Arsip Tag: upsidedown

cherry cornmeal upside-down cake – smitten kitchen

[Note: This recipe got fresh photos in 2019.]

This is the cake in which I did everything wrong.

1. It was impromptu, on a week that I have been trying to embrace salads, vegetables and water, or all those things I got too little of on Alex and Deb’s Central European Vacation. But I’m a sucker for any and all upside-down cakes, and this one sounded so good, my resolve was immediately weakened.

2. Cherries are not in season around here, not even close.

a few things you'll need

3. I said if I couldn’t find frozen cherries, I’d take it as a sign and skip it, but then Alex went to the store for me and he’s so good, so eager to get everything on the list that he bought fresh ones that cost so much money, I cannot discuss it in mixed company. But it was still really sweet of him.

4. I do not own a cherry pitter [2008 Deb did not; 2019 Deb does]. Oh, I have looked at them, marveled at an extra-cute one at Williams-Sonoma last summer, but that time, like all of the times before it, I determined such a purchase fussy and of little use. Halving and pitting cherries took forever, a forever I would have happily swapped for a $10 limited-use gadget.

5. I do not own a cast-iron or oven-proof skillet that is 10 or 11 inches, though this, too, I have often discussed buying one but the thought of lugging it home always talks me out of it. [2019 Deb bought her overproof skillet online, resolving the issue once and for all.]

6. I had worked until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, swam a mile at the gym, got home after 9 p.m. and still determined that I would have time to bake this cake, cherry pitting included. I hate rushing through recipes; something always goes horribly wrong and I forget an egg or the sugar and swear I’ll never rush again. Yet this is exactly what I did.

7. It turned out I was out of brown sugar, save one rock of a chunk I was completely unable to soften. So what then? People, I grated it, that’s what I did.

8. I decided that since I didn’t have the right size oven-proof skillet and lacked a 10-inch cake pan that wasn’t an always-leaky springform, I would use this as my perfect excuse to finally use my Maryann cake pan. But here’s the thing with Ms. Mary, the fruit/frosting/curd/cream that you put on top? Yeah, it’s supposed to go on top of a baked, not unbaked cake. I realized this after I’d already dumped the cherries in, and decided to just run with it. I mean, once you’ve already grated brown sugar, I think it’s safe to say that you’re probably not going to get hung up on a cake pan that pushes all of the out-of-season cherries into an unattractive channel. [2019 Deb remade this in a skillet — good riddance.]

make the caramel for the cherriesjust a littlecherriescake batterready to assemblegently fold in the egg whitesall folded inspoon it onready to bakefrom the oven

And guess what? Despite my every effort to ruin this cake, it is still killer good. The cake is light and fluffy; the cornmeal is minimal enough to be interesting, not aggravating; the cherries–even out-of-season ones in average shape–are amazing, their combination with brown sugar, balsamic and butter is a stroke of genius. I wouldn’t change a thing, not one single step. Well, ahem, except those eight above. Oh, and two more for good measure and a nice even number:

9. Intent on getting at least one pretty picture of an ugly cake, I flipped it out onto my Martha Stewart Collection 12-inch white cake stand, despite being fully aware a) that the cake would be very sticky, and b) that I wanted to be able to pack it up and bring it to Jocelyn’s the next day. Trying to remove the still-warm cake 45 minutes later, the ended up in eight pieces, at least two of them still stuck to the plate, soaking in the sink.

cherry cornmeal upside-down cake

10. As if I couldn’t have possibly done one more thing that evidenced my compromised logic that evening, I succumbed to a slice of it at 12:00 a.m. And do you know what happened? I was so hopped up on sugar, I couldn’t get to sleep until after 1 a.m. But it was totally worth it.

Well, actually: I woke up the next morning with a sore throat and stuffy nose, and ended up missing the barbecue, anyway! And now we’re swimming in quickly-depleting way-too-delicious Cherry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake. Halp! [P.S. Still worth it.]

cherry cornmeal upside-down cake

One year ago: Spicy Bloody Marys, Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms, Buttermilk Chive Biscuits

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gingerbread apple upside-down cake – smitten kitchen

I know everyone says that this whole early-baby thing “goes by so fast” and “blink and you’ll miss it” and I believed them, I really did. But I hadn’t prepared to take a bite of this cake last week and push it away disinterested because it’s “too fall/wintery for right now”, look at the date on my phone and realize that, holy gingerbread (see how baby-friendly we’re getting here at SK?!), it’s freaking November already. And not early November, but days before Thanksgiving, thus, late November. And forget November, what happened in October? I remember nothing, not one single thing save a vague recollection of an overlarge can of Crisco.

