Recipe: Plantain Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake


I’m not really a dessert person, so it’s all the more surprising when I come across a recipe which makes me want to lock the doors, draw the curtains, and eat until every last crumb is gone.

I mean, seriously. Plaintain Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake??!

If this isn’t the perfect holiday recipe, I don’t know what is. And of all the places for it to come from…

Denmark is known for gingerbread. Germany. Even the United States. But I was genuinely surprised to find gingerbread cake in the bustling big cities of Liberia. Now, I’m not talking the same-old gingerbread you’ve had before. This is an African spin. Yes, it’s a standard upside-down cake, but instead of pineapple, it boasts a dizzying spiral of ripe, tropical plantains – a perfect match for the molasses-based cake.  The butter and brown sugar bubble and brown, making the edges of the cake just a little bit crisp – which is the best part.

For those of you wondering, the love of gingerbread comes from Liberia’s historical ties with slaves freed from the United States. They imported recipes and ideas from the United States into their new home – specifically, Monrovia. And, personally, I’m really glad they did.

P.S. You’ll want to assign a guard to this cake, or it’ll all be gone the second you look away.

Makes one, eight-inch cake.


Dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
pinch salt

Wet ingredients:

2 eggs
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk


4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-2 ripe plantains, sliced 1/8 inch thick

NOTE: The plantains should be turning black and about the texture of a banana when sliced. If they are green they’ll be hard as a rock, even after cooking, and you’ll be disappointed. You can substitute bananas for the plantains but, once cooked, they’ll probably soften to the point of disappearing into the cake. Tasty but not necessarily beautiful.

Also, I found I didn’t need to butter my cake pan because the extra butter on the bottom of the pan bubbles up the sides. You could, however, butter your pan if you aren’t sure. It can’t hurt!


First things first – let’s get creative. Put on a wacky apron. Dance to some Liberian Music.

Let your inner artist out! You’re going to need it for this recipe.

Ok, now go ahead and preheat the oven to 350F.

Whisk the dry ingredients together. Mmm cinnamon and ginger. Cloves and nutmeg. Yes, yes, yes, YES.

Now mix the wet ingredients together, making sure to use the full 4Tbsp of melted butter.

(Why? Because butter tastes like “good.” You’ll be glad you did. Trust me.)

Place your cake pan over low heat on the stovetop. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and the brown sugar. Once melted, stir to make an even coating on the bottom of the pan and remove from heat.

Now the fun part! Layer the sliced plantains around in overlapping circles. I could get about 2 circles in my 8″ cake pan, plus a final circle in the center.Beautiful!

Now, add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk to combine. Pour into the cake pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (one reader let me know hers took about 50 minutes, so be sure to check it with the toothpick). Let cool 30 minutes, then invert onto a platter and serve it up!

This would be really, really good with a dollop of whipped cream and a Red Love Latte.


But as I mentioned before, you’ll want to assign a guard to this cake…

… and even then, results aren’t guaranteed.

(for the guard or the cake).
Happy Baking!
Much love to you and yours,
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  1. Love the picture with the tiny hand sneaking in from the side!

  2. ok this is not about cooking but when I read the word Liberia I think about those brave and also funny women who finally ended the civil war by their actions ,, they sat outside the conference room where the negotitatons were going on and blocked the exits … They threatened to stay there untill the hostile groups finally agreed . As the securityguards wanted to take them away, they started to undress themselves,, .. its a sinn in Africa to see someone like your mother naked …Now one of those women became president and even won the Nobelprice for peace.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Anthony Bourdain talks about this a bit in his Liberia show… fascinating stuff. She’s the world’s first black, female president, too.

  3. Nicole DeBoer says:

    Made this dessert for my group of Bunco Babes, who meet once-a-month. Easy to make. Easy, easy. The end result was delish… although this is my first experience eating plantains cooked and some of the bites were a bit “chewy”. Definitely could have been my choice of plantain options (in January… in very rural Minnesota). Only good comments from the dice-throwing girls. Next time I will make it with good ol’ bananas and check out the difference. Thanks for letting me join in this adventure!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yay! I’m glad you and your friends enjoyed the cake… that gingerbread flavor is yum! The bananas sound good, you can also try an even riper plantain and you’ll probably get what you’re looking for (it should be about the texture of a ripe banana when sliced).

  4. hi-i made this and it came out terrible and would like some help if possible. I followed the directions which seemed straight forward and easy. I baked it for approx 40 minutes, let it stand for 1/2 hour and then flipped it over on to a dish. About 1/2 of the gingerbread under the plantains, was soupy. Because it didn’t look cooked all the way through, I put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Although it wasn’t as soupy, it still wasn’t cooked through. I had my boyfriend try it anyway and he said the plantains like rubber. The plantains I used were very ripe. What did I do wrong?? And why did the gingerbread part come out the way it did?? Thanks in advance for any help you can give me!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Annie, I’m so sorry you had this experience. It sounds like maybe there was too much liquid in the recipe… could you have accidentally added too much (did the batter look like my photo, or wetter)? I haven’t heard any complaints about it being this wet. The other option is the oven wasn’t hot enough which it might have been since the plantains didn’t cook either, but stayed rubbery. :(

  5. I baked it today and it tasted delicious. It took only 35 minutes in my oven, and everything was just as I expected. This recipe is definitely a keeper:) And for busy mom of two, I was really happy it didn’t take too long to make it. It was my first time eating plantains, and it was fun. My rather picky husband enjoyed the cake as well:) Thank you, Sasha!

  6. This was yummy – Thank you for this recipe!

    My tweaks: Substituted finely minced ginger and juices for the powdered ginger and vanilla. A bit less sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the cake. Less 1 tablespoon butter each in the topping and the cake. Substituted 1/3 whole wheat flour.

    My mistake!: Using a 1/3 C. measuring cup in error instead of 1/2 C, the batter seemed too soupy when I went to bake it. When I found my goof, I was frantic. Took the cake out of the oven & stirred in Wondra granulated flour ’till it seemed normal. Lost some of the lovely upside down spiraled plantains within the batter, but the cake turned out delicious!

    Do you have a way to receive your blog posts by email? I didn’t see where on your page, and I’m not on Facebook. Love to try new ethnic dishes. Thanks.

  7. Omg, I love this recipe. It’s one of the few cakes that I actually enjoy eating and don’t just make for other people.
    I’ve made it several times and it’s always been a great success. Thanks for posting!


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