Every year after Thanksgiving it seems as though December pops up like a Jack-in-the-box, momentarily terrorizing me, and then making me laugh in embarrassment; I knew it was coming all along, but it still surprises me. Life has been challenging the last couple of weeks, and instead of embracing December, I feel like putting on some boxing gloves and pummeling that Jack-head until it rolls off its spring. Instead though, I shall grin and bear it, and cheerily share a recipe with you that would be a great host gift, one they can put aside and dig into the morning after the party, as is, or warmed.
This recipe comes from my James McNair cookbook collection, breakfast. I made it with cranberries to get into that holiday groove, and the tart pop of the warm berry bursting in your mouth balances the rich sweetness of the cake most pleasantly. I also have to note that any recipe that has the instruction to “lightly beat” or “crush” or “smash” is always an extra point in its favor with me. If you’ve ever wondered what that means, simply loosen your grip on the implement of the moment, whether it be a fork, whisk, back of your chef’s knife or pestle, rock your head back and forth and sing “la la la.” Light of hand, light of heart.
Upside-Down Breakfast Cake
11/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter,
at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 ½ cups fresh blueberries, blackberries, or cranberries
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice,
or ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp. grated or minced fresh lemon zest,
or 2 Tbsp. grated or minced fresh orange zest
(If you use blueberries or blackberries,
add lemon juice and zest;
if cranberries, use the orange juice and zest.)
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk (not nonfat), at room temperature
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan (or 8x8-inch square), and set aside.
In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter and the brown sugar and mix well. Spread the mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the berries evenly over the mixture and set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a sifter or fine sieve and sift onto a sheet of waxed paper or into a bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a flat beater, or in a bowl using a hand mixer, beat the remaining ½ cup butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 45 seconds. With the mixer still running, slowly add the sugar, then stop the mixer and scrape the mixture that clings to the sides of the bowl into the center. Continue beating until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly pour in the eggs and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon or orange juice and zest and vanilla.
Using the mixer on low speed or a rubber spatula, fold in about half of the flour mixture, then the milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture.
Spoon the batter over the berries. Bake until the top is golden and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 – 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, cover the cake with a serving plate, and invert the cake onto the plate, fruit side up. Cool slightly before serving warm.
Serves 8 -12.