orange thyme upside down cake

When I started this blog a few years ago, I had no idea that I'd become part of this crazy community of folks all across the world, all brought together by one thing: a love of all things related to food. And this love has bled into my offline life in weird and wonderful ways. To wit — last summer, a fellow blogger and myself doggedly spent hours trying to hammer cookie dough in between two wire racks to make stroopwafels (spoiler alert: our method didn't work at all). And this last weekend, I spent my Saturday night with another close blogger friend figuring out the best way to fix a $300 Le Creuset pan, getting wayyy too excited when we finally managed to do so.

In some ways, I'm lucky to have been accepted as one of them. Because in real life, I'm not exactly sure if I would have even fit in at all. I've written about this before, but the blogging community is full of the nicest, sweetest folks ever. So nice that I kinda feel like a jerk around most of them. In fact, I know I'm the asshole in the group. Despite what this blog may have you believe, I'm really not as happy and sunny as I am here in real life. In the offline world, I swear a lot. I'm short tempered and get easily pissed off by lots of little things. Like people who don't take off their backpacks on crowded public transportation systems during rush hour, or the fact that Creed didn't get nominated for a "Best Picture" Oscar.

So I try to compensate for it in other ways. On Hummingbird High, for instance, I try to be the best version of myself — optimistic and friendly, relaxed and laid back, confident yet polite. But since those attributes don't come easily to me, I find myself looking up to the bloggers who are the epitome of those qualities.

One of those bloggers is Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen. Her corner of the internet is where I want to be, always. The company is sweet, the food is beautiful, and there's a cute corgi frolicking about. Her cookbook, The Year of Cozy, embodies the very values I was talking about above. Because not only is it filled with her tasty recipes, it also offers creative DIY projects and fun tips on how to live a happy, healthy life, encouraging folks to have different adventures and make new friends.

Adrianna actually sent me her cookbook a few months back, but like I said — being the jerk I am, I could only get around to baking something from it now. And I really wish that I could've found the time much earlier, because her recipe for this orange thyme upside down cake is just perfect. Take advantage of those blood oranges, yo. 'Tis the season.

Some baker's notes:
  • Blood oranges can be bitter to begin with, but they can turn extra bitter during the baking process. If bitterness is not your jam, I recommend with going with a variety of navel oranges, clementines, and satsumas instead. Since those oranges tend to be sweeter than blood oranges, I recommend cutting down the sugar in the topping from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup instead. Make sure to peel the oranges before you even start slicing them — it makes your life a lot easier. Believe me, I learned the hard way.

  • The original recipe called for making the cake in a cast-iron skillet, but since my cast-iron skillet is fairly new, I thought it would be under-seasoned and ill-equipped for the job. So instead I used a 9-inch cake pan and found that it worked quite well. Be sure to use a 9-inch pan with high sides (at least 3-inches), and one without any patterns on the bottom (or else you'll end up with a cake like mine, whose top is faintly imprinted by my cake pan's fluted bottom). 

Orange Thyme Upside Down Cake
(adapted from The Year of Cozy)




For the Winter Citrus Topping:
(makes enough for one 9-inch cake)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick // 2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 3 sprigs thyme, stems removed and discarded
  • 1/2 cup (3.75 ounces) dark brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 medium blood oranges, peeled and cut into thin (no more than 1/2-inch thick) slices
  • 2 medium Cara Cara or navel oranges, peeled and cut into thin (no more than 1/2-inch thick) slices

For the Cake:
(makes one 9-inch cake)
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick // 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) whole milk



For the Winter Citrus Topping:
  1. Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan by spraying the bottom and sides with a light coating of cooking spray. Set aside.

  2. In a small, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter. Once the butter is just about melted, mix in the thyme, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Continue cooking just until the sugar begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch round cake pan and swirl around until the mixture spreads evenly across the bottom of the pan.

  3. Arrange the orange slices on top of the brown sugar mixture. Make sure you fully cover the bottom of the pan — this will lead to a prettier cake! Don't be scared to overlap any spaces with smaller slices here and there. Once you've used up all the orange slices, set aside and prepare the cake batter.

For the Cake:
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). 

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt until well combined. Set aside.

  3. In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until the mixture has doubled in volume and becomes light and fluffy. 

  4. Once the mixture is light and fluffy, lower the mixer speed to its slowest setting and add 2 large eggs one at a time, only adding the second egg once the first is fully incorporated. Add 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

  5. Once the vanilla extract is incorporated, keep your mixer on the lowest setting and add half the flour mixture (from the 2nd step). Once the flour is fully incorporated, add 3/4 cup whole milk. Continuing mixing for about a minute or so, just until the mixture looks like it's completely moist, then add the remaining half of the flour mixture. Mix just until the flour streaks disappear into the batter — at this point, the batter will probably look like it's curdled. But don't worry! It's supposed to look that way. It'll come together in the oven, I promise.

  6. Pour the cake batter over the citrus slices in the cake pan, using an offset spatula to spread the batter so it's nice and even across the pan. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the bottom of the cake bounces back when gently poked and a  wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

  7. Remove the cake from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Don't wait any longer than that — the cake might get stuck in the pan if you let it cool to room temperature completely! After 10 minutes, run a butter knife or an offset spatula around the edge of the cake. Place an upside down plate on top of the cake pan and flip the entire thing over to let the cake fall out onto the plate. Serve slightly warm, with a dollop of soft whipped cream and garnishes of fresh thyme.


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