Sourdough Banana Bourbon Upside Down Cake

Sourdough Banana Bourbon Upside Down CakeThis might be the most unattractive cake I’ve ever made, which is both disappointing and hilarious.

Disappointing because the pictures from the recipe I based it on are quite pretty, but somehow it didn’t translate (more on that later).

Hilarious because, as my darling Nate pointed out when he went to cut himself a piece, the bananas look like penises (yup, I just said that).

What he actually said was, “For future reference, bananas cut this way look really unappealing.” Then as he lifted off the plastic wrap covering the cake, “Where’s the chocolate? I don’t even want any of this – all wangs and no chocolate!”

I laughed so hard I thought I might pass out. Thinking about it still gives me the giggles. 😉

Luckily, nothing else I have ever made has elicited this kind of reaction from him, so we’re OK!

Anyway. This cake is my contribution to March’s Sourdough Surprises project, which is sourdough cake. I wanted to make a cake that used sourdough as a functional part of the recipe, rather than just as an add-in to a regular cake recipe. Not that I’m knocking that approach, but I wanted to make a sourdough cake, not a cake with some sourdough in it. See the difference?

Most of the recipes I saw were for chocolate sourdough cakes, or for cakes with fruit in them, but I wanted to figure out how to make a plain sponge cake with sourdough, to use in the banana bourbon upside down cake recipe I’d found.

I found this helpful article from King Arthur Flour which suggested that sourdough starter can be used as a replacement for buttermilk or yogurt in recipes, because the acidity of the starter mimics the acidity of the buttermilk or yogurt (older, discard starter is perfect for this). Starter is just flour and water, so when you add it to a recipe, you need to reduce the flour and liquid in that recipe by an appropriate amount. The same helpful article went on to say that 1 cup of starter containing equal amounts of flour and water by weight contains by volume approximately 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water, so if you are adding 1 cup of starter to a recipe, just reduce the flour and liquid in the recipe by 1 cup and 1/2 cup, respectively. Now, I’ve never claimed to be very good at math, but that can’t be right, can it? Because the last time I checked, 1 cup + 1/2 cup = 1 1/2 cups (please tell me I’m right, otherwise I might seriously be in trouble!) Anyway, I took their volume ratio of 2 parts flour:1 part water to mean that 1 cup of starter contained 2/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup water, and went from there.

Using a yogurt cake recipe for reference, I came up with a recipe for a sourdough cake. Basically, you proceed as you would any normal butter cake, adding the liquid starter to the creamed butter-sugar-egg mixture before folding in the dry ingredients and yogurt. The batter was very thick, and when I spread it out over the caramel and bananas in the skillet, it ended up pushing the bananas to the side, which, when baked and inverted, resulted in this sort of haphazard placement of banana-wangs. The original yogurt cake recipe called for oil rather than butter, which probably would have made the batter less thick and easier to spread.

But regardless of how it looks, this is actually a pretty tasty cake. It is light and springy and the banana-bourbon-caramel topping is delicious, especially where it got kind of crunchy and extra dark at the edges. The cake is not too sweet and goes very nicely with the sugary caramel. I couldn’t really taste any discernible sourdough flavour, but I think it contributed to the texture of the cake. So don’t judge a book by its cover (or a cake by its wangs) – perhaps cut the bananas differently, and dollop the batter into the pan rather than spreading it out from the middle. No matter how it looks, it will taste good!

Check out the link-up below for some more (much prettier!) sourdough cakes. :)

Sourdough Banana Bourbon Upside Down Cake

Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen and Chocolate & Zucchini. Makes one large 10 to 12 inch cake.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a mixer bowl, combine:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated white sugar (I used unrefined cane sugar)

Cream together with the paddle attachment until light and creamy. One at a time, beat in:

2 eggs, room temperature (this is important – otherwise the cold eggs will cause the soft butter to harden and curdle)


1 cup unfed, overly ripe sourdough starter (discard starter is perfect)

1 tsp vanilla

Beat until combined.

In a bowl, whisk together:

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Add this to the creamed mixture alternately with:

2/3 cup plain yogurt

(Make two additions of flour and one of yogurt.) Stir until just combined. The batter will be quite thick. Set aside while you prepare the caramel topping.

In a 10 – 12 inch cast iron skillet (mine is 11 inches) over medium heat, melt 4 tbsp unsalted butter until foamy. Add:

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt

Stir  and cook until bubbly, then add:

3 tbsp bourbon or whiskey

Do this carefully as the caramel will bubble and steam pretty violently. Stir to combine and cook for another minute or so, then remove the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool slightly, until it stops bubbling.

