Fresh fruit is one of my absolute favorite parts of summer. I seek out the sweetest, most aromatic, juiciest fruits I can find, whether I pick it myself or buy it from a farmer’s market or grocery store. My refrigerator is packed full of peaches, nectarines, melons, blueberries and sweet Bing cherries. Oh how I love Bing cherries! I buy them in big bags and set them out at breakfast, lunch and dinner to go along with whatever we are eating. I even bought a cherry pitter so that we could eat them without bothering with the pits as much.
As much as I love to eat fresh fruit, baking with it is near to my heart – and stomach. Crisps, cobblers, pies, muffins, scones – the list could go on, but this time I decided on cake. I wanted something that would showcase the cherries and add to their sweetness. This Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake is the perfect answer. The cherries are sautéed with brown sugar, butter and a little bit of balsamic vinegar and then a lovely, light cornmeal batter made with Hodgson Mill Yellow Cornmeal is layered on top and baked until it turns into a golden brown cake. Then the whole thing is turned upside-down and the oooh’s and ahhh’s begin. The cherries glisten on top of the cake like rubies and beg to be picked off and eaten. The deep yellow from the stone ground cornmeal peeks out around the edges of the cake and promises to deliver a tasty bite along with the cherries on top.
It was torture waiting for this cake to cool enough to serve – so I didn’t. I cut it into wedges while it was still pretty warm, scooped some vanilla ice cream on top (in case it was too hot) and dessert was served. We loved every bite and decided that this cake was a great use of our beloved Bing cherries. The cake will not turn out nearly as well if you don’t use Hodgson Mill Yellow Cornmeal. Because the cornmeal has been stone ground, it has a texture that adds a little bit of crunch to the fluffy cake. Regular, powdery cornmeal just won’t do.
This cake begins with a big bowlful of pitted Bing cherries. Don your apron or dish towel before you begin pitting to avoid the flying red juice. The cherries can also be split in half and pitted that way if you don’t have a pitter.
Combine the butter, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar in a 9-10 inch oven-proof skillet. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves into the butter – about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the cherries. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove the skillet from the heat. Set aside. If you don’t have an oven-proof skillet, you can follow the steps above and pour the mixture into a cake pan instead.
Stop and take a minute to notice how beautiful these cherries are – total show stoppers!
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, Hodgson Mill Yellow Cornmeal, baking powder and salt. You can see in this photo how the cornmeal has texture. You will love what it does for this cake.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Then add the flour mixture alternating with the milk in five additions, starting with the flour. Set aside.
Next, using clean dry, beaters, beat the egg whites until they’re foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until the egg whites are stiff but not dry.
You can see how the egg whites are stiff enough to make a peak when lifted up by the spatula. This is what you’re looking for.
Fold in about ¼ cup of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten it a little, and then fold in the rest.
Spoon the batter over the top of the cherries and spread evenly. Bake in a 350˚F oven for about 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Look at how lovely and golden brown this cake gets. Let it cool for about five minutes in the skillet. Next, run a knife around the edge of the skillet and then – holding a plate or platter over the top of the skillet – invert the pan upside-down onto the plate or platter. Remove the skillet and scrape any cherries or brown sugar glaze remaining in the skillet back on top of the cake. No one will notice if a cherry goes missing at this point.
Let the cake cool for 45 minutes if you have restraint, or about 20 if you just can’t stand it any longer.
Cut the cake into wedges and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – especially if the cake is a little on the warm side.
Bing cherry season is so fleeting that I know I’ll be making this cake several times before it’s over. If you don’t have sweet cherries on hand, this cake can easily be adapted to other stone fruits like peaches or nectarines. If you change the fruit, you might want to skip the balsamic vinegar in favor of a little bit of vanilla extract instead.
I encourage you to give this Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-down Cake a try. It’s a delicious way to celebrate fresh summer fruit – especially Bing cherries. Enjoy!
Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 cups whole pitted fresh Bing cherries
- 1 ¼ cups Hodgson Mill Naturally White All Purpose Flour
- ¼ cup Hodgson Mill Yellow Cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine ¼ cup butter, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar in a 9-10 inch oven-proof skillet. Stir over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and add the cherries. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Set aside. This step can be completed and then the cherry mixture poured into a cake pan if an oven-proof skillet isn’t available.
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Beat ½ cup of butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in five additions, beating just until blended. Set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites with clean, dry, beaters until they’re foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Using a rubber spatula, fold in ¼ cup of whites into the batter to lighten it slightly. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites in two additions. Spoon the batter over the top of the cherries in the skillet. Spread evenly to cover the cherries.
Bake the cake in a 350˚F oven for 40-45 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the skillet for five minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the skillet to loosen the cake and then invert the cake onto a plate or platter. Leave the skillet atop the cake for a few minutes and then remove. Replace any cherries or brown sugar glaze that may have stuck to the bottom of the skillet onto the cake. Let the cake cool for 45 minutes if you can wait that long or 20 minutes if you need a piece sooner. Cut the cake into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Adapted from Bon Appetit