caramelizing fruit and baking in a cast iron skillet, to make an upside down cake is a perfect fit for radical muffin sensibilities. Pineapple is classic, of course, but the possibilities are vast. In the winter markets, citrus is reigning, so we piled perfect blood oranges, pink oranges and baby oranges still dressed in their leaves into the basket to carry home to become cake.
when we were in high school, the vending machine outside the cafeteria held shiny wrapped rolls of Daily-C. Someone from our table would buy a roll—an offering— bring it back to the table, and pass it round: “Don’t get scurvy,” we’d say, like a blessing. Spin-off humor from some horror story in history class; popping the vitamins like candy.
if it’s oranges it must be good for you—not to be confused with food group orange, comprised of the orange things like Doritos, nacho cheese and Crush—so we recommend this cake for breakfast. Mimosas or Bellinis at brunch elevate it to eleganza, yes?
five small oranges provided enough rounds for an 8-inch skillet. Slice the peel from the fruit and reserve it for something else like hot toddies or mulled wine; throw them in a bag in the freezer if not using right away. With a long serrated bread knife, slice the oranges into thin wheels.
separate 4 cold eggs and let them hang out to warm up.
melt 4 tablespoons of butter with ¾ cup of light brown sugar in a cast iron skillet and bubble away for about 3 minutes. If you have them, a few crushed cardamom seeds added now and picked out later are lovely. Allow to rest a few minutes then lay the fruit in concentric circles in the pan. Heat the oven to 350°.
the cake recipe we used called for a 10-inch skillet. We meant to pour off some of the batter as cupcakes but forgot. The utterly full pan baked up just fine, and although the cake to fruit ratio was greater, the cake is delicious and no one is complaining.
sift together 1 ½ cups of all purpose flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cream together a stick of soft butter and ½ cup white and ½ cup turbinado sugar. Beat in the egg yolks. Grate in the zest of an orange and a lime. Beat in the sifted flour along with 3 tablespoons of cornmeal and 2/3 cup of milk.
clean your beaters scrupulously, and whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold half of the egg whites into the batter then carefully fold in the other half. Pour the batter over the fruit, smooth and bake for about 45 minutes, until the cake is golden and set.
let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a plate. You want to flip it while it is still a bit warm or all that gooey, caramel fruit will stick to the pan. Boooooooo….
with a successful flip—cake self decorated with gloriously sugared fruit. Relax and enjoy.
*in nod to the new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race xoxo