Meanwhile, peel and slice:

2 – 4 bananas (I only used two bananas and could definitely have used at least one more. I’ll leave it up to you how you want to slice them. ;))

Arrange the sliced bananas over the caramel and then spread the cake batter evenly over top. To prevent the banana slices from getting pushed out to the sides of the skillet, I suggest dropping the batter in dollops evenly over the bottom of the pan, rather than dumping it all in the middle and spreading it to the edges like I did. Bake the cake in the preheated 350˚F oven for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.

Allow the cake to cool in the skillet for 5 to 10 minutes, then place a large serving platter upside down on top of the cake. Using oven mitts, carefully invert the cake onto the platter and lift off the skillet – the cake should come out pretty easily if your skillet is well-seasoned. Allow to cool a bit more and serve the cake slightly warm. Store any leftovers in the fridge, if keeping for more than a few days.

This post has been YeastSpotted!


  1. rachaelmcleve says

    Aw! I thought your cake looked beautiful, especially with the way the bananas change under heat. Looks super yummy, too. :)

  2. turnips 2 tangerines says

    Wow! This cake looks fantastic! Time to dig out the cast iron skillet! This is definitely on my “to try” list:) Lynn @ Turnips 2 Tangerines Irish Cream Chocolate Sourdough Cake

    • Whittney says

      haha oh Nate, I burst out laughing at work! So funny! Btw, the cake looks really tasty, I might have to try this one!

  3. says

    I think it looks pretty and very yummy and the intro about how to convert cakes recipes in sourdough ones is very informative indeed! of course the batter will “feel” different but the cake looks just as good as the original, I am sure. ciao! Barbara

  4. says

    If the taste is good, that’s all that really matters, right?

    I like the spirit of adventure, too. I was very boring this month and just pretty much followed the recipe.

  5. says

    Swear to you I was drinking my coffee when I read that part about penises (oh-oh, now I’ve said it too) and it almost got sprayed all over my laptop!
    Thanks for the explanation about the starter substitution and the recipe. I think it’s a great upside down cake.

  6. says

    Hahahaha! All wangs and no chocolate. That’s going to make me giggle all night. LOL. That asside (giggle!), that cake sounds amazingly delicious!! I have some bananas upstairs just begging to be made into something delicious… this just might be the winner!

  7. says

    Hi, my name is Jennifer and my blog is Milk and Honey. I got presented with a Liebster Award from a fellow food blogger. One of the rules of the award is for the recipient to present the award to 11 other bloggers and I’ve chosen you as one of my 11. From what I can gather, it’s just a bit of fun and a way for bloggers to get to know and support each other. You can read about it on my blog if you’re interested. There’s no obligation to participate.

  8. says

    Ha! I’ll admit it is interesting looking!
    But the flavour combination sounds great. Might have to make this next week.
    I think I’ll cut my bananas slightly differently though…

  9. says

    Leave it to our hubby’s to think of something like that. Lol… I think your cake looks awesome and looking at that ingredient list I know that it would be so delicious. A long time ago when I first starting blogging I create a recipe for chocolate covered frozen bananas and it evoked a similar response from Mr. anonymous… Maybe you remember that post?

  10. Crumbs of Love says

    I think your penis cake looks delicious! I just started a sourdough starter the other day so I should be ready in about 10 days to try something like this. Maybe I’ll add some chocolate to mine…

  11. Kathryn and Ross says

    Haha, must run in the family, I got the same interpretation of the bananas when I saw the first picture. Must be because I am surrounded with men and little boys in our family. Just think how much extra traffic your site is going to get now tho’.

  12. says

    lol I’m still laughing at your boyfriend’s comments…this cake actually looks really tasty, I think you took pretty great photos considering you didn’t have much colour or texture to work with!

  13. says

    You have the sourdough-recipe-conversion-superpower too. So impressive. I don’t think I would have seen peni in this cake had they not been brought to my attention. Now I really can’t wait to make this. For a crowd :)

    • says

      LOL, I hope the crowd likes it 😉 This was a good candidate for trying out sourdough conversion because it didn’t rely on the sourdough for leavening – I get kind of anxious when I convert a recipe using commercial yeast because I’m always convinced that my sourdough has died as soon as I add it to the recipe!

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