Upside-down cakes got a bad reputation it the States, and it is no wonder why, when most of the recipes for it call for “a box of yellow cake mix, canned pineapples in heavy syrup and artificially colored red maraschino cherries”…
Yet, upside-down cakes are wonderful when made properly; the sugar and butter at the bottom caramelize lightly, blending nicely with the fruit and with the cake batter on top. Add to this the fact that the cake is very easy to make, and you can’t help but wonder why on earth anyone would consider ruining this nice cake with all those horrid ingredients. So, here’s a chance to redeem the cakes’ bad reputation.
As I found beautiful rhubarb at the store, I’ve decided to use it for the fruit layer – and it turned out to be a great match. The color pops up and the tangy flavor is the perfect balance for the sweetness of the cake.
I’ve also decided to use dark brown sugar for the bottom (i.e. top), instead of the traditional white sugar. The brown sugar adds another layer of flavor and creates an interesting contrast with the pale batter. The addition of a bit of spices to the caramelized layer, added a wonderful aroma to the cake.
The result was a cake I will most likely make again, and I’m sure you will too, once you’ll try it.
* White or golden sugar, can be substituted for the dark brown sugar I’ve used here.
* If you can’t find rhubarb, red plums, or any firm, tart fruits, will work as well.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes
For the sugar layer:
1/3 stick (40 grams) soft butter
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
¼ tsp ginger powder
2 Rhubarb stems (if you can’t find Rhubarb, use tart red plums instead)
For the batter:
2/3 stick (75 grams) soft butter
¾ cup white sugar
2 L eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
2. The topping: Spread the butter for the topping on the bottom of a 9½” (24cm) deep cake pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter, avoiding about ¼” (½ cm) from the sides (this will help in releasing the cake from the pan later on). Sprinkle the spices on top. Cut the rhubarb into 1” (2 cm) pieces. Arrange in circles on top on the sugar.
3. The batter: place the butter and white sugar in a mixer bowl. Mix until combined. Add the eggs and mix again.
Add the milk and mix lightly (the mixture will first look “broken”- don’t be alarmed, it’s fine). Add the vanilla, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix to a smooth batter, scraping the sides of the bowl once.
4. Pour the batter over the topping layer, from the center and out. Don’t spread the batter all the way to the sides of the pan – this will also make it easier to release the cake from the pan.
5. Bake for 35 minutes, until the cake is golden and if you insert a toothpick at the center, it comes out clean. Take the pan out of the oven and let the cake stand for 1 minute in the pan.
6. Place a plate (the size of the pan or bigger) on top of the pan. Using oven mitts (remember, the pan is still hot!) hold both the plate and pan together, and turn the pan upside down on the plate. Place on a work surface and carefully remove the pan.
7. If there is still caramelized sugar at the bottom of the pan, scrape it gently and add to the top of the cake. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.