An upside down skillet cake made with yogurt
This upside down cake combines the sticky, crunchiness of a sugar-glaze with cornmeal and lemon made extra moist with yogurt. The intensity of citrus can be enhanced with lemon extract. Without it, add the zest of a second lemon. In any case, layering the flavors makes a difference, combining juice, zest and either lemon extract or oil. However, don’t bother buying imitation lemon extract – it will never taste right.
The recipe is very flexible: using light whole-wheat flour will yield a slightly heavier and dryer texture. However, a good cake flour or a gluten-free AP-blend triple-sifted with a tablespoon of cornstarch, results in a perfectly textured cake. Substitute a half cup of almond flour for the cornmeal to bring the almond notes forward. Reduce the sugar by ¼c for a breakfast cake to be served with fresh fruit.
Furthermore, because this is a classic upside down cake, you could layer the buttered and sugared pan (without the nuts) with plums pitted and cut into 1/8ths, or peeled and sliced peaches (other stone fruit will work as well) and bake until the cake sets and the fruit is soft and bubbling. Using fresh cranberries will result in a perfect alternative dessert for Thanksgiving.
In its simplest form – skip entirely the almond/brown sugar topping. Just butter the pan, and bake the cake. Serve it warm all by itself, with a dollop of honey sweetened whipped cream, a spoonful of good jam or with a compote of warm berries, peaches or caramelized apples.
When using whole wheat or a gluten free flour this cake is at its best served warm or on the day it is baked.
¾ cup cake flour (sift before measuring)
1 cup cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, warmed in shell in hot water 5 minutes
1 1/3 cups low-fat plain yogurt
Juice of ½ lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
½ t pure lemon extract (only use pure lemon – not artificial)
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 to 3 T butter
¼ c light brown sugar
1 c sliced or slivered almonds or 2 c sliced fruit
Prepare the pan
Set oven to 350, baking rack set in the middle of the oven. Melt 2-3 T unsalted butter in 10” cake pan or cast iron skillet. The extra 1T of butter will ensure that the topping doesn’t stick as the pan cools. Brush the butter up the sides. Sprinkle pan with ¼ c brown sugar and the sliced or slivered almonds. (Skip this step if you want to make a plain cake, just generously butter the pan.)
Make the cake: Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, and salt. In a separate bowl beat butter, sugar, and eggs with an electric mix on medium speed until pale and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, zest, and the lemon and vanilla extract.
Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the yogurt, just until blended, scraping down side of bowl as needed. Do not over mix. Spread batter evenly over nuts/fruit.
Bake until cake is golden, and tests dry when a wooden pick is inserted into center, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then invert onto a plate and serve warm.
If, after turning the warm cake out, some of the sugar sticks to the pan, simply place the pan on a warm stove burner for a few seconds until the butter and sugar soften, then use an angled spatula to carefully spread the hot mixture on top of the cake.
If served right out of the oven, the topping with be soft. As the cake cools the caramelized almond topping becomes crunchy.