pear upside-down cake; fall has arrived

with the kids out of the house, darry and i frequently do our grocery shopping at trader joe’s.  now that it is just the two of us, we can shop for the foods we prefer without having to worry about the kids not liking the dishes we cook.  a recent trip to the store had me stocking up on fall favorites.  a bag of pears made the trip home with me.  ripe, juicy pears are a favorite of mine.  unfortunately, i forgot about them and when i went to grab one, i saw that i had 4 very ripe pears.  knowing that i would not be able to eat them all, i decided to bake a cake and share it with my fellow garden volunteers.

upside down cakes are a favorite of mine.  this recipe actually appears in my second cookbook, desserts from the famous loveless cafe.  however, i used peaches in the book.  guess what, pears will work just as nicely, so will apples!  honestly, i am thinking that plums as well as pecan or walnut halves would also work nicely.  the most unusual fact about this cake, it is a whipped cream cake.  that means rather than use soft butter, you actually whip heavy cream with sugar to soft peaks.  eggs and vanilla are added to this and finally, self rising flour is sifted over the cake and folded in.  so simple, so tasty.  for those of you not in the south, you can make this with cake flour if you cannot find traditional self rising flour.  just use an equal portion of cake flour and add 1 tablespoon of baking powder and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

to make the cake, follow this link to the cafe’s website.  the full recipe is posted and available to you.  believe it or not, i followed the recipe making only one small change.  for the caramel that is cooked in the skillet, i used light brown sugar rather than the granulated sugar called for. my decision was based on the thought that brown sugar would add a little more flavor and it did.

pear upside down cake; tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia

for this weeks baking with julia challenge, we turn to our hosts, marlise of the double trouble kitchen and susan of the little french bakery .  summer may be quickly coming to a close but the nectarines called for in this recipe are still easy to find in grocery stores and farmers markets making this a great dessert for any picnic or barbecue.  unless of course you have just spent the last month making all things peach in honor of national peach month.  and before you go on about the differences between peaches and nectarines, be honest, once incorporated into a cake like this, who will actually be able to tell the difference?  not my husband and as far as he is concerned, a cooked peach is not one that he will eat.  that said, i grabbed a large, ripe bartlett pear and got to work.  knowing that we wouldn’t eat a tall 10″ cake by ourselves, i cut the recipe in half and used an 8″ cake pan.  even though it was only 2″ tall, the batter filled the pan completely and did not run out onto the tray while baking.

 one difference between most upside down cakes and this one is the choice of cake.  most recipes call for a rich but simple butter cake while this recipe utilizes a lighter chiffon cake.  the other difference, a crunchy streusel that is baked until golden before being layered into the cake.  the recipe called for almonds and the need to toast them before adding them to the streusel.  feeling a bit lazy, i grabbed my bag of dry roasted pistachios and omitted that step.

 butter melted in the bottom of a cake pan, dark brown sugar patted down in an even layer and pear slices arranged over the soon to be caramel layer.  the bottom of the pan now but it will be the top of the cake after baking so it is important to make it look pretty.  try to keep the center of the pear on the inside so that the top of the cake looks nicer.

 prebaking the streusel made it seem like a layer of granola so i am now wondering if you might not just skip that step and sprinkle a good granola into the cake-surely that could work.

listen to the warning to serve the cake immediately, it really does not hold up well for more than a day.  the moisture in the fruit makes the cake gummy and gives it an unpleasant texture.

thanks to marlise and susan.  buy the book and bake with julia!

mr. kenmore’s last stand; fresh fig upside down cake

my husband robbed the bees of some honey.  we have had bees in our front yard for 3 years now and this is the first time that we were able to harvest honey.  my mother never kept much in the house when i was growing up so most of my experiences with honey were the stuff from the supermarket-you know, the little bear shaped squeeze bottles.  ask a bee keeper about that stuff and they will scoff at the idea of using it.  first of all, it most likely isn’t pure honey-quite possibly it is flavored syrup mixed with honey. another concern is that the honey is processed to remove the pollen and bee parts-yes, bees can die during the harvest.  lastly, most of mass marketed honey is made from blends from all over the world and much of the flavor is lost in the process.  
several years ago, while writing my second cookbook, i had a honey epiphany.  i had the chance to taste pure wild flower honey that was produced by bees being kept by a group of menonite farmers.  knowing that these folks didn’t use many of the practices of the big commercial producers, it was an eye opening experience.  i didn’t know honey could taste that good; better than good, more like uh-may-zing!!!  that was it, no more little bears for me, just local wild flower honey from a reputable bee keeper.  
about that time, my husband and i became master gardeners and he caught the bee buzz.  we took classes, we studied, we asked questions and then we dove in feet first…honestly, the girls(what we call the bees) do the work, we just barge in on them every now and then to make sure all is well.  

