Orange Upside Down Cake
Oranges are sweet and ready in the market. I must eat orange food to keep my spirits going until spring's first green is here. The top of this cake picture perfect by design. No need to cover it up with frosting. The original version of this recipe calls for blood oranges if you can find them. The polenta edges caramelize brown with orange syrup while the cake is fluffy and light inside. Just a little more cake, and then maybe spring.
Orange Upside Down Cake
1 1/4 cup sugar divided
3 tblsp water
1/2 cup butter (one stick) room temperature, divided
1 scant cup of flour
3 tblsp polenta
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup half and half
3 mandarin or oranges or 5 tangerines
Separate egg whites from yolks into 2 separate clean bowls. Set aside for 1 hour until room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 8 inch cast iron skillet or oven proof skillet with 2-3 inch high sides combine 6 tblsp of sugar with 3 tblsp of water. Stir to dissolve over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Do not stir after the sugar is dissolved. I did and created rock candy on accident, and had to start over, bummersville. The sugar will create medium sized bubbles and become light amber colored after 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 tblsp of butter. Mix until combine and set aside. The caramel may set up and become a little firm, but that's okay.
In a very clean bowl whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Lifting the egg beaters up should form a snowy cone of egg white whose tip collapses on itself. Also the track of the egg beater will leave a swirly patterns in the whites that are obvious but not well defined. This is soft peaks. Add 1 tblsp of sugar and beat for another minute. Set egg whites aside.
polenta, salt and baking soda. In another bowl mix 6 remaining tblsp of butter with 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla. Whip until light and fluffy. I mixed these ingredients in my standing mixer, which was a challenge. The small quantity of ingredients barely reach the beaters. A hand held mixer or even man-powered whisk is better suited for this job. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing between each addition. Alternate adding half of the dry ingredients with half of the half and half until evenly combine. Don't mix more than you have to. Fold in the egg whites in 3 additions. Be gentle.
Slice the oranges 1/8th of an inch thin. Lay in a circular pattern in the skillet over the caramel. Its seemed like a good idea to make 2 layers. Pour the cake batter on top of the oranges. Bake for 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes. Loosen sides with a knife and invert on to a cake plate. Garnish with rum spiked whipped cream. Its a stunning cake that feeds 6-8.