Guys, I have a confession. I don’t actually like blood oranges that much. The first time I had a blood orange, I literally spat it out and said something along the lines of how it tasted like rotting orange. So much for having a refined palette, right?
But when my friend sent me a link to this New York Times recipe, I didn’t immediately discount it. As a matter of fact, I was actually intrigued. I’m trying to cook more seasonally, and there’s nothing in season during the winter except citrus, citrus, and more citrus. Specifically, blood oranges seem to be everywhere at the fancy-pants grocery stores in Portland. They've been handing out gorgeous blood-red orange slices as samples, and they’re so beautiful that they’re hard to ignore.
Besides, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the key lime pie I made a few weeks ago. Although I’ve never been a fan of key lime pie (I made it on behalf of a coworker’s request), I loved the Martha Stewart/Miette recipe I used and ate nearly half of it in one sitting. Maybe this blood orange upside down cake would prove to be the same?
Yes, yes it did.
The cake primarily uses cornmeal as its base. I’ve only ever had cornmeal in the context of savory baked goods like pizza and bread, but I was surprised at how well its coarse texture worked in this cake. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the cake is topped with a layer of caramel sugar — the cornmeal did a wonderful job of balancing out the sweetness and stickiness of the cake, as well as holding its own flavor against that of the caramel/oranges. As for the blood oranges themselves, they baked wonderfully and lost that weird rotting orange flavor I claimed they had when they were fresh.
With this cake, I’m trying to branch out of my comfort zone some more. I worry that I spend too much time making chocolate desserts. Looking at my blog posts from this month alone, 3 out of the 6 recipes I’ve posted feature chocolate as a major ingredient! Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate, but believe me, it’s starting to show. Maybe fruit-based desserts will be kinder on my body? Hahahh. Wishful thinking, right?
Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
(Adapted from the New York Times)
For the Blood Orange Upside Down Cake:
(makes one 9-inch pan)
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 sticks unsalted butter, separated at room temperature
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 large blood oranges
- 1 cup fine-ground cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Blood Orange Upside Down Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter and spray with cooking spray.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add 2/3 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice, stirring until the sugar melts (about 2-3 minutes). Scrape the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake pan.
- Grate 1/2 teaspoon zest from one of the oranges, then slice off the tops and bottoms of 2 blood oranges. Peel the oranges so that the rind and pith no longer remain. Slice each orange crosswise into 1/4-inch thick wheels, discarding any seeds. Arrange orange wheels on top of the brown sugar mixture in a single, tight layer.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 teaspoon orange zest, 1 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together 2 sticks unsalted butter with 1 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On a low speed, beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, only adding an egg after the previous egg has been fully incorporated. Once all the eggs have been incorporated, beat in 1/3 cup sour cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla until just incorporated
- Sprinkle in the mixture of dry ingredients (from the fourth step) over the mixture of wet ingredients (from the fifth step) and use a rubber spatula to fold the dry mixture into the wet ingredients by hand. DO NOT OVERMIX.
- Scrape the batter into the cakepan over the orange slices in the cake pan. Transfer to the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a tooth pick inserted in the center emerges clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife along pan's edges to loosen it and invert onto a platter. Cool completely before serving.