To finish out my celebration of the winter citrus season and my newfound love of oranges (I was previously fiercely loyal to lemons), I made this Blood Orange Polenta Upside-Down Cake.
I love fun-colored/unusual-looking fruits and veggies (that's where my heirloom tomato obsession comes from), and blood oranges are especially intriguing to me. If you can't find them, feel free to use any kind of citrus or even non-citrus fruit. I think grapefruit would be lovely too.
The cake had a coarse, cornmealy texture, of course, but I was also pleasantly surprised at how moist it was in spite of that. This is one of those baked goods that can double as breakfast and dessert (and if you're me, lunch and dinner too)... the perfect multitasker.
Please take my word on this one: don't skip the whipped crème fraîche topping! If you can't find actual crème fraîche at your grocery store and don't want to make it, use regular whipped cream. But the kick of the dairy topping, whatever you use, is the perfect textural complement to this rustic cake.
Blood Orange Polenta Upside-Down Cake with Whipped Crème Fraîche
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:
1 cup chilled crème fraîche
2 tablespoons sugar
For the cake:
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 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.
2. Cut off both rounded ends of each orange so that ends are even and flat. Using sharp knife, cut oranges 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 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.
For whipped crème fraîche:
6. Using electric mixer, beat chilled crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until mixture thickens.
Cut cake into wedges and serve with a dollop of whipped crème fraîche.