As a kid, the only upside-down cake I ever encountered was the classic pineapple ring and maraschino cherry model. I couldn't stand the stuff. As I recall, my dad adored it. He was the only one in the family who showed unfettered interest. Not even my mom, devoted dessert lover that she was, could bring herself to crave the canned-fruit laden cake. As a rule, it was atrociously sweet, sodden with that sugary syrup and just not an altogether great concept. She'd make it for him, of course, but the woman had her standards; given the choice, she would always have opted for a slice of something chocolate.
I guess it's no surprise, then, why I've never launched with abandon into the production of that sticky, inverted confection. Those pineapple cakes may be endearing in a retro sort of way, but not enough so to motivate me into actually baking one. No siree.
But this cherry and nectarine upside-down cake, on the other hand, while bearing some resemblance to that toothache-inspiring item of yesteryear, isn't as cloying. Made with thin slices of ripe nectarine, fresh sweet cherries, honey, plain yogurt, a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a teeny tiny splash of peach schnapps thrown in to jazz things up, this baby's an improvement on that fusty old relic.
In fact, were the two cakes to pass on the street, I'd wager they'd acknowledge each other with a polite nod but, figuring they hadn't much in common, the pair wouldn't even stop to chat.
About this recipe . . .
Today's cake is adapted from a recipe in the gargantuan volume, Bon Appetit Desserts. It's a dream of a cookbook and, with 700+ pages, it's heavier than heck. Weighing in at 6.5 lbs., it's the size of a full-term newborn. They should sell it with a complementary stroller so readers can cart it around the house. Or, better yet, a forklift.
I customized the original recipe, which called for peaches along with a lot of spicy cardamom. What did I alter? In addition to using a combo of nectarines and cherries instead of peaches, I omitted the cardamom entirely, using just a little cinnamon and a scant pinch of nutmeg instead. I also added in a wee dab of peach schnapps, for a bit of zing, and I slightly increased the amount of salt (coarse kosher). Threw in the seeds of half a vanilla bean, and reduced the amount of granulated sugar in the cake by a small margin. In the honey whipped cream topping, I used less than half the amount of honey called for. (Have you ever mixed honey with heavy cream before? Fact is, you need a remarkably small amount to get the desired effect.)
With the adjustments, this cake is still sweet,but not ridiculously so. Some sweetness is just the nature of an upside-down cake. The flip-it-over-while-it's-still-really-hot concept wouldn't work without that gooey glaze permeating the top/bottom of the cake. In any case, if you want a concentrated sweetness infusion, an upside-down cake is definitely the ticket.
6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (divided use)
1/4 honey (I used clover honey.)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 and 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Scant 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Scant 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, large
2 tsp. peach schnapps (optional)
seeds of half a vanilla bean (or, 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 medium size nectarines, pitted and thinly sliced in crescents (about 1/4" thick)
Approximately 16 fresh sweet cherries, pitted
For the honey whipped cream: (Note: The original recipe suggested adding a little plain yogurt into this mixture. I didn't try that, but thought I'd mention it in case you'd like to give it a whirl!)
1 cup heavy cream, very cold
2 tsp. honey (Or use up to 2 Tbsp. if you want really sweet whipped cream.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in middle of oven. Liberally butter the bottom and sides of a 9" round cake pan. (After buttering, I took the extra step of lightly spraying the pan with vegetable oil spray; as far as I'm concerned, one can't be too careful where inverted cakes are concerned.)
In a medium size sauce pan, melt 2 Tbsp. of the unsalted butter. Add into that the brown sugar and the honey. Cook on medium high heat until the mixture begins to boil; stirring often, let boil for about 2 minutes or until the mixture begins to darken just a bit.
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour all of it into the buttered pan. Set the pan aside; the syrup will harden in the pan while you're preparing the rest of the cake.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and kosher salt. In the bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium high speed, combine the remaining butter and the granulated sugar until it looks somewhat fluffy. Beat the egg into this on medium speed, along with the vanilla been seeds, and the peach schnapps.
Pour in half the flour mixture on medium speed just until well blended; blend in all of the yogurt. Add in the remaining flour on low speed, just until blended.
Arrange the nectarine slices (you may not need to use them all) in a spiral design around the edge of the cake pan, over the hardened syrup. Arrange the cherries similarly in the middle of the nectarine spiral. Using a spoon, gently dollop the soft batter over the fruit, being wary not to disrupt the design. Smooth the top of the batter carefully to completely cover all of the fruit.
Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and the sides begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Let the finished cake cool for only 5 minutes after removing it from the oven. At that point, have your serving platter ready and place it snuggly over the top of the cake.
Quickly invert the hot cake pan onto the platter and delicately lift the hot pan off. If all goes well, you'll be faced with a lovely fruit design atop a glistening cake. Let the cake cool before slicing.
To make the honey whipped cream:
Whip the cream in your mixer on medium speed in a chilled bowl. Drizzle the honey in and whip until the cream forms soft peaks. Add more honey to taste, if you'd prefer the whipped cream to be sweeter. Keep refrigerated and serve over individual slices of the cake.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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Visit the PBS site to reminisce about 2013's best food trends. They've assembled an entertaining look at what we foodies focused on--what we ate, cooked, read, watched, and blogged about--throughout the year. Click here!
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Timeson the resurgence in demand for the skills of professional pastry chefs. (It seems we still need them after all . . .but you and I have always known that, haven't we?)
The IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) announced winners of its 2013 IACP Food Writing Awards. Have a look at the list. (No surprise that the gorgeous Bouchon Bakery cookbook won for photography and styling; took about a dream of a book! It's gorgeous.)
Food journalist and cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang, writing for Publisher's Weekly, shared her thoughts in the article "10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know." Chang clarifies, in a nutshell, what differentiates a great cookbook from an awful dud. I found myself nodding in agreement with every point she made.
An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
. . . made with Grand Marnier, sweet black cherries, pomegranate juice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Dutch apple cake . . .
. . . it's divine!
What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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