Serves: Makes 8 to 10 servings
- ½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- ½ cup (4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 4 medium (8 ounces) apricots
- 1 half-pint basket (6 ounces) raspberries
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened (65° to 68°F)
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature, separated
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (1¼ ounces) fine cornmeal
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (4 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
- Ice cream or whipped cream, for serving
Procedures:A simple, homey upside-down cake is always a welcome delight. These cakes have fallen a bit out of favor lately, perhaps because people are afraid they’ll end up with a slice of cake topped with canned pineapple rings and a fluorescent pink cherry. That's a bad rap for a dessert that so beautifully melds fruit of the season with warm-from-the-oven cake. A couple of tips: Take a few extra minutes to arrange the fruit in a pretty pattern in the bottom of the pan, because when you unmold the cake, the fruit will be the top-and the decoration. Wait at least 30 minutes before turning it out of the pan to allow time for the juices to be reabsorbed and to ensure that the fruit will stay on top of the cake rather than sliding off in an avalanche of juice.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center.
Prepare the topping: Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat, then blend in the brown sugar. It will look grainy at first but will smooth out as the sugar melts. Whisk vigorously to blend the mixture (you do not want to see any pools of melted butter separating from the sugar). Once the mixture is melted and smooth, pour it into the bottom of the cake pan. Set aside to cool.
With a paring knife, halve and pit the apricots and slice each half into 4 wedges. Pour the raspberries out onto the baking sheet. Pick through them and discard any debris or molded berries. Do not wash, or they will absorb the water and turn to mush. Arrange a row of slightly overlapping apricot slices around the outer rim of the pan. Then arrange a double row of raspberries. Fill in the center of the cake pan with overlapping apricot slices. Set aside.
Cream the butter with the sugar: Beat the butter and granulated sugar in the stand mixer with the paddle on medium-high speed until very light (almost white in color), 4 to 5 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
Add the eggs: Beat the egg yolks and vanilla in the small bowl to blend. With mixer on medium, add the yolk mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl.
Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately: With the fine-mesh strainer, sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt into the medium bowl. If any cornmeal is left in the strainer, add it to the bowl. Whisk to blend. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half the milk; repeat, then finish with the flour mixture. Scrape down bowl. Transfer to a large bowl.
Finish the batter and bake the cake: In the cleaned mixer bowl with a clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed to firm peaks. You can also use the hand mixer. Gently fold the batter until no streaks of white remain (it will be quite thick). Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is golden, firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 30 minutes.
Unmold the cake: Run a thin, flexible knife or spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. If the cake is very rounded, press down gently to level the top. Place a serving plate on top of the pan, hold the two together and flip over. The cake should slide right out. If it doesn't, hold the pan over a medium flame on the stove for 15 to 20 seconds to melt the syrup in the bottom of the pan. Flip again. To serve, cut the cake with a thin, sharp knife and accompany with a spoonful of whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream.
Storing: This cake is best served the day it is made, preferably warm from the oven. It will not look as pretty the second day, although the flavor will still be good. Once cut, there is no need to wrap the whole cake with plastic; simply press a piece of plastic wrap firmly against the cut surfaces to keep it fresh and store it under a cake dome.