the appetizer:

A World of Cake: 150 Recipes for Sweet Traditions from Cultures Near and Far by Krystina Castella, includes excerpts and recipes like Let's Talk Cake: From Fruitcakes to Funnel Cakes; Upside-Down Pumpkin-Plantain Cake; Potica (Nut Roll); and Kolache.

I Love Desserts


Upside-Down Pumpkin-Plantain Cake

Makes 1 cake (serves 6 to 8)

Upside-Down Pumpkin-Plantain Cake



Pumpkins and plantains are plentiful in Liberian cooking. They're rarely combined in traditional African recipes, but I find that their flavors go together very well, which inspired me to create this upside-down pumpkin cake, with brown-sugared plantains as a topping. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Caramelized Plantains

  • 6 small plantains, peeled
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

Pumpkin Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

To Prepare

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heavily butter a 9-inch round cake pan.

To Caramelize the Plantains

Cut 3-inch segments from both ends of the plantains, and cut these segments in half lengthwise. Slice any remaining plantain into rounds. Combine the brown sugar and water in a saute pan over low heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the plantains and cook until the syrup has thickened, flipping the plantains to coat. Spread the plantain slices on the bottom of the prepared pan, with the long segments radiating from the center and the circles filling the center.

To Make the Cake

Combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, pumpkin, milk, eggs, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until well blended.

To Bake

Pour the batter over the plantains in the pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Then loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a spatula, and turn the cake upside down onto a serving plate. Replace any plantains that have come loose if needed.


Caribbean Pumpkin-Rum Upside-Down Cake

When caramelizing the plantains, replace the water with rum. Add 2 tablespoons rum and 3/4 cup chopped pecans to the cake batter.


Plantains and Pumpkins

Plantains and pumpkins are both imports to Africa, though plantains have been around for a lot longer. They are thought to have originated in Indonesia, but they've been an important crop in Africa since at least 1500. Pumpkins, on the other hand, are native to Central America and have been a staple of Native American diets for thousands of years. The seeds were brought to Europe by early explorers and from there cultivation spread to Africa, the Middle East, and every continent of the world except Antarctica.

  • from:
    A World of Cake:
    150 Recipes for Sweet Traditions from Cultures Near and Far
  • by Krystina Castella
  • Storey 2010
  • Paper with flaps; 352 pages; US $24.95
  • ISBN: 1603425764
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-60342-576-6
  • Reprinted by permission.

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This page created May 2011

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