Gluten-free banana upside-down cake is a centerpiece showstopper. Sticky toffee caramelized bananas soak into a moist and fluffy gluten-free cinnamon teff flour cake.
This post is brought to you by Bob’s Red Mill, a long-term partner of Snixy Kitchen
Baked with a buttery brown sugar layer and bananas on the bottom, this gluten-free banana upside-down cake flips over to reveal a seductively caramelized banana topping that's gooey and oh-so-sticky.
The sticky topping gives way to a floofy tender cinnamon teff flour cake that exudes warm nutty and toffee notes. This cake is the just-right transition into fall, but with bananas available all year round, it's also the perfect anytime anywhere cake. This cake makes me swoon.
What is an upside-down cake?
An upside-down cake is baked with fruit and sugar on the bottom and cake batter on the top. As it bakes, the sugars caramelize with the fruit while the cake bakes above. Shortly after it comes out of the oven, the cake is flipped to reveal the fruit on top and the juices and caramelized sugars begin to seep into the cake below.
The benefit of an upside-down cake is that the fruit sits right on top as a gooey sticky topping. Unlike a cake with fruit baked on top, an upside-down cake does not run the risk of the juicy fruit causing an underbaked or too moist cake.
Added bonus: upside-down cakes are beautiful showstoppers!
Gluten-Free Cinnamon Butter Cake
While the bananas are here for the sticky topping, the cake underneath contains no bananas. Rather it's a simple gluten-free cinnamon butter cake that's both fluffy and incredibly moist. The warm spices are a perfect complement to the caramelized banana topping, giving depth of flavor.
The cake uses teff flour as the flavor driver, with subtle toffee notes that are both nutty and sweet.
Gluten-Free Flours and Substitutions
For gluten-free cake, I prefer to use a homemade blend of flours specific to the cake I'm making - this allows me to pair flours for flavor and texture, while using whole grain flours. For all my homemade flour blends, I recommend Bob's Red Mill brand flours, which are high-quality and have a consistent grind.
For this gluten-free banana upside-down cake, I use a blend of sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca flour, and teff flour. Below I describe each flour and also recommend a few substitutions if you can't find that particular flour. A note about substitutions: I have not tested this particular cake with most of these substitutions (unless noted), so your results and baking time may vary slightly. These are, however, my recommendations based on lots of experience with gluten-free cake baking and I'm confident they'll work.
Sorghum flour is a wholesome whole grain flour. With slightly sweet notes, sorghum flour adds flavor depth and helps creates a very moist crumb.
- Sub in by weight: you can substitute gluten-free oat flour or Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 all-purpose gluten-free flour blend.
SWEET RICE FLOUR
Made from sticky rice, sweet rice flour is distinctively different than white rice or brown rice flour, and despite its name, it's not sweet. Sweet rice flour is the same flour used to make mochi, and as such, its stickiness helps to bind the cake together, creating chewiness like a classic cake recipe.
- I don't recommend substituting the sweet rice flour as I find it's essential to the recipe. However, if you're unable to find it, you can replace it with Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 all-purpose gluten-free flour blend or additional tapioca flour by weight.
Tapioca flour adds chewiness and helps mimic the fluffiness of a classic cake. It adds just a bit more softness and loftiness to the crumb.
- Sub in by weight: If you need to sub it out, I would recommend arrowroot starch, potato starch, Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, or using equal parts more sorghum flour and sweet rice flour, by weight.
Teff flour is such a warm flavorful flour that's the perfect pairing for a cinnamon cake. In this cake, teff flour is the flavor driver. You don't need a lot to get the flavor benefits. As a powdery fine flour, it bakes up soft and fluffy with rich toffee notes that accentuate the caramelized banana topping.
- Sub in by weight: You can sub in 15g more each of sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, and tapioca flour, but your cake will turn out lighter in color and less flavorful. You could also sub in chestnut flour, millet flour, or Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour.
In this cake, the xanthan gum is not optional. Without it, the batter is thin and seeps up under the bananas and the cake bakes up dense.
If you’re just starting out with gluten-free baking, I understand that the hefty price tag on xanthan gum might steer folks away from using their own homemade flour blends that call for it. If you're in that camp, just know it lasts for a long time! I keep it in my fridge and a bag lasts me almost 2 years, so if you plan on getting more serious about gluten-free baking, a little goes a long way. Each recipe typically only calls for ½-1 teaspoon.
