June 20, 2009

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

You just know it's summer when cherry season rolls around... and when you're in the middle of a 95 degree heat wave, but lets stick to food here. I bought my first bag of cherries from the grocery store just a couple of weeks ago and they were wonderful- sweet, slightly sour, firm, and just right. My second bag, however, was nowhere near the quality of the first. Of course there were a couple gems in there but as a whole they were mediocre at best. Still, I couldn't bring myself to throw them away and eating them straight from the fridge wasn't the most appealing option either.

Then! while spending some quality time with the internet (my new cable t.v.), I saw a recipe for cherry cornmeal scones. Now, I'm not really a fan of scones but this combination jogged my memory for a recipe I had seen awhile back: Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake. And lucky me, I had just bought some cornmeal the other day when I was making pizza.

This was my first time making an upside-down cake and I have to say, I'm enthralled. You see, I'm a cake person and a bread person- not a cookie person or a pie person. Don't get me wrong, I love a good apple pie but the crust doesn't get me the way it gets some people. I'm much more taken by the fluffy and airy or thick and dense texture of a good cake or quick bread than I am by the buttery crust of a pie. So what I'm trying to say is that this pairing of fruit and cake, much better than a fruitcake I might add, could just be my perfect summer dessert.

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

From Bon App├ętit
I halved the recipe and made it in a loaf pan, which worked perfectly. Perhaps it's not as pretty as a 10-inch round, but the size is much more manageable for only two people... although my boyfriend ate basically all of it within a day.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar*
3 cups whole pitted fresh Bing cherries or other dark sweet cherries (about 21 ounces whole unpitted cherries)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground medium grind)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Combine 1/4 cup butter with brown sugar and vinegar in 10- to 11-inch ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides. Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high; add cherries and bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter in large bowl. Add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry. Using rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten slightly. Fold in remaining whites in 3 additions (batter will be thick). Spoon batter over cherries in skillet, then spread evenly with offset spatula to cover cherries.

Bake cake until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in skillet on rack 5 minutes. Run spatula around edges of cake to loosen. Place large serving platter upside down atop skillet. Using pot holders or oven mitts, firmly hold platter and skillet together and invert. Leave skillet atop cake 5 minutes. Remove skillet. If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have become dislodged. Let cake cool at least 45 minutes. Cut cake into wedges and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

*I used white balsamic vinegar because it's a bit sweeter than regular balsamic, but honestly, I couldn't really taste it. If you want the taste of the vinegar to come through, I would suggest upping the measurement to at least a tablespoon.

Edited to add: I just tried Dorie Greenspan's "Dimply Plum Cake" from Baking: From My Home to Yours and I have to say it is at least 25 times better than this cake! If you don't have the book, you can see the recipe over at smittenkitchen. And if you're wondering why there's no entry on that cake over here, it's because my mom made it :) but I might crack soon...


pvtalley said...

I made this last summer, and I'll say I was altogether unimpressed. I'm glad your version was better than mine. Maybe I'll have to make it again and tweak it to inspire me. I'm glad you're still going with this, it almost makes me feel like we're cooking together!

kshen said...

your little quip about fruitcake almost made me LOL. also, this looks delicious.