When Erlend heads back to New York, I usually spend the following day spiraling into a pattern of vaguely self-destructive/self-loathing behavior.
The first time, I spontaneously decided to run up Twin Peaks, ignoring the fact that I hadn’t gone on a run in around a year. I threw up at the top.
The second time, I spent an embarrassing amount of time google-imaging Blake Lively’s hair. I flirted with the idea of getting extensions for several, several hours.
The third time, I listened to this song so many times on repeat that my neighbors across the way actually asked me to, well, stop it.
So I figured this time, I would channel that nervous energy into something (slightly) more productive.
Like baking this strawberry upside down cornmeal shortcake.
Although strawberries are allegedly in season year round in California, they only really come into their peak around now. When baked in this cake, the strawberries take on a bold, deep sweetness that pairs wonderfully with the slightly gritty texture of the buttery cake. The use of cornmeal in the cake base gives the cake a wonderfully gritty and rich texture similar to cornbread that I love, love, love.
And of course, some of that energy also went into figuring out how to code this post upside down. Because get it? It’s a literal upside down cake!
Some baker’s notes:
- Be sure to use a 9-inch cake pan with tall sides (by that I mean, at least 3-inches!). The batter rises up into a cake that just about fits the pan, coming up all the way to the rim.
- Cornmeal comes in different textures and sizes — you can buy fine-ground cormeal, and thicker, coarser polenta. In this recipe, you need to use the fine-ground stuff. Using polenta will lead to a thick, gritty cake which you really don’t want.
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 cup (9.5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and separated into 3 tablespoons and 1 cup portion
- 2/3 cup (5 ounces) dark brown sugar, tightly packed
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- zest from 1 medium lemon
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1 cup (5 ounces) fine-ground cornmeal
- 1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (2.65 ounces) sour cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F).
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and lemon zest stirring until the sugar melts. Scrape the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake pan, swirling the pan so that the mixture spreads across the cake pan bottom and up its sides. Place the sliced, flat side of the strawberries on the bottom of the pan on top of the mixture. Here’s a pro tip — try and cover as much of the bottom of the pan as you can with strawberries for a more attractive cake!
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup fine-ground cornmeal, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1 cup unsalted butter and 1 cup granulated sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. When the mixture has doubled in size, reduce the mixer speed and add 4 large eggs, one at a time, only adding the next egg when the one before it is fully incorporated. Once all the eggs have been incorporated, beat in 1/3 cup sour cream and 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract until just incorporated.
- Sprinkle the dry ingredients (from the 3rd step) over the mixture and use a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients into the wet ingredients by hand — do not overmix! Just continue mixing until the dry ingredients have just incorporated into the batter.
- Scrape the batter into the cake pan over the strawberry slices. Transfer to the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, around 40 to 50 minutes. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, before running a butter knife or an offset spatula along the cake’s edges to loosen it from the pan. Invert the cake onto a platter, and allow to cool completely before serving.