Classic Sticky Banana Upside-Down Cake

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A classic banana upside-down cake made with just a few ingredients. Sticky gula melaka caramelised with the bananas, infusing this oil-free sponge cake with a smoky caramel flavour.

Singapore celebrates 55th birthday today! I think one of the great way to celebrate our nations’s birthday is to indulge in desserts that are inspired by local flavours. What’s a celebration without cake right? So I’ve been working on a classic cake recipe featuring local ingredients to share with you guys on this occasion.

The key flavour for this cake are of course the bananas plus a local favourite dessert ingredient, Gula Melaka. To make it even more local, I went all out to use ingredients that are produced in Singapore such as SCS butter, Prima flour, SIS sugar and N&N Singapore farmed eggs. I’ve also used the smaller bananas (not sure of the variety) that I got from my neighbourhood fruit store.

A bit on upside-down cake. Very popular during the 1950s and 1960s, most of these cakes were made using canned ring pineapples and red glazed cherries which I believed most of you would have seen before. Traditionally, the cake was made in cast iron pans, but baking the cake in regular round cake pan is what we will do for this recipe.

This banana upside-down cake is not too complicated to make. Start by melting the butter directly in the cake pan over low heat, then sprinkle crushed gula melaka over the melted butter and layer peeled bananas that was sliced length-wise over the butter-gula-melaka in the cake pan. The cake is a 4-ingredient oil-free sponge (eggs, sugar, flour, salt), light tasting (spiked with a little rum if you like) and is sturdy enough to hold the bananas when overturned. Baked over higher heat to allow caramelisation to happen, when overturn onto a plate or cake board, the sticky gula melaka banana syrup drips down into the sponge cake, infusing the cake with a beautifully smoky caramel flavour. It has a rustic yet glistening appeal that’s quite a stunner.

Tips for a successful cake:

  • Sift the flour from a height twice. As this is an oil-free cake, by sifting the flour from a height to “lighten” the flour will ensure easier mixing. Sifting twice does makes a difference.
  • DO NOT OVERMIX once the flour is added to the mixture. Once the mixture is smooth without flour streaks, stop.
  • Use salted butter for greater flavour.
  • Gula melaka can be replaced with dark brown sugar of equal weight.
  • This cake is made in 20cm round cake pan, but 20cm square cake pan can be used as well.
  • Do not open the oven door within the first 20 minutes of baking time. This is to allow the cake to rise properly without disrupting the oven temperature.

Sticky Banana Upside-Down Cake

Equipment: 20cm round cake pan, stand mixer or hand mixer

  • 120g salted butter
  • 60g gula melaka
  • About 5 small-medium bananas, peel and slice lengthwise
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 160g cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp dark rum, optional

Preheat the oven to 190C. Place butter into the cake pan and melt over low heat. Remove from heat once the butter is melted. Place gula meleka chunks into a plastic bag and crushed it with a rolling pin or meat tenderiser. Sprinkle the crushed gula melaka over the melted butter. Place bananas cut side down, filling in as much gaps as possible. Set aside.

Combine cake flour and salt. Sift twice from a height. Set aside.

Place egg whites into mixer bowl. With the whisk attachment, whisk on medium speed until foamy. Add 1/3 of the caster sugar and whisk on medium speed until no more big bubbles. Add another 1/3 of the caster sugar and whisk until soft peaks. Add remaining caster sugar and continue to whisk untill stiff peaks. With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly drop in egg yolks one by one into the meringue. Once all egg yolks added, whisk till well combine and stop.

Add in the sifted cake flour & salt. Still with the whisk attachment on the lowest speed, whisk for about 20 seconds. Remove whisk and at this point, you can add in the rum. Use a rubber spatula, fold the batter by scooping through the base of the bowl and fold over. Do this a few times until no more flour streaks and batter is smooth. Try not to overmix. Pour the batter onto the bananas-laid cake pan. Smooth out the top with spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 25mins. Check with a skewer, if it comes out clean, it’s done. Otherwise bake for another 5 more minutes.

Remove from the oven. Using a knife, go around the sides of the cake to loosen it. Place a plate or cake board over the cake pan and holding it firmly, turn over the cake and gently shake the cake tin to release the cake onto the plate or cake board. The cake should fall out nicely. Allow to cool before consumption. That is if you can wait that long.

2020 has proofed to be a very challenging year, but this should not stop us from celebrating our nation’s birthday. This year’s NDP is a special one, starting from the morning till late evening, with activities spreading across Singapore coming into heartlands instead of one central location. There’s a series of home engagement activities we can participate in. Click for more details on NDP2020. Let us #StayUnited in this challenging time and emerge stronger together after the pandemic.

Let me know if you make the cake by commenting on this post or you can tag me on Instagram @vanillynbakes and hashtag #vanillynbakes

If you like this recipe, you may also be interested in these:

Banana, Pineapple and Coconut Smoothie

Banana Cake with Chocolate & Walnuts

Happy 55th National Day Singapore! Sit back, enjoy and eat cake 🙂

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