Cherry upside-down cake: just the dessert for the peak of summer, when cherry season gives them aplenty.
Why bake upside-down cakes?
Upside down cakes are made for a purpose. Dropping fruit into cake batter carries the risk of all of it sinking to the bottom, leaving a vast space of dry sponge above.
Cleverly, pastry chefs decided they’d outsmart the devious berries and place them at the bottom to start off. Probably hoping they’d climb up as their contrary nature dictates.
Joking aside, the purpose of these cakes is to stew the fruit gently under the covering of the batter. There’s usually some sugar sprinkled into the tin, and butter, so the fruit layer gets deliciously jammy, almost jelly-ish, thus making the perfect topping to the cake once it’s out of the oven and inverted onto a plate.
It’s a fantastic idea as berries folded into sponge are not very jammy – steamed rather than roasted. And roasted fruit, which you might not know, has the most beautiful intensity of flavour albeit not quite so many vitamins.
What can go wrong with upside-down cakes?
The problem is though, you can’t see what’s going on and so the inverting of the baked goods might be a pleasant or not-so-pleasant surprise.
The most common fault is cracking. Fruit bakes to a different texture than the batter and when turned upside down (or rather right side up), it collapses sideways.
Another mishap could be leakage from a springform tin, unless you very conscientiously double line it with foil and parchment.
Plus, and it’s a particularly acute problem for food photographers, inverted upside-down cake does not look terribly nice.
The fruit is deliciously jammed but looking at the cake you’d think it’s messy, wet and soggy. Dusting with icing sugar does not work unless you’re prepared to sift a pound over it: the fruit just absorbs it like a hungry jellyfish.
But obviously, that’s my problem not yours, and I can assure you it IS delicious though it LOOKS not so pretty.
How to prepare the cherries?
The cherries need to be pitted; they have not developed seedless cherries, thank heavens. The procedure is simple, albeit awfully messy: the kitchen afterwards looks like a crime scene.
There is a special tool called a cherry pitter, also functional for olives, though the latter do come in the pitted variety, unlike cherries. But if you don’t have it, worry not: an ordinary medium sized safety pin will do just as well. Simply insert the looped end into the cherry where the stem was and pop – no, not the cherry: the stone.
For this cake it’s best if the cherries are halved, which is a little work but some of them tear in half when pitted. If you want the cake neat, cut them in half horizontally.
What tin is the best for upside-down cake?
The batter is rich, and that is why I advise to make the cake in a large, quite shallow flan or tart case. A tin without loose bottom will also eliminate the danger of cherry juice leaking and burning all over the oven.
Making it in a large dish will make the ratio of cherries vs. batter more equitable, and the cake overall not a total calorie bomb. Unless you eat a lot of it…
How (not) to assemble upside-down cakes
I should tell you what I did the first time I made this cake even though it was so utterly stupid it’s embarrassing to admit.
Instead of sprinkling the sugar at the bottom of the baking tray and then arranging the cherries in it cut sides down, I dipped every single cherry half in brown sugar before placing it in the dish. Meticulously, one by one. The arrangement was perfect but it took me a while.
Do not copy that please, unless you’re terribly bored.
Should it cool in the tin?
When out of the oven, let the cake cool completely in the dish or tin. Run a narrow knife around the edge to loosen up the sponge.
Then place a plate or tray over the dish and invert it. And pray that all the cherries should not be left stuck to the dish, separated from the sponge.
It hasn’t happened to me yet with this particular recipe, but it’s a hairy moment.
More cherry cake recipes
Summer cherry cake, ridiculously easy: just-mix-the-ingredients kind of cake. Still need to stone the cherries though!
Cherry cream dacquoise is more of a challenge but oh boy! is it impressive!
And the classic black forest gateau using fresh cherries buried in heaps of whipped cream and layers of chocolate cake.
Still some cherries left over? Make jam.
More upside-down cake recipes
The same mix as here this time with apricots. Apricots are chunkier so the apricot upside-down cake needs more batter to cover them. More batter means more cake which can’t be bad.
Nigella’s recipe for upside-down blueberry polenta cake proves my point that upside down cakes aren’t pretty – but mighty delicious.
And the sticky fig cake images illustrate the cracking issue. But who cares when the cake is so divine?