Let me be weird for a sec and tell you about my fruit situation. I know this is the riveting stuff you live to read about on your summer holidays. Does this sound familiar to you? Bowls of apricots and peaches, slowly ripening to their juicy glory on the kitchen counter. Inside the fridge are small pails packed full of cherries - the sweet ones from the farmers market and sour ones - from the tree of a sweet friend. Way out yonder at the rear of the garden are not one but two massive raspberry patches, that need daily pickings otherwise the birds or bugs will get to them before I. And I hate having birds or bugs beat me to anything. Then there is the rhubarb, that just. won't. stop. It's full on fruitpalooza in my house, but I'm not complaining. This is the best time of year to be an eater. This is what I long for in the deep dark depths of a frigid winter, when I can't possibly eat another apple or banana. I'm a total greedy fruit hoarder right now, stuffing my chubby cheeks with the good stuff; making the most of it while I can. I suppose you can say the same thing for enjoying all summer produce - it's really about embracing the present. With so much bounty on our hands, it must be enjoyed and dealt with immediately. You can't sit idle when you have rows of Swiss chard that need picking (ahem) or pails of cherries that need pitting (double ahem) or bowls of apricots on the verge of over-ripening. To let it go to waste is just so sad. These are gifts, here for but the briefest of moments. I don't know about you, but I love me some presents; especially those I can eat.
My brain is constantly thinking of ways to use the bounty: preserve cherries in brandy; sour cherry almond torte; peach pie (!!!) oh and there must be a galette or two. I wake in the middle of the night thinking about tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella in puff pastry, with Swiss chard thrown in for good measure. I'll be washing dishes and thinking about how beet leaves will make fabulous cabbage roll wrappers, stuffed with plenty of arborio rice and dill. Oh the next two months around here are going to be fun! But these apricots, oh these apricots. They were destined for cake, and an upside-down one at that. It's no secret that I love upside down cake. Remember this peach beauty, and oh that pear gingerbread from the fall. But this one is no slouch either. Jammy, juicy apricots are swaddled with the creamiest of caramels and baked underneath a tender, buttery cake. It's fun to flip over and see just how pretty it is. Served warm with a little bit of whipped or ice cream, it's summer perfection. And yes, I did eat a piece for breakfast, and yes, it's almost better cold. In fact, that's how I prefer it.
On the day I made this cake, and really, the reason I made the cake (not that I need a reason to make cake), a photographer and writer from a small, local magazine were coming over to hang out. Apparently they want to profile moi in their September issue of Living Spaces. Totally flattered, was I. I mean, my fridge resides in the laundry room, for cripes sakes. Nevertheless, they wanted to see where I cook up the great things you see around these pages. So I baked them a cake, and a few other goodies from the archives, like this tart, this curry and my favourite salad. This upside-down cake was the total show off of the bunch though. I mean, look at it. Those apricots are magic!
So let's go! First off you'll need to make a little caramel sauce. No biggie. Just melt sugar, butter, salt and cream in a skillet until the sugar dissolves. I dare you not to burn your finger when you stick it in the sauce. So good!
Next, halve and pit some apricots, you'll need around 7 or 8. Nice and ripe. Don't pick the rock-hard ones. Arrange them cut side up and place in the caramel. After this, you make a light cake batter, and spread it over top. Bake for about 45 minutes at 350*F, let it cool for 20 minutes, then invert it onto a platter. Here's a fun story. I was baking this cake two hours before the crew was to arrive, and wouldn't you know the cake bubbled over. Like hard core. Smoke alarm going off, cats hiding under the bed, neighbourhood dogs barking, smoke wafting throughout the house, smelling like burnt sugar. The doors and windows were all flung open, so of course the local mosquitoes and flies wandered in to see what was up. Eventually the smoke cleared, and the cake turned out great, though it was missing some of its caramel bits. They remain under a mound of baking soda in the bottom of the oven, and no it's not self-cleaning, thanks for asking. I'll get around to cleaning it once the cherries are pitted.
Apricot Upside-Down Cake
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
7-8 medium, fresh, ripe apricots
8 tbsp (115 grams) unsalted butter
3/4 cup cane sugar (or granulated)
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 large eggs, room temp
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk, room temp
To make the caramel: in the bottom of a 9 or 10 inch cast iron pan, or in a medium saucepan, heat the sugar, butter, salt and cream over medium low heat until sugar dissolves completely. Leave the caramel in the skillet or pour into a parchment-lined 9 inch square baking dish. Halve and pit the apricots, placing them in the caramel cut side up. Caramel recipe from Zoe Bakes.
Cake: Preheat oven to 350*F. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - about 3-4 minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice. Add the vanilla and beat in the eggs, one at a time, and scrape bowl between additions. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add half of this to the egg mixture, just until incorporated, then add half milk. Add the remaining flour, mix, scrape bowl, and remaining milk; mix, scrape bowl. Spread over peaches and smooth top. Bake in the middle of the oven, for about 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool for about 20 minutes, then place a large plate or platter on top of pan and carefully invert cake. Some juices may escape, so be sure to use a large enough platter. Cleaning tip: Place a foil-lined bake sheet on oven rack beneath cake to catch any drips that may occur while baking. Serves 8-10. Cake recipe from David Lebovitz.
A little behind the scenes action shot. How cool to see my food being photographed by someone else!