If you'd prefer to use a pre-made blend, you can sub out all the flours by weight (244g) along with the xanthan gum with Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 all-purpose gluten-free flour blend.
Banana Upside-Down Cake Tips
- Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to help remove the cake and fruit easily from the pan
- Use ripe but firm bananas. If the bananas are too ripe to halve, then you'll have trouble arranging the bananas, but you do want to use ripe bananas as the more ripe they are, the sweeter and more flavorful the bananas. I do not recommend frozen bananas as they do not hold their shape when defrosted.
- Flip shortly after baking. Letting the cake cool too long in the pan will result in the caramel firming up and the fruit will stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Serve warm or room temperature. Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you're feeling fancy.
Can I use a cast-iron skillet?
Yes! If using a cast-iron skillet, you can melt the sugar right into the cast-iron skillet then place the bananas on top followed by the cake batter. Your cake may take less time to bake given the dark cast-iron skillet, so check for doneness about 5 minutes early.
How to flip an upside-down cake?
The timing of flipping an upside-down cake is essential. Cool the cake only 5-10 minutes after it comes out of the oven before flipping. Cooling longer than 10 minutes will result in the caramel beginning to firm up and the fruit will stick to the bottom.
Start by running a knife around the outside of the cake. Place a wire rack over the top of the cake pan with a plate or baking sheet nearby to catch drips. Using oven mitts to hold the cake pan and the wire rack together, flip the cake over onto the plate/baking sheet. Carefully lift the cake pan to release the cake.
Spoon any caramel left in the pan over the top, and if any banana bits remain stuck to the pan, carefully arrange them back on the cake. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
How do you store a banana upside-down cake?
Store leftover banana upside-down cake covered at room temperature for 24 hours or in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Cool to room temperature or microwave for 15-20 seconds before serving.
After cooling completely, store the whole cake or individual slices wrapped tightly in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost to room temperature before serving.
Caramelized Banana Topping
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- Pinch kosher salt
- 3-4 ripe, but firm bananas, halved lengthwise
Gluten-Free Cinnamon Cake
- 72g (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) Bob’s Red Mill sorghum flour
- 70g (¼ cup + 3 tablespoons) Bob’s Red Mill sweet rice flour (different from "white rice flour" or "brown rice flour")
- 56g (½ cup) Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour
- 46g (¼ cup + 1 tablespoon) Bob’s Red Mill teff flour
- ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoon (85g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 220g (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup (160g) whole milk, room temperature
- ⅓ cup (80g) sour cream, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round aluminum cake pan with 2-inch sides and line it with a round of parchment paper. Set aside. See note for other sizes pans.
- Combine the brown sugar and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring until the butter and sugar are just melted, about 1-2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla bean paste and salt. Pour the caramel into the prepared cake pan.
- Arrange the halved bananas, cut-side down, over the caramel, squeezing in as many as will fit.
- Whisk together the sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca flour, teff flour, xanthan gum, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla extract.
- With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk and sour cream, scraping down the sides as needed. Mix until just combined.
- Pour the cake batter over the bananas, smoothing out the top.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the center springs back when gently touched and a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs.
- Let cool In the pan for 10 minutes (but no longer or the caramel will firm up and stick to the pan!). Run a knife around the outside edge, place a wire rack over the top and, holding the wire rack and cake pan together with oven mitts, carefully flip the cake right-side up, setting it over a plate or baking sheet to catch any caramel spills. Spoon any caramel left in the pan over the top, and if any banana bits remain stuck to the top, carefully put them back on the cake. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Alternative Pan Sizes: A 8x8 square cake pan or 10-inch round cake pan will work too, as will a 9-inch cast iron skillet or springform pan. If using a springform pan, place a baking sheet underneath to catch any leaks. If using a 10-inch round baking pan or a cast-iron skillet, your bake time will be less. For a 10-inch round, start checking for doneness at 40 minutes. For a cast iron skillet, check for doneness at 45 minutes. I do not recommend using a glass cake pan as it heats up faster and is more likely to overcook the outside of the cake before the center is fully baked.