Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

I seriously can’t get enough of the fresh produce available right now. Berries, peaches, watermelon, squash, zucchini, corn, peppers, tomatoes…the list goes on and on! And as awesome as it is, it’s been creating a bit of a problem for me. Maybe you can relate.

I head to the grocery store every week with a list and I try so hard not to stray from that list. The list includes not only what we’ll be having for meals that week, but everything I want to make for the blog, so it’s as all-inclusive as it can be. But week after week this summer, I find myself adding produce to the cart that wasn’t anywhere on the list. It just looks so good, I can’t resist!

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Here’s where I run into trouble. For the next week it’s a mad dash against the clock to use all of that wonderful produce before it goes bad. Every time I open the fridge I’m equal parts excited about getting to eat it all and stressed about doing so in such a short period of time. You’d think I’d learn and buy less the next week, but nope. I know in a few short months it’ll be 10 degrees out and snowing with very little fresh produce that’ll look good and I’ll definitely be missing it, so I’m taking advantage while I can :)

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

After ranting about not being able to find cherries at a reasonable price this summer, I’ve had a little more luck in August. They’re still not as cheap as they’ve been in past summers, but the price came down enough that I went crazy buying them. And try as I might, I just couldn’t eat them all before they started to look sad. Luckily, I had a plan in case that happened, and the plan was this Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake.

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

I’m not typically all that big a fan of upside-down cakes, but oh man did I love this one. It was such a sweet surprise! You start by melting some butter and brown sugar in a skillet along with balsamic vinegar, then add the cherries to this amazing syrupy mixture. The cake batter goes on top and into the oven it all goes to bake. There’s definitely a hold-your-breath moment when the cake is flipped out, but luckily I didn’t have any trouble at all.

The combination of brown sugar and vinegar gives the cherries a great sweet, tart, and tangy flavor combination. The buttery yellow cake at the base was sturdy enough to support the cherries, but still moist and delicate at the same time. It was the perfect marriage! I kind of wanted to eat this cake for lunch, dinner, and dessert the day I made it :) I didn’t bother with whipped cream or ice cream on top (and I really don’t think the cake needs it) but if you want to go all out, I certainly won’t stop you!

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Cherry-Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2008 (via Epicurious)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature and divided
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
21 oz dark sweet cherries, pitted
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Set a 10 or 11-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of the butter, the brown sugar, and the vinegar to the pan. Cook until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Add the cherries to the pan (do your best to spread them in a single layer) and turn up the heat to medium-high. When the liquid mixture comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and set aside while you make the cake batter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter on medium speed until smooth and pale. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a clean medium bowl and setting aside. Add the egg yolks and vanilla to the batter and mix until combined. With the mixer on low, alternately add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat just until the batter comes together.

Using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites you set aside earlier until they start to look foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until the whites form stiff peaks. Transfer 1/4 of the egg whites to the cake batter and stir to incorporate. Add the remaining whites in 3 additions, gently folding to incorporate them into the batter.

Pour the batter over the cherries in the skillet, spreading in an even layer to cover. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the skillet to a wire rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Place a large platter (larger than the pan) upside-down over the top of the pan, then flip the platter and skillet together to invert the cake (be sure to use pot holders, the pan will still be hot!). Do NOT immediately remove the pan from the top of the cake! Allow the pan to sit atop the cake for 5 minutes, then remove – if any cherries are stuck in the pan, remove them and rearrange on the cake.

Allow the cake to cool an additional 45 minutes before serving. This cake is great slightly warm or at room temperature. I found it easiest to cut with a serrated knife using a sawing motion.