Monday, November 22, 2010

Orange Cornmeal Cake and Upside Down Cake

There are several recipes floating around for orange cornmeal cake. This version is less sweet than most, and uses frozen OJ rather than fresh. After having to use 4 oranges to get 1/2 c. juice, and determining the grated rind most recipes call for is a little bitter, I moved to the frozen version. Much easier, more predictable, and I can keep the juice in the freezer so I always have it on hand.

Orange Cornmeal Cake - Variation I
This is the basic cake, with just a simple sugar crust for a frosting. Delicious after a heavy, spicy meal.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar plus 1/4 c. sugar for the topping
1/2 cup orange juice (I've had trouble with dry oranges so use 2 T. concentrated frozen orange juice diluted with water to make the 1/2 c.)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with oil (can use butter for this); line the bottom of the pan with wax paper or parchment paper, and brush the top of the paper with oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and orange juice until smooth. Add flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, whisk lightly to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan; sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to separate it from the edge of the pan. Invert the cake gently onto a plate, and remove the parchment paper. Re-invert the cake onto a rack to cool completely before serving. Do not leave it sitting on it's top, the crispy sugar topping will get soggy and stick to the plate.  Serves 8.

Variation II - Pineapple Cornmeal Upside-down Cake
This is a rather elegant version of the cake above. It's a little more work, but is so moist and flavorful it's worth the effort!

Topping Ingredients
3 T. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. dried cranberries or cherries
1/3 c. halves or pieces of pecans or walnuts
1  15 oz. can pineapple chunks - drain and save the liquid to use in the cake mixture.

Line a 10 inch cast iron skillet with release foil. Over medium flame melt
3 T. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
Continue to simmer this mixture until slightly thickened.
Stir in the drained pineapple chunks and simmer until they take on a little of the brown sugar color.
Remove from the heat. Distribute the pineapple evenly over the pan, then place the nuts and dried fruit evenly around the pan, between the pineapple pieces. Allow this mixture to cool while you mix the cake.

Follow the directions above, using the pineapple juice, reduced over a low flame if necessary, to combine with the frozen orange juice to make the required 1/2 cup.
Mix the cake following the variation I directions, then spread the batter over the mixture in the skillet.

Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake tests done when pierced with a toothpick. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then place a large plate over the pan and turn over, peel off the release foil and allow the cake to cool another 15-20 minutes or more before slicing.Top with ice cream or whipped cream if so desired.

Serves 8.

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