Well folks, I’m back to baking (and blogging) again. I’d put it off in hopes that my hips might shrink a bit. But I missed my KitchenAid mixer too dang much to stay away from the sweet stuff. Since it’s summer time, I’m finding myself using a lot of fruit. Everything so fresh and ripe and wonderful it’s hard not to want to incorporate it into every dish that makes its way out of my kitchen.
This cake comes from Bon Appetit and (remarkably) isn’t that difficult or labor intensive. The addition of cornmeal gives this cake a kind of “down home” feel. It would make a fantastic dessert for your next backyard BBQ. (In fact, now that I think of it, this would make a great substitute for that yummy, though often over-used, Strawberry Shortcake. ) But don’t worry…this isn’t cornbread-ish at all. It’s just…different. Definitely not your regular vanilla cake. The balsamic vinegar in the cherries lends a more complex air to the simple base. It lingers on the tongue every so subtly, enhancing the flavor of the cherries rather than overpowering it.
Cherry Cornmeal Upside Down Cake
From Bon Appetit
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.
*Because I am a big lazy and I have more interesting things I like to do on a Saturday (like beating the pants off of my friends at online quiz games!), I used frozen pitted cherries. They worked just fine for me.
**And since I used the aforementioned frozen cherries, I ended up with a lot more juice than I should have in my pan. So I let it boil down for a while. Turns out this was a mistake because the cake was missing a good amount of the sauce that BA shows in their photos of it. :o( Moral of the story: embrace the juice!