In my high school I was fortunate to have a cooking teacher who showed us not only how to cook, but brought a sense of adventure into the kitchen. We explored not only stovetop and oven cooking, but dabbled a bit in microwave, slow-cooker, and even car engine cooking. Yes, you read that correctly - car engine.
There was a short-lived fad of cooking your meal on top of your manifold. You take a long car trip and - ta da!- you've got a hot meal ready to eat. I'm not sure exactly what happened to this brilliant idea. I suspect bumpy roads and an engine seizing up trying to ingest pot roast and new potatoes. The only time I ever tried it was to reheat a pizza at a drive-in movie and it worked well enough for that.
In class we often got to select what we wanted to cook. My kitchen partner was obsessed with the idea of making a pineapple upside-down cake. For some reason, she thought this was the height of haute cuisine. Our teacher obliged and made one. Because she used the microwave, it turned out kind of funky, but I saw the appeal of an upside-down cake. You put lovely, sweet, gooey ingredients in the pan, spoon batter over it, bake it, and to serve you turn it upside down and magically your cake is topped with a beautiful mess of syrupy goodness.
With the bounty of blueberries we're having here, I thought a light take on an upside-down cake was in order. This easy cake goes together in a jiffy and it's fun (especially for children) to watch the flipping over transformation. You can also play around with the fruit, substituting cherries, raspberries, or peaches for some or all of the blueberries. Since it bakes in the oven, no road trip is required.
Blueberry Upside-Down Cake
- adapted from Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too by Susan Purdy
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
3 Tbsp light corn syrup
1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon or orange zest
2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over, rinsed and patted dy, or frozen unsweetened whole berries, unthawed
1/3 cup canola or safflower oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup skim milk or orange or apple juice
1-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1- Preheat oven to 325 deg. F with a rack in the center of the oven.
2- Coat a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet or 10-inch deep Pyrex pie plate with cooking spray. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice. Stir, then place the pan over medium heat for about 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon to partially melt the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat. Ad the zest and blueberries, spreading them in a single layer. Set aside.
3- In a large bowl, combine the oil, granulated sugar, honey, egg whites, vanilla, and milk or juice. Whisk lightly to combine. Set a strainer over the bowl and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir and sift the dry ingredients onto the wet. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat until well blended, scraping down the bowl and beaters several times. The batter will be runny.
4- Pour the batter evenly over the blueberries in the pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake top is golden and springy to the touch. Don't forget to use a potholder when handling the skillet; it is hot!
5- Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 3 or 4 minutes, until the glaze sops bubbling. Top the pan with a large flat serving platter. Holding the plate and pan together with potholders, carefully invert. Lift off the skillet. Reposition any fruit that may have stuck to the pan.
6- (optional) Garnish with whipped cream and fresh fruit.