apple overboard

Despite my protestations, it turns out this gingerbread-spiced molasses-heavy caramelized apple upside-down cake is perfect for the holiday-decked winter months whether I’m ready for them or not. It’s intensely flavored, dark and coppery and goes about as perfectly with some barely sweetened, softly whipped cream as I imagine it would with a dark beer or hard cider (as in, why did I not think of that sooner?).

apple slices

battering up

The recipe itself has some cool origins, a woman named Karen Bates of the Philo Apple Farm in Northern California, which was taken over by her parents in the 80s after they’d fled the increasingly touristy Napa — a decade after opening one of the area’s first set-menu restaurants in a former French steam laundry, which they sold in 1994 to a relatively unknown chef named Thomas Keller (who still buys his apple from Philo).

apple ginger upside-down cake
i swear, the toothpick came out clean

Despite respecting all that, I still hacked it a bit, fearfully swapping out half the molasses for honey and tweaking the apple topping quite a bit after finding it aggressively overly-sweet the way it was printed. What I have ended up with is something that would seem absurd in August, or the last time I took note of the date, but suddenly fits in perfectly with holiday weeks, cooler weather and, you know, the bear suits that fast-forwarded you into them.

One year ago: Mustard-Roasted Potatoes, Walnut Tartlets and Cauliflower Gratin
Two years ago: Chile-Garlic Egg Noodles
Three years ago: Cinnamon Chocolate Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Wild Mushroom Pirogis and Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Karen Bates at the Philo Apple Farm via the New York Times

Serves 12

4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 apples (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Very softly whipped cream

Make the topping: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, four minutes, then swirl in salt. Remove from heat and pour into the bottom of your cake pan. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the caramel. Chop any remaining slices and place them in the gaps.

Make the batter: Using a mixer, blend 1/2 cup butter and the sugar on medium-low speed. Increase the speed to high and cream until light and fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, molasses, honey and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Alternate mixing the flour and molasses mixtures into the butter mixture, adding the next once the last has been incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake at least 45 to 50 minutes (thanks to commenter klp for reminding me this took a bit longer) or until a wooden tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a platter (one that will catch spills, unlike what you see in the pictures above).

Serve warm or cool with very softly whipped cream.

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upside-down cranberry cake – smitten kitchen

Is it too soon in our relationship to say that I miss hanging out with you guys more? I hope not. The fact is that these days I am so deep in the throes of oh my god what was I thinking a certain cookbook I’m supposed to be halfway (ha! hoo! hee! I wonder if Knopf will find this so hilarious) finished with that it’s taking time away from hanging out here. Which is a shame, as it is my favorite place outside a certain striped carpet covered with The Mop Who Came to Live With Us and his toys and a bar I haven’t found yet that makes perfect Manhattans.

setting up
puddling the caramel

And it’s not like I’m not cooking up a storm, either. Yesterday, I made what I hoped would be an unfathomably deep apple pie for the cookbook. Think piles of amazing baked appleness for people who can never have enough filling (this, by the way, is for people who can never have enough crust). Alas, it was a (delicious) mess and I am back to the drawing board where I summon the confidence to start peeling another six pounds of apples.

sour cream batter

cranberries meet caramel

There’s also this upside-down cranberry-caramel cake, which I made from The Perfect Finish. Now, before I tell you everything that went wrong with it, I’d like to start off on a positive: we finished it. In an apartment with too much of everything caloric these days, the temptation of cake isn’t particuarly strong (if there could be an upside to all of this cooking). But over the course of a workweek, we finished it. Obviously, it was good.


But it was troublesome. It baked too quickly, I found the cake a little sturdy. It almost overflowed. I wanted more flavorings to contrast the cranberries and I wanted a few more cranberries, too. And the cake, it’s not very pretty. At first I blamed my photography but then I started insecurely Googling (what, doesn’t anyone else do this?) other images of cranberry upside-down cakes and well, apparently they largely look like this. I’m going to post the recipe below with a bunch of notes. Feel confident that if you make it by the book, with only minor adjustments for cooking time and oven protection, you will have a cake worth sharing and finishing. If you’d like to raise the bar on it, however, I’ve got some ideas.


