A few days ago I saw a recipe on TheKitchn (shocking, I know) originally from Bon Appetit magazine for a blood orange polenta upside-down cake. It was simple but dramatic-looking, so I grabbed some blood oranges at Whole Foods and decided to give it a whirl.
By which I mean “eat cake for breakfast for three days.”
The “polenta” part of the title is, I think, a little misleading. The cake batter uses just under a cup of flour plus a mere 3 tablespoons of cornmeal. It’s just enough to give the cake a bit of yellow-flecked flavor, but I’m not sure it approaches the realm of being actually polenta-based. But semantics are not as important as flavor, and this cake was pretty darn tasty.
The first step is to make caramel in an oven-proof skillet. Then thin slices of bright blood oranges are arranged on top of the caramel. A fluffy pound cake batter is dropped on top and smoothed out before baking, then the whole thing is flipped out of the pan to expose the fruit topping.
My butter was not quite room temperature, so I think the cake could have been even fluffier. Even so, the combination of the tart oranges, slightly bitter peels, sweet caramel, and soft cake is really nice.
My only complaint is that the recipe was really hard to read. My main issue was that they didn’t break the recipe into parts, so many ingredients were listed once, divided, which was difficult to follow. Another big problem was a partially-missing paragraph. Feel free to click over to the original, but I think the way I have formatted the recipe is much easier to read.
This cake is definitely a repeat. I might try it with other types of oranges or maybe even Meyer lemons. Just make sure to slice the oranges as thinly as possible so that the rind can basically candy themselves in the oven and you don’t taste overly-bitter pith. It’s not too sweet and, as mentioned earlier, makes a nice breakfast, too.
Blood Orange Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit March 2010
Makes 8 servings
Because you do eat the peel, look for organic oranges.
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium unpeeled blood oranges
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
6 tablespoons whole milk
For the topping:
1.) Combine sugar and water in an oven-proof 10-inch skillet with 2 1/2 inch tall sides. Whisk sugar and water together over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, then increase heat and, without stirring, bring to a boil. Swirl occasionally until syrup turns a golden amber (no darker). Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter.
2.) Slice the oranges as thinly as possible, no thicker than 1/8 inch. Discard any seeds. Arrange orange slices in overlapping concentric circles in the caramel pan.
For the cake:
1.) Cream together butter and 3/4 cup of sugar until fluffy, about 4-5 minutes in a stand mixer.
2.) Preheat the oven to 350F. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
3.) When butter and sugar are light and fluffy, add vanilla and beat until smooth. Add eggs yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half the milk, 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the milk, and the rest of the flour, beating after each addition.
4.) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the last tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff, but not dry. Gradually fold egg whites into the cake batter 1/3 at a time. Drop cake batter in large spoonfuls over the orange slices to avoid jostling, then smooth out the batter with an offset spatula.
5.) Bake in the center of the oven at 350F about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool for 10 minutes in the skillet. Run a knife around the perimeter to loosen the cake, place a platter on top of the skillet, and invert the pan, allowing the cake to settle on the platter. Rearrange any orange slices that have shifted, then allow cake to cool completely at room temperature.
6.) Cut cake into 8 wedges and serve plain, or with lightly-sweetened whipped creme fraiche.