It’s 2022 and banana bread is so confinement 2020. But platanos spilled cake? It will never get old.
As someone who always keeps yellow platanos, or plantains, handy on my kitchen counter or in my freezer, I’m always looking for new ways to use them. And while turning them into platonos en tantacion (roughly the Latin American version of feeder bananas) is never a bad idea, I recently started thinking about ways to turn my trusty platanos into something more magical. . I thought about what banana desserts I could give a Hispanic kick to. Plátano cream pudding has crossed my mind (and I probably will too), but what could be more breathtaking than an upside-down cake to show what a platano can do?
Although they look similar, there are key differences between bananas and plantains. The latter are a starchy variety of banana commonly used throughout Latin America. They are generally larger and harder than bananas, with a much thicker skin. They can be green, yellow or very dark brown. Green plantains are used for savory preparations, while yellow ones are found in sweeter dishes. When ripe, plantains have a dry texture, while ripe bananas are smooth and creamy. And while ripe bananas are eaten raw, plantains aren’t — they need heat and fat (and lots of it) to be palatable and help break down their starches. When cooked, they are sweet like a banana but don’t taste like one — instead, they have a vegetable flavor. This means that neither the plantains nor this upside-down plantain cake have that banana flavor that we are so used to in the United States, where “banana” generally refers to soft and sweet dessert bananas, namely those of the Cavendish family. .
To expand on this recipe, I studied a ton of classic banana upside-down cake recipes and came up with my favorites as well. One thing I knew for sure was that my cake would contain sour cream because some of the best banana upside-down cakes I’ve ever had used sour cream or buttermilk. It’s no coincidence: the acidity of the two ingredients brings a pleasant flavor to the cake and helps to soften the gluten in the flour, which gives the cake a softer texture and more body.
For this cake, look for the yellowest plantains you can find. Spots like a leopard are good. And if you can’t find fresh ones, try the freezer section, where plantains are sometimes sold peeled and frozen.
Instead of the frosting, the plantains themselves are used to decorate the cake. Cut in half lengthwise and dripping with caramel, they are simple yet stunning. So the next time you come across a plantain and wonder how to use it, well, now you know, go bake a cake.
Plantain Upside-Down Cake Recipe
Makes 1 cake (9 inches)
For the caramel topping:
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup (100 grams) brown sugar
1 pinch of kosher salt
2-3 large ripe yellow plantains or 6 small plantains
For the cake:
1⅓ cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup unsalted butter (softened)
¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream or yogurt
Flaky sea salt for garnish
First, prepare the caramel filling:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 9-inch round springform pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Wrap the pan with aluminum foil in case you leak sugar.
2nd step: Add butter and sugar to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Pour the caramel into the springform pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the base, working quickly and carefully before it cools. Cut the plantains in half or thirds lengthwise and arrange them on the caramel, cut side down to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer.
Next, prepare the cake:
Step 1: Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Put aside.
2nd step: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl between additions. On low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, then add all of the sour cream or yogurt, mixing until just combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the cake batter over the plantains and spread it evenly over them. Place the cake on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Step 3: Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Flip it upside down on a plate and release the springform pan – you don’t want to wait any longer as the caramel will harden and stick the cake to the pan. Let the cake cool for another 10-15 minutes, or until warm but not yet hot (you don’t want it to cool completely or the plantains will harden a bit). Garnish with sea salt and serve. It’s best to eat the cake as soon as it’s done, but it can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Mariselle Salazar is a New York-based writer, cook, and recipe developer. She is originally from Panama and has lived in Hawaii, Japan, Virginia and Madrid. You can find it on Twitter and instagramand on TikTok at @mariselmsalazar.
celeste noche is a Filipino American food, travel and portrait photographer based between Portland, Oregon and San Francisco.
Recipe tested by Deena Prichep