When you think about upside-down cake, you probably think about pineapples. As delicious as pineapple upside-down cake is, the truth is that almost any fruit can be turned into an upside-down cake. Since we're in the middle of citrus season, I've decided to turn a bounty of ripe oranges into an upside-down cake that's almost too pretty to eat.
About this orange upside-down cake
This dessert has two parts: the cake and the topping. The cake itself is a very simple buttermilk cake that's flavored with orange zest and vanilla extract. It's tender, with a soft crumb, but sturdy enough to support the weight of a fruity topping, too.
The topping, of course, is made with oranges! It's actually prepared in the bottom of the pan before you add the cake batter. The cake is turned upside down after baking so that the bottom becomes the topping — hence the name of the cake!
Picking and preparing the oranges
I used cara cara oranges for making this cake. They're a sweeter orange known for their low acidity. The flesh of a cara cara ranges from orange to pink, hence the variation in the oranges on the cake pictured here.
I also like blood oranges and naval oranges for this cake. That said, you can use any type of orange. When oranges in season, just about every variety is as sweet as can be!
To prepare your oranges, use a paring knife to remove all of the skin and white pith from the flesh of the fruit. The pith has a bitter flavor that you don't want in the topping of your cake.
After cutting down the fruit, slice each orange into ¼"-thick slices. You'll arrange these in sugar at the bottom of the cake pan, and then the oranges will turn into the topping once the cake is baked in inverted.
Incidentally, I prefer to use white sugar in the topping of this cake because it really lets the color of the oranges come through. You can use brown sugar, which will have a hint of molasses and caramel flavor, but you won't get as bright a color from the oranges as a result.
How to serve your orange upside-down cake
Once your cake is completely baked, it needs to be turned upside down almost immediately. The oranges and the caramel surrounding them will stick to the bottom of the pan if they are allowed to cool completely, so it's a good idea to do this within the first few minutes of the cake coming out of the oven.
Because fruit has a tendency to stick — and this is true of any upside-down cake — I highly recommend lining the bottom of your cake pan with parchment paper. This ensures your cake comes out looking picture-perfect.
The cake can be served slightly warm or at room temperature. It's best on the day it is baked, but leftovers will keep for a day or two if you don't finish it all in one sitting.
Orange upside-down cake recipe
- 3 medium-sized oranges
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9" round cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Pour the sugar for the topping into the pan and spread it into an even layer.
Using a sharp knife, remove the skins of the oranges and all of the white pith surrounding the fruit. Cut the oranges into ¼"-thick slices.
Arrange the slices on top of the sugar to completely cover the bottom of the pan. If necessary, cut some of the orange slices in half to fit around the outside edges of the pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt for the cake batter.
In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until well-combined. Blend in vegetable oil, vanilla extract and orange zest. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture and mix until no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible. Pour batter into prepared pan on top of the orange slices.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs attached. The center of the cake should spring back when lightly pressed.
Allow cake to cool in the pan for 4-5 minutes, then run a knife around the outside edge of the cake and invert onto a serving platter or cake plate. Peel off parchment paper if it sticks to the top of the cake. Allow cake to cool to room temperature before serving.
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