Meyer Lemon Upside Down Cake
A couple weeks ago a friend and I had dinner at Bar del Corso. The entire meal was delicious but my favorite part of it was dessert. I don’t often order dessert but when I heard that Meyer Lemon Upside Down Cake was one of the options, I had to give it a try. Meyer lemons are one of my favorite fruits! My friend and I tried to dissect the cake ingredients that night – it probably would have been easier to ask the chef but we didn’t think of that.
It seemed to me that the cake was basically an olive oil cake made with polenta. We couldn’t really see Meyer lemon on the top, which was odd since that is the normal “upside down” presentation but it seemed there were flecks of zest in the cake and some sort of fruit composition on the top.
This last weekend my wine club met for our first tasting of 2012. We were tasting wines from Sicily and Sardinia. Sicily is especially known for citrus fruit and I decided to try to create that same Meyer Lemon Upside Down Cake. I found a similar recipe on Epicurious and, although it wasn’t olive oil cake, I decided to try it with just a few changes.
The biggest change was that I made small individual cakes instead of one large cake. Overall I was really happy with the result, although the cake was not as delicate as an olive oil cake would be. I’ll work on that for next time.
I forgot to take a photo of the final presentation where honey-sweetened crème fraîche topped the cakes. The tangy-sweet cream complemented the tangy-sweet cake perfectly, although it covered the pretty design the Meyer Lemons created on the cake. I think next time I’d put a swish of cream on the plate and then place the cake on the cream or put the dollop of cream on the side. That would provide both the complementing flavors and preserve the design.
The recipe with my adaptations is below. The original recipe is here.
Meyer Lemon Polenta Upside Down-Cake with Sweetened Crème Fraîche
- 7 Tbsp sugar, divided, plus ¾ cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp water
- 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- 2 -3 unpeeled Meyer lemons, washed & sliced per instructions below
- 1 Meyer lemon, washed and zest removed
- ¾ cup plus 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp coarse kosher salt
- ¾ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 6 Tbsp whole milk
Sweetened crème fraîche
- 1 cup chilled crème fraîche*
- Honey, to taste
Lightly butter or spray six 8-ounce ramekins. The ramekins I used have a 4″ diameter and are about 2.5″ tall.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
Combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons water in small saucepan to make caramel. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber (not dark amber), occasionally swirling pan, about 4 – 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk 2 tablespoons butter into caramel. Evenly divide the caramel between the six ramekins.
Cut off both rounded ends of each Meyer lemon so that ends are even and flat. Using sharp knife, cut lemons into very thin 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Remove and discard any seeds. Arrange orange slices, overlapping as needed, to cover the bottom of each ramekin. I used about 3 slices per ramekin.
Whisk flour, polenta, baking powder, and coarse kosher salt in a medium size bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat ¾ cup sugar, the remaining 6 tablespoons room-temperature butter, and the vanilla in another medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the Meyer lemon zest and mix in. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating batter just until incorporated.
Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold ⅓ of egg whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions. Divide batter atop orange slices in ramekins, then spread evenly.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 – 30 minutes. Cool cake in ramekins 10 minutes. Run small knife around cakes to loosen. Place serving plates atop ramekins. Using oven mitts, hold each plate and ramekin firmly together and invert, allowing cake to settle onto plate. Rearrange any lemon slices that may have become dislodged. Cool cake completely at room temperature.
For crème fraîche
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of a floral honey to 1 cup of crème fraîche. Gently mix together. The mixture should be tangy-sweet. Add more honey if needed.
Serve each cake with dollop of whipped crème fraîche on the side.
* Crème fraîche is available at most supermarkets and at specialty foods stores. It is generally found near the sour cream. It’s also very easy to make your own. Make it 3 or 4 days before you need it.