Friday, November 4, 2011

Blood Orange Polenta Upside-down Cake


It has been a (relatively) long time since I last baked a cake. Baking is one of those things that you need to be in the right mood for. It's not just a matter of following the recipe, but you also need to put in a lot of love into what you're baking. And no distractions! I've been holding on to this recipe for a while now. I actually bought some blood oranges a few weeks ago with the intention of making a blood orange chocolate tart, but I just didn't have any craving for a dark rich chocolate dessert. And then, the recipe for this polenta cake came along, and I finally made it today. What a slice of heaven! The cake is tender and moist, and the polenta gives it just a slight grittiness that complements the chewy but juicy candied blood orange slices. The oranges lose most of their tartness in the caramelization process and takes on a bittersweet tang, without being cloyingly sweet. This cake is absolutely fabulous either eaten on its own, or served with creme fraiche or whipped cream.

The recipe, which comes from Bon Appetit, calls for the cake to be cooked in a skillet. The skillet I had was too small, and so I used a cake pan instead. It just meant that I had one thing more to wash up as I had to make the caramel separately on the stove. Speaking of caramel, I think my sugar wasn't caramelised enough, and so, the orange topping on the cake didn't turn out as brown as it should be. On the other hand, it took on a lovely vibrant crimson colour, with pretty layers of candied orange slices that glistened from the sticky caramel coating.

Blood oranges in Australia are in season in early spring from August to early September (wow, did I buy my oranges that long ago?). However, if you're in the United States, you will get to enjoy them very soon as they are in season some time between December and May, depending on which part of the country you're in. So, if you chance upon blood oranges at the fruit market, grab a few and have a go at this recipe. It makes a delightful teatime treat, and why not have some for dessert as well? Here is the recipe below.

Blood Orange Polenta Upside-down Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit

7 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus 3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
3 unpeeled small to medium blood oranges
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
6 tablespoons whole milk

Whipped crème fraîche to serve:
1 cup chilled crème fraîche
2 tablespoons sugar


Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 180°C/350°F. Combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons water in 10-inch-diameter ovenproof skillet with 8-inch-diameter bottom and 2 1/2-inch-high sides.Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber (not dark amber), occasionally brushing down sides of skillet with wet pastry brush and swirling skillet, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and whisk 2 tablespoons butter into caramel. Set aside.

Cut off both rounded ends of each orange so that ends are even and flat. Using sharp knife, cut oranges very thinly into 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Remove and discard any seeds. Arrange orange slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles atop caramel in bottom of skillet. (Note: You can also use a greased round cake tin instead)

Whisk flour, polenta, baking powder, and coarse kosher salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup sugar, remaining 6 tablespoons room-temperature butter, and vanilla in another medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating batter just until incorporated.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions. Drop batter by large spoonfuls atop orange slices in skillet, then spread evenly.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Cool cake in skillet 10 minutes. Run small knife around cake to loosen. Place platter atop skillet. Using oven mitts, hold platter and skillet firmly together and invert, allowing cake to settle onto platter. Rearrange any orange slices that may have become dislodged. Cool cake completely at room temperature. Cut cake into wedges and serve with dollop of whipped crème fraîche (or  plain whipped cream if you like). Enjoy!

To make the whipped crème fraîche:
Using electric mixer, beat chilled crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl until thickened.


Cooking Gallery said...

This cake looks so breathtakingly gorgeous! I wish I could have a slice because it looks no doubt very delicious too!

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

Wow, this cake must be very good, sound so refreshing too.

Fern @ To Food With Love said...

@Cooking Gallery: Thanks!
@Sonia: Yes, and it's not too sweet either :)

amna said...

i am going to try this by substituting blood oranges with pineapple. will keep you posted :)

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Beautiful cake. I love blood oranges (although it's kind of expensive here)...

Fern @ To Food With Love said...

Really? Wait until they're in full season then...