 to 10-inch pan, preferably with a removable bottom. Sprinkle cane sugar over the melted butter. Peel the bananas, slice them in half lengthwise and place them cut-side down on the pan, fitting as many as possible.
Stir together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil, maple syrup, plain yogurt, and the zest of two oranges until evenly mixed. Stir in the dry ingredients in 2 to 3 stages. Pour the batter evenly over the bananas.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester inserted just in the cake part comes out clean. Let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes before unfolding and flipping over. Serve with sliced oranges.
Cake is best eaten within hours of preparing — especially when shared with friends or neighbors.
To make a gluten-free version, substitute all-purpose flour for equal combination of almond flour and rice flour.
Maple syrup is delicious but not essential; substitute it for 1/2 cup cane sugar.
December 02, 2022