Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those types of recipes, but this isn’t one. Nope, not even with the fruit. Still with me? Here’s a dessert that’s worth the calories.
Skillet cakes have been around for a long, long time, and inverting skillet cakes to show off a topping dates back as far as the middle ages. Maybe that’s why the mere mention of a pineapple upside down cake or a tarte tatin makes our mouths start to water and our eyes grow wider in anticipation of that very first bite.
The universal appeal of these cakes has been bred into us. This is particularly true in the Southern United States, where pineapple upside down cake has played an integral part in holidays and a served as a symbol of Southern hospitality since Jim Dole’s Hawaiian Pineapple Company ran a nationwide recipe contest in 1925 for utilizing canned pineapple. The response was overwhelming, receiving some 2,500 recipes for the festive cherry-studded pineapple wonder cake alone!
Of course most any fruit can serve as the “upside down” star of a skillet cake. And today it’s time to move over, pineapple, because there’s a new symbol of Southern hospitality in town. PEACHES ARE KING.
Georgia is in the midst of a banner peach season which started in May, so it was only a matter of time before I used some fine local peaches to make a cake. I particularly enjoy fresh peaches with cherries. And when they’re combined with the customary brown sugar and butter topping of an upside down cake, these two fruits take on a lusciously glossy appearance with an absolutely divine light caramel taste. A good measure of cinnamon added to the batter brings warmth and extra flavor to the cake. Splash a little Kentucky bourbon into that batter and sprinkle a bit more over the top of this cake when it’s hot out of the oven, and you’ve got a real winner.
While the warning at the beginning of this post does apply, this cake is actually quite light to eat with an appealing, fluffy crumb. By scaling back on the butter and sugar found in a typical upside down cake recipe, the cake still retains just the right amount of caramelized goodness that one expects, but without the overpowering sweetness. It makes a beautiful and company-worthy cake that really stands alone, but you can guild the lily if you must by adding a dollop of whipped cream alongside—for nostalgic purposes, of course.
I foresee this basic cake recipe working well in the winter season, too, by using fresh apples and cinnamon scented with some orange zest or fresh pears with lemon, ginger and brandy. Really, the possibilities are endlessly delicious.
Georgia Peach, Bourbon and Cherry-Studded Upside Down Skillet Cake
Makes 8 Generous Servings
Make this cake in a well-seasoned, 10-inch cast iron skillet. It will not be the same made in a cake pan and will be harder to release as well.
Ingredients for the Topping:
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) of unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups of peeled and sliced fresh peaches, Georgia or other (about 4 medium peaches)
1/2 cup pitted fresh sweet cherries, cut into halves
Ingredients for the Cake Batter:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (3/4 stick)
1 cup granulated sugar (I use cane sugar)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon vanilla
1 tablespoon Kentucky bourbon, if you’ve got it, or other good quality bourbon
1/2 cup milk (2% is fine)
2 additional tablespoons of Kentucky bourbon to sprinkle over the finished cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a well seasoned, 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium low heat, then add the brown sugar and stir while the mixture gently simmers for about 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and lay the peach slices facing in the same direction into the skillet on top of the sugar mixture, creating a circular fan design. Stud the peaches with the cherries, cut side down.
In a small bowl, sift together the first 4 ingredients for the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened 6 tablespoons of butter with a hand mixer until it’s light and fluffy on low, then add the granulated sugar in three additions. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and the bourbon and beat to combine, then add half of the flour mixture, beating until just blended. Beat in the milk, then add the remaining flour mixture, beating until just blended. Spoon the batter into the skillet on top of the fruit topping, smoothing until it is evenly spread.
Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow the cake to stand in the skillet for 5 minutes, then carefully run a knife around the outer edge of the cake and invert the cake onto a large cake plate. Be sure to keep the cake plate and the skillet completely pressed together while inverting, then gently remove the skillet from the cake and replace any fruit that may stick to the bottom. (If your pan is well-seasoned, the fruit shouldn’t stick.) Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 2 tablespoons of bourbon and allow the cake to cool on the plate on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature as is, or garnish with whipped cream or even vanilla ice cream, if you must…I understand.
It’s hard to believe something that looks like this when it comes out of the oven can be turned upside down and become a show-stopper.