 after borrowing an extractor-a hand cranked centrifuge, my husband got to work.  it didn’t go smoothly and the comb was destroyed in the process, but he learned all about the process and will do it again soon.  his efforts yielded nearly 2 quarts of honey.

 i love the way it glows when the sunlight shines through it.  knowing that i needed to make a cake for my trip to the garden, i chose to make an upside down cake just so i could include some of that honey.

 in my favorite cast iron skillet, i melted butter, sugar, brown sugar and honey.

 it is allowed to melt and then boiled a bit to thicken.  

 since this would be the last cake i could bake in my old faithful oven, mr. kenmore, i decided to go all out.  not only did i use honey from our bees, i picked figs from our tree.  for mr. kenmore’s last stand, he would bake a fig upside down cake.  the figs are cut in half and laid cut side down in the syrup.

 after baking, the cake is allowed to set for a few minutes and then it is turned out onto a serving dish.

fresh fig upside down cake
1 (10″) skillet cake that serves 8-10
adapted from my own book!
fresh figs-amount needed will depend on size, the ones from our tree are small and it took about two dozen to decorate the top and have the amount needed for the cake batter-1/3 cup, cut into chunks.  
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (or 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar as in the photo above-i ran out of light…)
1/4 cup pure wildflower honey
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 1/3 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
place an empty baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven to catch drips and preheat the oven to 350.  place a cast iron skillet over low heat and melt 4 tablespoons of the butter with the brown sugar and honey.  stir to combine and when it is melted, raise the heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil.  allow it to boil, stirring continuously, until it thickens a little-about 2 minutes.  remove from the heat.
place the halved figs, cut side down, in the syrup in a random pattern that covers as much as the top as possible.  make sure there aren’t many large spaces between the figs or there will be large gaps in the design when the cake is unmolded.
to mix the cake batter, cream the remaining butter with the granulated sugar, vanilla and salt.  when it is light and fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time and be sure to scrape the bowl well.  sift the cake flour and baking powder over the batter, sprinkle the buttermilk on top and fold a few times.  add the chopped figs and fold completely.  dollop the batter over the prepared pan gently so that you do not disturb the pattern.  carefully smooth out the batter and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  allow the cake to stand for 5-10 minutes and carefully turn it out onto a serving dish.  
note that if you do not have a cast iron skillet, you can use any oven proof dish or pan, including standard cake pans, to make this cake.  just be sure to use one that is at least 9″ in diameter and no larger than 10″.  my cast iron skillet is 8″ in diameter on the bottom and flairs out to 10″ at the top.  if you use anything other than cast iron, be sure to keep a close eye on the cake, thinner and lighter metal pans, as well as glass and ceramic,  may bake faster.
and now, everybody join me in a moment of silence to mark poor mr. kenmore’s passing.  may he rest in pieces…

maple-walnut upside down persimmon cake

on a recent trip out to the garden, this cake accompanied me and was shared among my fellow gardeners.  it is a simple cake that can be made with sweet potato or pumpkin puree if you do not have access to persimmons.  for those of you that have persimmon trees in your yards, be sure to wait until that first frost of fall to gather the fruits.  then after washing them, run them through a food mill to extract the seeds and freeze the puree in sandwich sized zipper bags to make it easy to use in recipes.

the maple syrup is heated with the butter and brown sugar.  when the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, allow it to boil a bit and then pour it into a greased cake pan.

top the glaze mixture with the walnuts, try not to go all the way to the edge of the pan to keep the nuts on the top of the cake-i didn’t do a very good job of that!

persimmon puree looks a lot like sweet potatoes or pumpkin and if you can’t find persimmons, both make a suitable substitute.

using the typical creaming method, this batter mixes up quickly.  after creaming the butter and sugar, the eggs are added.  once the eggs are in, sift the dry ingredients over the batter.  fold it a few times and then sprinkle the buttermilk all over the top and fold it completely until no streaks remain:

so easy!!!

the tough part-spreading the batter over the nuts without moving them.  be sure to allow the cake to sit for about 5-10 minutes before turning it out otherwise, the glaze and the nuts will not coat the top of the cake evenly.

