3 retro upside-down cake recipes that taste as good as they look

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With a winning combination of syrupy sponge and glossy fruit, 70s-style upside-cakes are due for a comeback. Here are three recipes to try now. 

This summer, we’re making it our mission to bring back upside-down cakes. A retro favourite with a distinct 70s vibe, upside-down cakes consist of fruits baked into the base of a light sponge. Upon removing from the oven, the sponge is flipped on its head – resulting in a beautifully sticky cake with a jewel-like fruity crown.

Pineapple upside-down cake is the most famous version of this aesthetically pleasing dessert, but it can be made with just about any juicy fruits you have to hand, whether fresh, frozen or tinned. It’s a glamorous way of using up produce that’s nearing its sell-by-date – and much easier to make than you might expect. 

Below, you’ll find three upside-down cake recipes: a sticky cranberry loaf by Elisabeth Prueitt (pastry chef at acclaimed San Francisco bakery Tartine); a classic pineapple version by chef Alex Head, founder of Social Pantry; and a beautiful blood orange and turmeric recipe by Byron Smith and Tess Robinson.

Serve with a retro cocktail (tequila sunrise, anyone?) and enjoy.

  • Pineapple upside-down cake recipe

    pineapple upside down cake

    Ingredients

    For the topping:

    • 50g softened butter
    • 50g light soft brown sugar
    • 7 fresh pineapples rings (approximately 1 pineapple)

    For the cake:

    • 100g softened butter
    • 100g golden caster sugar
    • 100g self-raising flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp vanilla essence
    • 2 medium free range eggs

    Method

    Heat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Line a cake tin with baking parchment.

    For the topping, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Spread over the base and a quarter of the way up the sides of a 20-21cm round cake tin.

    Arrange pineapple rings on top.

    Place the cake ingredients in a bowl along with 2 tbsp of the pineapple syrup and, using an electric whisk, beat to a soft consistency. Spoon into the tin on top of the pineapple and smooth it out so it’s level. 

    Bake for 35 mins. Leave to stand for 5 mins, then turn out onto a plate.

    Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

    Courtesy of Alex Head, chef and founder of Social Pantry

  • Cranberry upside-down cake recipe

    Yields one 10 x 5 in (25 x 12cm) loaf

    Serves 8-10

    Ingredients

    For the fruit layer:

    • 275g fresh or frozen cranberries
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
    • 2 tsp orange zest

    For the caramel:

    • 135g brown sugar, packed
    • 45g unsalted butter

    For the cake:

    • 260g all-purpose flour
    • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp baking soda
    • 265g granulated sugar
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 280g crème fraîche
    • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
    • 85g unsalted butter, at room temperature

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Butter a 25 by 12 cm (10 by 5 in) loaf pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on each side.

    To prepare the fruit layer, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, and orange zest in a bowl and gently mix with your hands or a rubber spatula to coat the cranberries and evenly distribute the sugar and zest. 

    With a spoon, transfer the fruit from the bowl to the prepared pan, keeping in mind that there will be more fruit than the bottom of the pan can accommodate. The cranberries will shrink during baking so the fruit settles into an even layer.

    To prepare the caramel, stir together the brown sugar and butter in a small, heavy saucepan; bring the mixture just to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring to combine with a rubber spatula, so the sugar doesn’t burn before the butter is fully melted. When the caramel has softened and begun to boil, remove the pan from the heat. Immediately pour the caramel evenly over the fruit mixture in the loaf pan and set aside to cool and set without agitating the mixture.

    To make the cake, sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the granulated sugar and salt and stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, crème fraîche, and vanilla extract.

    Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until the mixture is sandy and the butter can no longer be seen. 

    Add the egg mixture, and then beat thoroughly on medium speed until the batter is smooth, about 1 minute, stopping the mixer halfway through to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

    Pour the cake batter on top of the fruit and caramel in the prepared pan and smooth to the edges with an offset spatula. Give the pan a few hard raps on the counter to knock out any air bubbles from the batter.

    Bake the cake until it has risen and become a deep golden brown colour, and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour. It might require more time. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

    To unmould, run a small, thin knife around the sides to detach any hardened bits of caramel from the cake pan. Place an inverted serving dish onto the surface of the cake, and, using a towel or oven mitts, flip the cake pan and dish and carefully slide the pan from the cake. Gently peel off the parchment and allow the cake to continue cooling at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

    The cake will keep, covered at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

    From Tartine: Revised Edition by Elisabeth Prueitt (£29, Chronicle Books), out now

  • Upside-down blood orange and turmeric cake recipe

    Upside down orange cake

    Byron Smith and Tess Robinson say: “Cutting into a blood orange is like opening a present. The outside is unassuming, but the inside is boldly beautiful.

    “We decided to make this an upside-down cake to show off the beauty of the blood oranges and not hide them inside the cake. Turmeric is super easy to grow and adds warmth to winter meals, both savoury and sweet.

    “Remember to add some rosemary sprigs to the frying pan to infuse the syrup with an earthier flavour. The rosemary pairs so well with the blood oranges!”

    Serves 6–8

    Ingredients

    For the cake:

    • 2 large oranges
    • 1 heaped tablespoon peeled and finely grated fresh turmeric
    • 6 eggs
    • 220g (1 cup/7 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
    • 200g (2 cups/7 oz) almond meal
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder

    For the blood oranges:

    • 250ml (1 cup/9 fl oz) water
    • 440g (2 cups/15 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
    • 2–3 blood oranges, thinly sliced on a mandoline
    • 2 vanilla beans

    Method

    Place the whole orange into a medium-sized saucepan of boiling water and boil for 1.5–2 hours or until it is soft enough for a skewer to go through with ease. Top up the water from time to time so that the orange is always fully submerged. Spin the orange around occasionally so that it cooks through evenly. When it is ready, drain the orange and leave it to cool. 

    Chop the cooled oranges into wedges and remove any pips. Place the oranges and turmeric into a food processor and blend until the mixture is pulpy.

    Now prepare the blood oranges. In a medium frying pan, bring the water and sugar to a simmer over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the blood orange slices and vanilla beans. Simmer for 25–35 minutes. Remove the blood orange slices from the frying pan and set them aside to cool.

    Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 22-cm (8-in) diameter round cake tin with baking paper.

    Place the blood orange slices into the base of the cake tin, slightly overlapping each other. Work outwards from the centre.

    Whisk the eggs and caster sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in the orange pulp, almond meal and baking powder. Stir gently until the mixture is combined.

    Pour the mixture into the cake tin and place it into the oven. Bake the cake for about 1 hour or until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

    Transfer the cake to a wire rack and allow it to cool in the tin. When the cake has cooled, carefully remove it from the tin and gently peel off the baking paper.

    Brush the blood orange-covered top with any remaining syrup. Serve the cake with ice-cream or thick Greek-style yoghurt.

    From Slow Down and Grow Something by Byron Smith and Tess Robinson (£18.99, Murdoch Books), out now

Photography: Rob Palmer; Alex Head at Social Pantry; Gentl + Hyers

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