Grape upside-down cake
Yield: 6 to 8 servingsPineapples and apples, peaches and other stone fruits, all work well as the garnishing layer for a rich buttery yellow cake, upside down style. But when grape season rolls around, I like to swap out the usual fruits and take advantage of the diversity of grapes on the market. Whether red, green, pink, or dark purple skinned, these fruits of the vine bake beautifully, lending their juicy and slightly crunchy personality to the delicious corn meal pound cake featured here. Served with a compote of fresh grapes, freshly squeezed orange juice and sweetened slightly with a mild honey, this cake is a great afternoon tea treat or as an ending to a fall meal of roasted chicken or duck, sauced with a rich reduction of poultry stock and herbs and partnered with root vegetables.
Here’s how to do it:
For the cake:
4 ounces (scant 1 c.) all purpose flour
2 ounces (scant 1/2 c.) yellow corn meal
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
6 ounces (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces (scant 1 c.) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. grated orange zest
4 ounces mixed color seedless grapes (I used half red and half green)
Prepare a 9 inch cake pan by greasing the bottom and sides. Line with a round of parhment paper and grease the paper. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position the cake rack halfway up from the bottom of the oven.
Sift the flour, corn meal, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, or using a food processor with the steel knife attachment, cream the butter until soft and smooth. Add the sugar gradually and continue mixing to incorporate. Add the eggs, one by one, and mix to blend in. Add the vanilla and orange zest and process just to combine. Blend the sifted dry ingredients into the mixture, mixing only until they disappear. Do not overprocess.
Distribute the grapes evenly on the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Scrape the batter into the pan, spreading carefully with a spatula to make an even layer. Rap the pan onto a surface a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the cake tests done (it will be lightly golden brown, feel puffy and spring back when lightly touched in the middle of the cake). Unmold onto a serving plate or other flat surface. Carefully peel away the parchment paper and let the cake cool.
Now make the following compote.
For the compote:
8 ounces mixed color seedless grapes, left whole if they are small to medium sized, halved if they are large
Juice of 1 large Navel orange, sieved
Mild honey to taste
Mix the ingredients together and store in the refrigerator in a covered container (the compote may be made up to a day in advance of serving the cake).
To serve: Slice the cake into 6 or 8 equal wedges and plate each one with a generous ladling of the compote on the side of the cake. Serve immediately.