maple-walnut upside down persimmon cake
1 (8″) cake serving 6-8
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup-preferably grade b
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
preheat the oven to 350.  grease an 8″ cake pan and set it aside.  place the butter in a small sauté pan over low heat and melt.  add the maple syrup, light brown sugar and the cinnamon and stir until the brown sugar is dissolved.  raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil.  allow the mixture to boil for a minute and then pour into the prepared cake pan
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/3 cup persimmon puree
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
in a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar with the vanilla and salt.  when light and fluffy, add the egg and combine completely.  add the persimmon puree and mix in making sure to scrape the bowl well as you go.  sift the flour and baking powder over the batter and fold it in a few times.  sprinkle the buttermilk over the batter and fold it together until smooth.  spread it evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan.  bake until a tester inserted comes out clean,  about 35-40 minutes.  cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then place a serving dish that is larger than the cake pan over the top and invert the cake onto the plate-this will catch any drips.  allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.  and for the particularly evil-serve it with some ice cream!  buttermilk ice cream comes to mind…
bake on friends and may the force be with you.

this one’s just for me

if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you have heard me mention my flood damaged home. we were finally able to secure the financing to make the needed repairs and have begun to do just that. today, i had the pleasure of spending my day off at home while a crew worked on reinforcing the block walls of the basement. after turning my basement into a maze of plastic wrapped pathways, they began working. as i write this, i am still listening to a symphony of hammering, grinding and garbled spanish…
since i knew that the crew would be here all day, i did all of my laundry and chores yesterday so i could have some time to play in the kitchen today and play i did. this is not a recipe from the book but i did use one and rework it to come up with something new. who knows, maybe i will put it in the next book-stay tuned!
i love fresh apples; crunchy, sweet and juicy, i take one with me to the gym and munch on it as i drive home. every now and then, i like to make a cake with them. today, i grabbed two from the fridge, in front a golden delicious apple-green is the way i like them, and in the rear is a cripps pink or a pink lady-another great apple to snack on.
i decided to make an upside down cake with apples in the caramel and pumpkin puree in the cake:

butter, brown sugar, honey and cinnamon were boiled a bit

the caramel syrup was poured into the bottom of a tube pan

the pink lady was peeled and sliced and then carefully layered into the caramel, i ate the golden delicious-i couldn’t help myself…

pumpkin puree, brown sugar, oil, vanilla and salt were whisked until smooth. some eggs were then whisked in too. the dry ingredients were sifted over the bowl.
man, i need a bigger work space. controlled chaos-i know where everything is…
all folded together with a little buttermilk and it is ready to go into the pan.
carefully pour it over the apples or they will move around and ruin the pattern.
baked and now it sits to let the caramel settle. then it is turned out.
pretty cake with caramel and apple slices over the top, mmmmmm……

and today’s clues are…

our neighbors know better than to ask. they just quietly watch and wonder until we realize that we have an audience and begin explaining ourselves. one fall day, we discovered that our persimmon tree had a load of ripe fruit on it. there were lots of them on the ground but we could see all of the little fruits hanging on the branches and we wanted them…onto the ground went a large sheet and out of the tool box came a mallet. darry began hammering the trunk of the tree and as the fruit fell onto the sheet, i collected it in a bucket. it was a strange sight. i will admit if i was the one watching, i would wonder what was going on. but it wasn’t me watching, it was my neighbor and he was rather concerned. it seems that he thought darry was using that mallet on me, on my head specifically. from his vantage point it looked that way and when he came over to check on me, we all had a good laugh.
a southern baking book would not be complete without at least one good recipe for a persimmon dessert. since pie and pudding seemed so obvious, i decided to combine it with a few of my favorite things; caramel, pecans and warm cake.
warm caramel glaze with a generous helping of pecan pieces will form the glaze and the top the cake as it is unmolded.
since my supply of persimmon puree was a little thin, i decided to test recipes with sweet potatoes and only use the persimmon puree for the final test. the top is sweet potato and the bottom is persimmon puree.
josie was thoroughly unimpressed with the whole thing and she wasn’t too crazy about today’s musical selections either.

twitch was taking notes for me

the finished cake, warm from the oven and unmolded onto a large plate

a little kitty porn…ginger loves to roll over and show her belly

upside down

Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
oh the golden age of disco…sing it diana, sing it!!! in the mean time, i’m baking pineapple upside down cakes. two rounds today and i am pleased with the results. while not a difficult cake to make, it does take some organization. if you let the syrup get cold in the skillet, it takes longer to bake the cake and the result is a syrup that can burn and a cake that can be dry.
once again i am forcing you to drag that old skillet out of the cupboard. cook the syrup until it boils.
arrange the pineapple slices over the syrup in a neat pattern so that it looks pretty when you turn it out of the pan
carefully spread the cake over the pineapple slices and syrup. do this gently or you will rearrange the pattern.
place an empty pan under the skillet in the oven to catch any syrup that boils up and over the sides of the skillet
pretty caramelized pineapple slices over a tender cake, warm and gooey from the oven.
Upside down You’re turnin’ me…