Cobbler? Crisp? Pie?
It was an IMPEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE!
To dessert-lovers, a good cake has no down side.
Unless, of course, it happens to be an upside-down cake. (Go directly to recipe here.)
To those of us who love making dessert — who find baking from scratch as much or more fun than eating it — the upside-down cake is a high-scorer. These small wonders of seeming disorder turned orderly start with a layer of fruit (in America, most often canned pineapple rings) in a sweet, syrupy, buttery glaze in the bottom of a heavy pan or skillet. Over this, a good simple yellow cake batter is poured.After baking, in a culinary sleight of hand, the whole shebang is reversed out, while still warm, onto a serving plate, the fruit underneath now a gloriously attractive and gooey topping.
If short on time needed for your typical layer cake (for instance, my Guinness Stout Chocolate Layer Cake is as good a chocolate layer cake as exists in this world or any other… but it is labor- and clean-up intensive) the upside-down cake is your friend.
Or it is mine. I love upside-down cakes. A touch of drama in the reversing, but basically so easy; so good. As good as many desserts that are ten times the effort.
PERFECTION PAST PINEAPPLE, AND NOT SO OLD-FASHIONED AS YOU MIGHT THINK
Most of us think of upside-down cakes as old-fashioned, but they aren’t. These recipes goes back only to the early 20th century.
No one knows for sure how and when they originated originated, but a 1924 Seattle fund-raising cookbook seems to mark their first published appearance. This was followed by a version in a 1925 Gold Medal Flour ad, another in a 1931 government pamphlet, and finally one in a 1936 Sears Roebuck catalog.
Thus, upside-down cake became a fixed star in the firmament of American home baking. For we do think of them as American, too. And they are… but only sort of.
Upside-down technique, if not cake, existed prior to this in an apocryphal French apple pie.
This pie was created in 1889 by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin, innkeeper/restaurateurs in the Loire Valley.
During the busy hunting season, Stéphanie is said to have put a pan of apples and sugar over low heat, to cook slightly. But as so often happens in a busy kitchen, she grew distracted — —and she let the skillet of apples and sugar cook a tad longer than she’d intended. Instead of merely softening the apples, the sugar had melted and caramelized, and the apples had braised in this caramel. With no time to think, (but clearly enough kitchen-smarts to know that you couldn’t go to wrong with apple slices braised in caramel syrup), Stéphanie cleverly popped a pastry crust on it, baked the whole thing, turned it out and served it.
Though the Tatin sisters are long gone, the hotel where they invented the reversed apple gateau is still extent, and trading proudly on their tarte.
Whether happy accident or intentional invention, the cake that doesn’t know which side is up is perfect for when you want a dessert that is quick, seasonal (providing you use fresh in-season fruit), but also a little special.
After four utterly insane years of politics and the near loss of American democracy, plus a pandemic, plus the first-ever second presidential impeachment trial (of a man who, in my view, never should have been elected in the first place), an upside-down cake seemed extra- appropriate. Of course, one made with peaches. Except it’s the dead of winter.
So I went with frozen peaches — Arkansas ones, from last summer, which we froze. But a bag of unsweetened frozen peaches from the market will work just as well.
Some serve these cakes with ice cream or whipped cream, but this is lily-guilding. A glass of cold milk, however, might be a welcome accompaniment, or a mug of good hot coffee.
The cake is especially delicious when still slightly warm.
IMPEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE WITH MAPLE AND SLIVERED ALMONDS
16-ounces sliced frozen peaches, preferably organic, thawed, juice reserved
1/3 cup pitted prunes, halved, or dried unsweetened cherries
cooking spray or oil
1/4 cup butter, melted
- 2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar (I use turbinado)
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or 1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
- approximately 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Drain the juice from the thawed peaches into a small saucepan. Add the dried prunes or cherrie, bring to a boil, and turn off heat, allowing dried fruit to soak in peach juice for a few minutes while you prepare the delicious goo that makes the topping.
- Spray a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with cooking spray or oil. Pour in melted butter. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, patting it down. Drizzle the maple syrup over the sugar.
- Drain the dried fruit, reserving the juice in measuring cup.
- Arrange the thawed peach slices and the soaked dried fruit in an attractive concentric pattern in the brown-sugar-butter-maple goo in the bottom of the skillet, bearing in mind that, when reversed, this will be the top of the cake. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
- Place butter, and sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in egg and extract.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Back at the measuring cup into which you drained the peach juice, add enough buttermilk to equal 1/2 cup liquid total. Add flour mixture and buttermilk-peach liquid alternately to butter mixture, beating at low speed or by hand until just combined.
- Spoon batter on top of the fruit. There should be barely enough to cover the fruit. Sprinkle the cake with the optional almonds (which will be on the bottom of the cake once it is reverse.
- Bake 45 minutes, until top is golden brown and the sides are bubbly.
- Remove from oven, cool 5 minutes, and invert onto a serving plate. Makes 8 servings; 6 if you want more generous slices (and you might).
This post is part of Crescent Dragonwagon’s Deep Feast: Writing the World through Food series, in which she explores how we feed our hungers, what we feed them with, and why. These more-or-less once a month posts include a recipe (you can also skip directly to the recipe if you’re in a hurry).