I love Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen where she shares recipes and the stories that accompany them. Last week, she posted a beautiful upside down cake that made me think of a steamed pudding or a cobbler like the kind Mom used to make…where the batter bubbled up through the fruit and made a moist cake-like crust that surrounded the fruit. I have made many pineapple upside down cakes so after I tried her excellent Clementine Christmas cake, I was tempted to try.
[Dorothy, I invoke the pre-forgiveness clause. My outcome is not the fault of your recipe or instructions, and I make that clear I think throughout the post. So just to be sure: Hey folks, anyone reading, it is not the recipe or the instructions! I–Suzassippi–am fully and thoroughly responsible for the outcome!]
The mandarin oranges were right there in front when I walked in the door of the super market–bright and vibrant little organic mandarins saying “Here’s your sign!” And there were cute little organic raspberries at the next counter saying “I told you so!” I had already checked the recipe to ensure I had all the staples I needed this time, so the only other thing on the list was the finely ground cornmeal. I felt so inspired, I set out all the items needed on the counter within easy reach. The recipe was right there next to me from when I printed it to keep in my kitchen file.
First up, preheat the oven, generously grease the pan. Done! Place the parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, and butter it also. Parchment paper? Oh, I forgot that part! I let R know I had to run up to Dollar General (my closest store without going all the way across town). I was hoping…but I was disappointed. They were out. I blame it on the pandemic, since all stores are currently out of a lot of things, and I have seen parchment paper in my DG before. I weighed the danger of proceeding without parchment paper against driving all the way across town (I am serious here–last exit before the highway takes you to Tupelo!) and it was raining to boot. I have had parchment paper in my house off and on over the years, but since I did not grow up cooking with it, it is not like something I feel the need to replace unless I know I am making something that requires it. The last roll I bought was in 2009 and I tossed the last 3 inches when we started remodeling the kitchen. I have made many a delicious and pretty pineapple upside down cake without it, so I took a chance. [Note: the lack of parchment paper was not the problem.]
I came back home, set the oven to pre-heat, and went to zest the mandarins…uh oh. The zester is in the dishwasher…which I just started as there was not enough in it last night to bother. I checked to see if there was a ‘pause’ like on the washing machine. Sigh. Okay, I went most of my life…oh, wait, all of it–without zesting anything and using it in a recipe. It is true; I have never zested. There was not much call for it in rural north west Texas where a chicken fried steak was the only kind of steak you ever heard of until you went to college. [My deepest apologies here, Dorothy. I was really going to follow the recipe this time, because I wanted a perfect replica.] The only zester I have is on the other end of my cheese grater which is why it was in the dishwasher. To be truthful, the callous remover for a pedicure looks a lot like a zester tool to me, but even I am not that depraved, no matter how much I might have bleached it. I voted to carry on without the zest, and started slicing and sectioning mandarins.
Next, “place butter, brown sugar, and salt in a small saucepan..” Brown sugar? What brown sugar? I looked at the recipe I had printed…no brown sugar on it, although I remembered it had brown sugar as I had mentally checked it off my list of items I had in the pantry. Back to the computer and pull up Dorothy’s post. Sigh. My pdf print had cut off the page with the brown sugar amount. I re-printed the recipe with all the instructions and amounts and back to the kitchen I traipsed, new instructions in hand. I readied the butter, brown sugar, and ‘pinch of salt’ and put it in the bottom of the cake pan, arranged the raspberries and mandarin slices and filled in the edges with the segments per Dorothy’s excellent instructions.
I combined the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt–without the orange zest–and whisked. In a separate bowl, I combined the eggs, sugar, milk, oil, and orange extract, and whisked together. Then, I combined them per the instructions.
[Thinking to self]: This batter seems very thick…I do not recall that…[checks recipe again–nope, no mention of the batter will be thick…could omitting the zest make that much difference? Maybe I should just add a bit of the oranges and juice?] I scraped the batter from the bowl and spread it over the mandarins and raspberries, set the timer, and waited.
I impatiently waited the 15 minutes of cooling in the pan before inverting. I could see the little bit of caramel from the topping at the edges, and felt excited…nay, really excited! Finally, it was time to run that knife around the edge and turn it onto a plate. In eager anticipation, I took out one of Mom’s grocery store china plates I brought home from my final visit to her house in summer of 2018.
I worked my way through staging to show it to best advantage when I triumphantly posted it. Did I mention it did not look like Dorothy’s?
When I sliced the cake, the texture looked amiss. It tasted good, but was dry. I assured R that I must have missed something. Was it my new oven? The very tip-top part with the fruit and caramel and top (originally the bottom!) layer was delicious, even without whatever the zest would have added.
This morning, I went back to the original post from Dorothy, and the recipe I printed. Ohhhhh….I see the problem. It was supposed to be 1 1/4 cup of flour…and I read 1 1/2 and added an extra 1/4 cup of flour. I know this because my 1 cup measure is in the dog food bin and I use the 1/2 cup measure and distinctly recall thinking (1/2, 1, 1/2, which is how I keep track). I still have mandarin oranges, and raspberries and a clean zester tool, and will buy parchment paper, and re-print my recipe in larger font. Persistence is my second middle name when the outcome matters to me! And, in addition to parchment paper, I will also buy a new set of measuring cups. Dogs have decimated or claimed many a tool in my house.
However, split in half, buttered, and re-heated, the cake became moist and even more tasty. I am uncertain as to when I might feel ready to give it a go again, but you all will be the second to know–after me.