I nearly missed these smooth skinned beauties neatly stacked like a pyramid of little suns, nestled between the overpriced organic lemons and limes. I blame my 3-year-old for the near miss. Grocery shopping with him is like wrestling a bear while trying to maintain some composure and getting everything on my list. A nearly impossible feat! And yet somehow, out of the corner of my eye or the eyes that exist on the back of my head, I noticed the plump, canary yellow orbs. I grabbed one, rubbed my thumb across its glossy skin and held it to my nose. Sweet, floral, bright; a perfect contrast to the heavy, cheese and meat laced comfort food coming out of my kitchen this time of year.
Unsure of what to do with them or the $2.99 a pound price tag, I placed a few in my cart anyway; picked up my 3-year-old who was elbow deep in the organic (oh c’mon) chocolate malt balls candy bin, which, by the way, is oddly placed in between the produce and fancy cheese, (another WTF moment in a long month of WTF moments); and carried on.
I admired the little lemons sitting in our fruit bowl on our sometimes sticky, sometimes clean, kitchen island for a few days before deciding to make an upside down cake. Sexier recipes for a lemon curd, preserved lemons, cupcakes and pastry cream enticed me briefly before I settled on this 1920s throwback. Something about taking an old-fashion dessert and modernizing it with Meyer lemons and poppy seeds appealed to me post inauguration.
So I got to work thinly slicing a few lemons, melting butter and sugar together to create a syrupy, caramel like topping and carefully placing the lemons on top of the delicious goo. Next, I made a butter cake batter adding Meyer lemon zest and poppy seeds which made it taste exactly like my Mom’s famous lemon poppy-seed tea cake. Fifty-five minutes later I had a tender, sweet, subtly tart and modern upside down cake. I hope this cake brightens your January as much as it did ours.
Meyer Lemon Upside Down Poppy Seed Cake
recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated Fresh Fruit Upside Down Cake
Serves 8 -10
Ingredients for topping:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 Meyer lemons, sliced 1/4 inch thick, seeds removed
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round pan thoroughly. Set aside. Using a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add both brown sugars , stir and cook until the mixture foams, about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the butter/sugar mixture into your prepared pan and spread evenly across the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Arrange the lemon slices in concentric circles. Set aside.
Ingredients for cake:
1 + 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
2/3 cup of milk
Directions for cake:
Place oven rack in the lower middle position and pre-heat your oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer, cream the butter at medium speed. Slowly add the sugar followed by the lemon zest. Beat until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula once or twice. Next, reduce the speed to the lowest setting and add the dry ingredients and the milk, alternating until both are incorporated into the batter. Mix until the batter just becomes smooth.
In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in one-quarter of the egg whites to lighten the batter. Then fold in the remaining egg whites until they are completely incorporated. Pour the batter into your prepared pan, spreading evenly with a spatula. Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 55-60 minutes.
Allow cake to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Place a serving plate over the pan, hold in place and flip so the cake is now sitting on the platter. Remove cake pan. If some lemon slices stick to the bottom of the cake pan, remove them and place on top of the cake. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!
**Cake will last two days stored in an air-tight container, at room temperature.**
5 Must Check Our Upside Down Cakes
Craving more citrus in your life? Head to Broma Bakery for an upside down winter citrus cake that is sure to brighten any January day.
Before pear season is gone, make Fix Feast Flair’s cardamom pear upside down cake.
Love grapefruit? Check out Food on Fifth’s recipe for a grapefruit upside down cake.
Spring will come and when it does make Martha’s plum-blueberry upside down cake. This is on my must make list.
I love all things banana flavored so I need to make David Lebovitz’s banana upside down cake, knowing my picky nine-year old will refuse to eat it. Banana hater.