Last Saturday we went to our friends' house for an impromptu dinner. I love those weeks when the stars align and we are all free to get together on a Saturday night. I offered to bring dessert because I had lots of fruit on hand, although I didn't have a clue what I would make. I had currants, blueberries, apricots, watermelon, and a strong incentive to clear out the refrigerator because I wanted to go berry picking the next day and needed to make space in the refrigerator. More on that later.
I found a recipe in Gourmet for apricot upside down cake that looked like the kind of recipe that I could throw together in time for dinner, and still get in a nap. Since we had the blueberries on hand I added some of those, too. They added a delicious sweetness as well as a beautiful purple color that was a lovely contrast to the orange of the apricots.
When we got to the house, our friends had set up a chocolate fountain. Have you ever seen one of those? It is basically the same concept as fondue -- warm, melted chocolate -- but instead of a pot, it streams from the top of a tower. Isn't it a treat to have dessert options? Or, even better, dessert courses?
The kids went to town on the chocolate fountain. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, but there were some chocolate faces that would have made excellent photos. We adults cut into the cake. And then some of the kids asked for cake, and some of the adults snuck a taste or two of that chocolate.
As for the cake, it was moist, tender, with a delicious sweetness from the fruit. Gabe put it on his top ten list. And at least one of the children ranked it above the chocolate fountain, which is hard to beat. Put another way, if you can get your hands on some apricots and blueberries, make this cake!
Apricot-Blueberry Upside Down Cake
Adapted from Gourmet
20 minutes preparation time
40-45 minutes baking time
Gourmet calls for a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan to make this dessert, but I used stainless steel. You just need a pan that can go safely from stove top to oven, and it needs to have sides that are at least 2 inches deep to hold the cake. There is enough butter in this recipe that the cake slipped out of my stainless steel pan just fine. The cake keeps well for a couple of days in the refrigerator, but I recommend bringing it to room temperature before serving.
For the fruit:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
10-12 small apricots, halved lengthwise and pitted
1 cup blueberries
For the cake:
1 3/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 almond extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cups buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk with 1/4 cup plain yogurt)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. After the butter has melted, sprinkle the brown sugar as evenly as possible over the butter, and let it cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the apricots cut sides down in a pattern that you like because they will become the top of the cake. Sprinkle the blueberries in the spaces between the apricots. Set the pan aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and extracts until fluffy and lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and then mix until the batter has nearly doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, and add the flour mixture and buttermilk in three alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. With each addition, mix until just combined.
Scoop the batter onto the top of the apricots and blueberries being careful not to ruin that beautiful pattern that you made out of the fruit. The batter will be thick, so distribute it as evenly as possible and then smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Don't worry about any butter that oozes through. It will bake up just fine.
Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 15 minutes. If the cake seems stuck to the sides, run a knife around the edge of it, but I found that this wasn't necessary because the cake pulled away from the side of the pan as it cooled. When the pan is cool enough to tough, put the serving plate on top of the pan. Keeping the plate firmly on top of the pan, flip it in one motion so that the plate is on the bottom. This is really a lot easier than it sounds. Just take a deep breath and go for it. Carefully lift the pan and if there is any fruit stuck to the bottom, return it to its rightful place on top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.