I was invited to a labor day barbecue and was asked to bring the dessert. The hostess made me promise not to make a fuss and bring something easy. Well now, after joining the Heavenly Cake Bakers my definition of an easy dessert has changed a bit, but I knew she didn't want something high-falutin' and fancy-pantsy. So I chose the delicious and down-home upside-down cake.
September 6, 2010
Name of cake: Upside Down Pluots!
Occasion: Claire's Labor Day Shindig
Constituents: 4 halved pluots baked in a buttermilk cornmeal cake with a caramelly top
Okay first off, I love a good upside-down cake. I love them for many reasons: I love a chance to get some good stone fruit in an edible form (for me), I love the caramel topping, and I LOVE baking in my cast iron pan. I love how simple and easy it is to put together, and how the cake doesn't need frosting or embellishment, and I especially love that a good upside-down cake is delicious the next day for breakfast.
I thought about going back to the Heavenly Cakes' Plum and Blueberry Upside-Down Torte, but decided to seize upon the chance to bake something out of another favorite book of mine, Rustic Fruit Desserts. Have I mentioned the authors, Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, are Portlanders? I really am quite proud to be from Portland, if you haven't noticed.
The recipe calls for 4 small stone fruit, such as apricots, plums or pluots. I love the sweet-tart and juicy pluot so when I went to the store that's what I went for.
A classic upside-down caramel is made by melting butter in a 10 inch iron skillet, adding a good amount of brown sugar (light muscovado in my case), and stirring until the sugar dissolves and forms a caramel. At this point the pan is removed from the heat, and the halved and pitted fruit is arranged on top.
The batter is a simple buttermilk cake batter with the addition of fine cornmeal. The butter and sugar are first creamed until light and fluffy, the eggs are beat in one by one, and the vanilla last. To this mixture the dry ingredients are added alternating with the buttermilk, and this lovely thick batter is plopped over the fruit and spread out evenly. This gets baked at 350°F for almost an hour.
At the end of the bake time, the cake rose to the top of the skillet with a golden crust. And also--a little bit of spillage, argh! I was able to get the pan out of the oven and onto a cooling rack without more caramel spillage, but I will have to take a scrubbie to the bottom of the oven.
After cooling for about 20 minutes, the cake can be turned out of the pan. I was a little nervous I would spill, but everything came out perfectly. All the fruit and caramel released as well. Yippee! The cake was steaming something fierce, so as I tried to get a good photo the lens kept fogging up.
After driving over to Claire's and being fed a giant steak with broccoli casserole, we dug into the cake. It was pretty darn good. The cornmeal gave a nice crunch and also a kind of sweetness--but not sugary sweet, just grains-sweet. It was nice. The fruit was soft and tart, the caramel delicious and deep. The cake was soft and tender without being soggy and mushy. Yum, yum, yum. All of us loved it.
I took a little chunk back home with me to have for breakfast this morning. I decided to re-heat it in the toaster oven, and it was just as delicious, if not more, than it was yesterday. The caramel and cake had mellowed out a bit more. Even though the recipe warns the cake is best on the day it is made, I would argue that waiting a day isn't such a bad idea. Either way, this cake deserves to be made all through next summer!