I always find it backwards that citrus season is in the winter time for us. It’s great and I love having all these bright beautiful citrus in the cold gloomy days. It’s like little rays of sunshine coming from the southern states. It’s much cheaper to buy a bag of these beauties then buying a plane ticket to Florida or California. I take a bite of the fruits and am instantly transported to the orange groves in my mind. I’ve never been, but in my mind it’s cartoon like, where I’m running between the trees, arms outstretched, touching all the fruits like some scene from the Little Mermaid. “Look at these fruits, isn’t it neat…” It’s quite comical these daydreams I have.
I should probably mention the multitude of citrus fruits that exist. There are quite a lot, so I’m just going to name a few favorites: Grapefruits (Nicole’s favorite), Blood oranges, Tangerines, Valencias, Meyer lemons, Limes, Kumquats (my favorite), and the list can go on and on. I just got introduced to a neat one just last week. It’s called a sweet lime and it has an intense citrus flavor, without the high acidity associated with these fruits. It’s worth trying if you find it in a super market. I’ve only tried it raw but the juice is lovely and I can only imagine the cooking possibilities.
We have been playing around with the idea of an upside down cake for a while now. The way we see it, it’s a cake that is flavored by fresh fruit and dressed with a syrup of juices with a sweetener that soaks into the cake. The result is a moist, light cake with lots of fruity flavors. As cooks, we see 3 components that can add flavor. The cake, fruit, and syrup. Its like a flavor puzzle that we can build. We played around with cake ideas from an olive oil cake, ricotta cake, and just plain sponge cake. I think we landed on somewhere between a sponge and a pound cake. The fruit is easy, just pick whatever is in season, and in this case its oranges or citrus. The syrup will be composed of accenting flavors, and in this case, it was honey and whiskey. So we went to the store for fruit with little thought, forgetting that there were so many types of citrus. As mentioned before, there are a lot that we forgot about so we bought a bunch and tried them all. We landed on blood oranges due to color, seasonality and flavor. They are a little sweeter with hints of a berry like flavor.
With the fruit decided on all that was left was complementing flavors to bring it all together. I just got a new bottle of Bulleit Bourbon and all these oranges in my house were making me think of my favorite drink: the old fashioned. And there it was, why not make a cake that tastes close to an old fashioned? Use whiskey in the syrup and brush some more on top of the cake to give it a little bite. To do so that means just a plain citrus cake, leading us to one with good crumb and fluffiness. The cake took us three times to nail down what we wanted. We tried adding almond meal and corn meal to change the flavor and texture but we decided that it was an added ingredient that was unnecessary. The final product is moist and citrusy with a hint of honey and whiskey. There was so much cake in the house once we got it perfect, that we were just giving it away to friends, who are always a great source for feedback.
Blood Orange Upside Down Whiskey CakePrint This
- 5 Blood Oranges
- 4 TBS Butter
- 1/4 Cup Honey
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 2 TBS + An Additional 1/4 Cup Bourbon Whiskey
- 1 1/2 Cups Flour
- 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 Cup Butter, Softened
- 1 Cup + 2 TBS Sugar
- 4 Eggs, Separated
- 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- 2/3 Cup Milk
Prep the oranges: Zest all oranges, set zest aside. Cut the top and bottom of the orange off to create a flat surface. Cut along the curve of the orange to take off all the peel and pith. Slice the oranges 1/4 inch thick. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep a round 9 inch cake pan by greasing with butter then cut a circle of parchment paper out to put on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine 4 TBS butter, 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 TBS bourbon. Cook on med-low heat until the sugar has dissolved and starts to bubble. Pour the syrup into the cake pan. Arrange the orange slices in the syrup, slight overlapping is best, as they will shrink when baked.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, vanilla, and orange zest. Mix until fluffy again. Mix in dry ingredients and milk, alternating in 3-4 times, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly add in 2 TBS sugar while beating until firm peaks. Fold into the cake batter. Do not over mix! Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cake rest for 2 minutes out of the oven, then run a knife around the edge and flip over, releasing the cake from the pan. Poke a few holes in the top of the cake, then brush 1/4 cup bourbon over the top. Let cool completely then eat!
We had a lot of fun making this delicious cake and we hope you find enjoyment in it as well. I hope sharing some of process behind deciding what to make is useful as well and spurs you to come up with your own ideas. Give it a shot and let us know how it goes.
As always, enjoy!