Blogger for A Brown Table, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, photographer, and forthcoming cookbook author, Nik Swarma’s approach to cooking and baking came from his bicultural upbringing. In honor of Mother’s Day, he’s honoring his mom’s love of cake with his own upside-down banana cake. Read on to learn more about how the author and blogger celebrates Mother’s Day and to get his upside-down banana cake recipe.
It’s been several years since we’ve actually been in the same zip code on Mother’s Day. For more than a decade and a half, we’ve lived in different countries, oceans apart. As a kid, I’d give her a card (she’s not a big fan of flowers so I’ve learned to avoid that) and cook something. As an adult, our annual Mother’s Day ritual has changed. Thanks to the advent of certain technologies, we chat via FaceTime and catch up with what we’ve been up to.
My mother, Lorraine, is an amazing woman. In addition to being strong, patient and kind, she’s been a huge source of inspiration. After she had my sister and, she went back to school and completed her degree. Afterward, she forged a successful career in hotel management, working for some of the largest luxury hotels in the world. I’m fortunate to be able to do something special for her each year to celebrate all she has done and given me.
Since I don’t get to spend the actual Mother’s Day in person with her, I usually tend to do a more extended Christmas celebration with her. When she visits, she’s always up for trying something new so either we go out to a restaurant that she’s keen on trying. I also bake something sweet for her, typically a cake of some kind.
My mom loves fresh fruit cakes more than she does chocolate, so each year I try to do something different. This year, I’m baking this upside-down banana cake that contains a few ingredients she’s familiar with, namely, the cardamom and ghee based on a banana fritter that she makes so often. I hope she likes it when I see her in December.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
Ghee and Cardamom-Scented Upside-Down Banana Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
- 3 over ripe bananas
- 2 ripe bananas*
- 4 Tbsp melted ghee
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (I like the dark amber grade)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- seeds from 4 green cardamom pods, ground
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 stick/4 oz/110g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche**
- Using a fork smash the 3 overripe bananas in a medium bowl. Microwave the bananas for a minute on high heat and then transfer the fruit into a fine mesh strainer and sit over a bowl to drain the liquid for 1 hour. Avoid the temptation to press the pulp. Discard the liquid. Cool the pulp completely to room temperature before using.
- Preheat the oven to 325F.
- Grease and line a circular 9-inch baking pan with 2 Tbsp ghee and parchment paper. Slice the remaining two ripe bananas across their length and spread the slices on the surface of the prepared baking pan to cover the entire area. Keep aside.
- In a small saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup of the sugar, cream of tartar and water on medium-high heat until the sugar just starts to caramelize and starts to turn a light amber color. Drizzle the hot liquid over the sliced bananas in the pan, followed by the maple syrup. Keep aside.
- In a medium bowl dry whisk the flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda and salt and keep aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, 2 Tbsp ghee and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar on medium-high speed for about 3 to 4 minutes using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Then whisk in one egg at a time, until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on low-speed until just combined. Then add the cooled, drained banana pulp to the batter and remaining sifted dry ingredients and whisk until combined and no visible flecks of flour remain. Transfer the batter to the cake pan and spread it evenly using an offset spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the center. Once baked remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan over a wire rack. To release the cake, run a knife around the edges of the cake and then place a serving plate over the baking dish, then carefully invert the cake over the plate and remove the pan. Peel the parchment paper off.
- Serve the cake warm with a little bit of creme fraiche on the side.
* You can use 5 over ripe bananas but it is much more difficult to maneuver slices of an overripe banana much less cut it . For this reason alone, I recommend using bananas that are not too soft for the topping.
**This cake is sweet, so I don’t typically sweeten the creme fraiche but if you want to you can. About 1 Tbsp of confectioner’s sugar or maple syrup can be mixed in.