One year ago: Raisin-Studded Apple Bread Pudding
Two years ago: Cottage Cheese Pancakes and Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel
Three years ago: Roasted Stuffed Onions
Four years ago: Indian-Spiced Vegetable Fritters

Upside-Down Cranberry-Caramel Cake
Adapted from The Perfect Finish (previously from this book)

If you don’t like molasses, I’d use honey or light corn syrup instead because although just a tablespoon, you can taste it (though we found it delicious against the tart berries). If you’re thinking, as I was, that there was no need for a parchment paper circle in the bottom (and later, top) of the pan, you can probably skip it. The “probably” is there because I didn’t get to retest this without it but see nothing to worry about; if a berry sticks, just scoop it and plop it on top of the cake. The cake itself is a little on the shortcake side — sturdier than your average plush layer cake but still quite moist. Still, if you want a more traditional upside-down cake base, I think this one is phenomenal (you might even swap the pineapple juice for white cranberry) as is this one.

Unsalted butter or cooking spray for the baking pan
2/3 cup (5 ounces or 142 grams) packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces or 171 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces or 198 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (9 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) sour cream
2 cups (8 ounces or 230 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries (you could add a half-cup more, if you, too, can never have enough cranberries)
Optional flavorings: 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, 1 tablespoon orange or lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, few gratings of fresh nutmeg or a combination thereof
Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter and cover the bottom with parchment paper (see Note above). In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the melted butter, molasses and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Stir well and pour into prepared cake pan. Set pan aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the whisk attachment (eh, I just used a handmixer with standard beaters) beat the eggs and sour cream together at medium speed until well blended. Add optional flavorings of your choice. Scrape down the bowl and add remaining melted butter (1/2 cup) and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Add the cranberries to the prepared baking pan and gently press the fruit into an even layer. Dollop the batter on top and use an offset spatula to gently nudge it into place without disturbing the cranberries underneath. Bake on the center rack (with a tray underneath to catch drips… just in case; mine did not overflow but came stressfully close) until golden and a tester inserted into just the cake comes out clean, which took 30 to 35 minutes in my oven but is suggested to take 45. Please, please check yours on the early side. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan then insert over a flat platter that is (Learn From My Mistakes Alert!) larger than your cake pan, to catch any puddling or jumping cranberries. Remove the parchment paper.

Serve warm, with freshly whipped cream. However, this cake wasn’t half bad two to three days layer, kept covered at room temperature.

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rhubarb upside-down spice cake – smitten kitchen

If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, a deep (ideally 3-inch sides) 9-inch cake pan or regular depth 10-inch cake pan should work as well. Coat the sides with butter or nonstick spray. Cook the topping in a frying pan and pour it into the prepared cake pan before adding the batter. Baking times will vary a bit; the 9-inch is likely to take longer, a 10-inch, possibly shorter.

  • 1 pound (450 grams) rhubarb, trimmed
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest from half a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
  • Two pinches of salt
  • Cake
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup (125 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour

Heat oven: To 350°F.

Make topping: In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, trim your rhubarb to lengths that will fit across the bottom in one direction, i.e. some short and some taller. Remove rhubarb and cut each stalk lengthwise into thin (about 1/4-inch thick) ribbons. If your rhubarb is already quite thin, you might just want to halve each piece lengthwise.

Sprinkle sugar into skillet and add lemon zest; use your fingers to mix the zest into the sugar; the grit of the sugar will help release the most flavor from it. Add butter and salt and heat skillet over medium until butter has melted, stirring frequently. Add rhubarb and cook, turning gently, for 3 to 4 minutes, until it has softened slightly and released some of its liquid. Remove from heat and set skillet aside.

Make cake: In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined, then vanilla. Sprinkle mixture with baking powder, salt, and all the spices and beat well to thoroughly mix them in. Add buttermilk; mixture will have a curdly texture but don’t worry, it’s all going to even out. Scrape down bowl and add flour; beat only until it disappears.

Check your rhubarb base to make sure all the pieces are in the order you’d like them to be; nudge around any that are not, then dollop cake batter over rhubarb mixture in small spoonfuls and smooth top as best as you can. As the rhubarb mixture will be very wet, this will seem almost impossible. I actually gave up and just put it in the oven, where the cake spread into one even layer on its own. (Thank you, cake.)

Bake cake: For about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted deep into the cake (but not the topping underneath) comes out batter-free. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen. Place a larger plate upside down over the skillet and use two potholdered hands to flip cake out onto it. If any rhubarb is stuck in the pan or slides down the side, just return it to the top of the cake cake.

Serve: Warm or at room temperature. Cake keeps for a couple days at room temperature and up to a week in the fridge, or so I hear.

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