Friday, July 29, 2011

Let Me Eat Cake!

After two weeks of focus on ice cream, out thoughts have turned naturally to cake...

Cherry Upside Down Cake

I love cake.  The denser, butterier, sweeter and richer the better.  And this upside down cake fits all of these descriptions, especially when topped with mascarpone whipped cream.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'm kind of a "toss all the ingredients in the mixing bowl and blend" kind of baker, but this cake requires some finesse and three mixing bowls to be precise.  The fact that I dirty three bowls is testament to the yumminess of this cake, for I do not take messing up the kitchen lightly.

I am the designated baker of my extended family, and this cake is always requested for holidays.  It's standard fare on July 4 starring sour cherries, but it also makes a Christmas appearance featuring (out of season and very expensive) raspberries.

I found this recipe in Mom's Big Book of Baking by Lauren Chattman,  which has become my baking Bible.  Chattman was a pastry chef in her former life, so she knows how to spin sugar and mold fondant.  But after having children, she reassessed her priorities in the kitchen and developed these simpler but equally tasty recipes.  If you are at all inclined to bake but are not at all inclined to fuss, this is the book for you.  The recipe below is probably the most complicated in the entire book, and it's infinitely doable.

Cherry Upside Down Cake

For fruit topping:

2 cups fruit of your choice.   My fave is sour cherries, but I have also made this cake with blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches, and all have been very yummy.  Pitting the cherries is kind of the pits, but the cake is amazing.
6 TBSP butter
1/2 cup sugar (you may have to adjust this depending on the sweetness of the fruit you choose; for sour cherries use more, for peaches, use less)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For cake:
Nonstick cooking spray
Parchment paper
1 1/3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk

Heat oven to 350.

Prepare the pan: Spray bottom and sides of  a 9 inch round pan, then line pan with parchment (bottom and sides; the sides will ripple a bit, that's ok. Spray parchment and set aside.

Make the fruit topping:  In skillet, melt butter on medium heat; add sugar, fruit and cinnamon.  cook, stirring frequently, til juices release and sugar melts.  When fruit is softened, 4-5 mins, remove it with a slotted spoon and place fruit in prepared cake pan on the parchmentleaving syrup in skillet.  Boil syrup 3-4 more minutes til it is reduced and concentrated a bit.  Pour syrup on fruit and set aside.

Make the batter:  Combine flour, baking powder, cornmeal and salt in small bowl.   Set aside.

Place egg whites in large mixing bowl and beat with whisk attachment on high until stiff peaks form.  Do not get any yolk in the whites or they won't hold their shape.

Combine butter and sugar in another large mixing bowl and cream together on medium high until fluffy.  Add yolks and vanilla; blend completely.  Continue to beat on medium, and slowly add flour mixture, alternating with the milk until batter is smooth.  Then slowly add the whites, folding gently, and mix until all white streaks have disappeared.

Pour the batter into the pan on top of the fruit mixture and smooth the top.  (Fruit syrup will ooze over the top, that's fine.)  Bake 50 mins til cake is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely, then unmold on platter and peel off the parchment.  Top with whipped mascarpone cream, or plain whipped cream.

Bask in adoration and awe.

Speaking of cake, we'd be remiss if we did not address the source of this post's title...."Let them eat cake!"  (or in the original French, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!"

Poor Marie Antoinette has gone down in history as having uttered this heartless and cruel phrase upon learning that the peasants had no bread.  But the attribution is considered inaccurate both from a chronological and a linguistic standpoint. The line was initially written by Jean Jacques Rousseau quoting "a great princess" in 1766 in his autobiography Confessions.  But  in 1766,  Marie Antoinette was only 10 years old, and not anywhere near serving as the queen consort of France during the dark days preceding the Revolution. And the original quote refers to 'brioche', which is, essentially, bread, not cake.

Look for more on cake in the coming weeks....Regardless of who said it first, we repeat:  Let them eat cake!

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Mmmmmmmm! Sounds amazing.