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Friday, September 24, 2010

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

Fall was in the air, but then it was 81 degrees here today.

Still, I'm getting the autumn bug. If you read my brownie disaster post, you'll know I'm not much of a baker. But even the worst cook among us (I think of 30 Rock's Liz Lemon character who uses her oven to warm her jeans in the morning) start thinking hot chocolate and apple orchards this time of year. We hope that if it isn't us, someone is whipping up something homey in the kitchen. We've been eating pomegranates once a week, I picked up a sugar pumpkin that I'm not sure what to do with yet, as well as a bag of cranberries.

The cranberries are for an Everyday Food recipe I'd torn out long ago: cranberry upside-down cake. I've wanted to try it forever and just never got around to it. And not so long ago, my Aunt Anne made one. That cinched it. I needed to make one for myself. I tried to get Amir to help me with the baking, but he got up on his step stool, held the measuring spoon for approximately 10 seconds and announced, "OK, all done." Sigh. So he might not follow in my joy of cooking. At least he likes to read.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 3/4 cups cranberries
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (I found I needed more like 1 full cup)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle mixture evenly over bottom of pan; arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.

2. With an electric mixer, cream remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.

3. Spoon batter over cranberries in pan and smooth on top. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; invert onto a rimmed platter.

The Verdict: Make this if you want to be the hero of this year's Thanksgiving.

Not only is this cake beautiful, it tastes just as good. The sugar over the berries caramelizes, creating a sweet-tart top. The thick cake underneath is just the right amount of sweet, creating a delicious balance to the berries. Fantastic.

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