Some like it hot. I do, at least when it comes to the fruit that warm summer weather produces.
Stone fruit is my favorite; just the thought of cherries, peaches and nectarines, as well as apricots and plums makes me grin. And summertime’s berries are a close second; their versatility is a delicious gift, their beauty reminiscent of a Cezanne still life painting.
My grandmother made a luscious version of pineapple upside-down cake. She nested a maraschino into the center of each ring. I thought it was fancy, and so did she, even though she never garnished the sweet with the recommended whipped cream. This version uses plum slices and blueberries, a big improvement over canned fruit.
The procedure is simple. Upside-down cake requires fruit, brown sugar, honey and butter on the bottom of the pan, with a simple butter cake batter poured on top. Once baked, the cake cools for a few minutes in the pan, then is flip-flopped onto a plate or platter to put the glamorous fruit in view. Serve it warm for the very best flavor, but room temperature is good, too. A garnish of ice cream or whipped cream is essential to add a needed creaminess. A garnish of sweetened blackberries is optional (but delicious).
Plum-Blueberry Upside-Down Cake
Yield: 8 servings
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted preferred
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
4 plums, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch wedges, see cook’s notes
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, preferably unsalted, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (whole or 2 percent) milk
For serving: vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream
Cook’s notes: With some plum varieties it is very difficult to remove the pit. I think it is easiest to cut the plums into wedges is by leaving the pit intact and cautiously cutting towards the pit with a small knife; when the knife hits the pit, turn it so it is parallel with the pit to cut the base away from the pit. You end up with prettier wedges this way.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare topping: Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed, medium saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and whisk until well blended. Pour syrup into a 9-inch cake pan with 2-inch high sides, tilting pan to cover bottom evenly. Lightly press plum wedges into syrup, arranging them like spokes in a wheel, around the edge of the pan. Check to see if all the stems have been removed from the blueberries. Spread berries in the center. (If you like, the dessert can be prepared 3 hours ahead of serving to this point. Let stand at room temperature.)
3. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; stir with a whisk.
4. Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar to butter and beat until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Mix dry ingredients and milk alternatively into butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Spoon batter over topping (I think it is easiest to drop generous spoon-fulls of batter in a single layer over fruit then smooth it out with a dinner knife or metal frosting spatula – that way the fruit isn’t disturbed.)
5. Bake cake until top is golden and firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes on cooling rack. Run a small sharp knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Place platter over pan (there will be some juices that escape, so choose a plate or platter with a lip). Using oven mitts or pot holders as aid, firmly grasp pan and platter together, then turn over. Let stand 3 minutes, then gently lift pan off cake. If some of the blueberries have trouble baking the transfer, scoop them up and put them in their “place.”
Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream.
Nutrition information (per serving): 350 calories, 47 percent of calories from fat, 18 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 49 mg cholesterol, 40 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 642 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
Source: adapted from “Bon Appetit Desserts” by Barbara Fairchild (Andrews McMeel, $40)