Last fall, I was taking a class at the Institute of Culinary Education called “Fall Desserts.” It was taught by my favorite chef instructor Melanie Underwood. The class included, among many other seasonal treats, a cranberry upside cake. Now the only upside cake I’d ever heard of was a pineapple upside cake but apparently they can be and are made with all kinds of fruits. By now, if you regularly read this blog, you must be tried of hearing, or in this case reading, the words “I never heard of…” Yes, I am starting to think I live under a rock too. Because Google cranberry upside down cake and you will find that everyone and their mother makes one. Go know.
However, Chef Melanie’s is unique because in addition to flour, she uses cornmeal and some lemon zest for flavoring. Which as far as I am concerned is pure brilliance. The tartness of the cranberries balances the caramel sweetness of brown sugar and butter. That topping seeps into a lemony cake which is made more complex by the cornmeal.
So common or not, I’ve never seen one in a holiday photo and honestly, I have no idea why. How beautiful would that look on your Holiday table? Show-stopping!
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2¼ cups (8 ounces) fresh cranberries
- 1¼ cups flour mix C or D
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (approx. 2 lemons)
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium saucepan, place the butter and brown sugar. Whisk constantly until the sugar has melted. Tip: The sugar has melted after you see a roiling boil and the mixtures darkens.
- Remove from heat and pour the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with at least 2-inch high sides.
- Place the cranberries in a single layer on top of the sugar mixture. Set aside.
- Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the the flour mix, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs for two minutes on medium speed. Then add the sugar and whip until light and very thick (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the bowl.
- Add the melted butter and beat until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the bowl.
- Add the vanilla extract. Beat until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the bowl.
- Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour mixture. Beat until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the bowl. Note: You have to be careful not to "over" mix when using wheat flour. If you activate too much gluten, your cake will be tough. However, over mixing is not an issue when you use gluten-free flours. There is no gluten to over activate!
- Using a large spoon, dollop the cake batter on top of the cranberries. Gently spread smooth with an offset spatula or butter knife.
- Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until it is well risen and the cake has come away from the sides or the pan. If you press the cake lightly with your finger, it should spring back.
- Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and unmold onto a serving platter. Serve with whipped cream.
Chef Melanie Underwood’s latest cookbook is Making Artisan Cheesecake: Expert Techniques for Classic and Creative Recipes. In addition to great recipes, it includes amazing tips and techniques. For example, making cheesecakes with a push pan instead of a springform.
For more information please visit www.Melanieunderwood.com
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