Monday, March 27, 2023

Orange Cardamom Upside Down Cake

Sometimes I find myself looking back on lockdown with a certain fondness - right now I need to change my bedclothes and put on a wash, I want to read, knit, and write. I have a couple of hours before bed, so can only really do one of those things justice. I love my job but the thought of a few months not having to juggle everything around it is seductive.

I did make a cake today to use up some on the verge of going over blood oranges - I love blood oranges, the end of their season is one of the regrettable things about the coming of proper spring. I might just get a couple more decent bags of them, but they're losing their sherbety sharp acidity and the colours are going from delightful sunset to something that might be puce. 

The cake is an adaptation of Catherine Phipps recipe for Orange and Cardamom tarte tatin (to be found in Citrus). She suggests using cake as an alternative to pastry, which was exactly what I wanted for the first time I made it - as a cake it goes a lot further, and I've been tinkering with it ever since. I messed up a rhubarb version by adding vanilla - it's a combination I find too sweet and bland, but maybe sometime I'll revisit that with orange bitters instead.

Oranges, and particularly blood oranges look fabulous though and the result is a cake that works brilliantly as a smart dessert with whipped cream and is great for a coffee break too. It's also a recipe that feels endlessly adaptable and which gives me an excuse to use the tarte tatin dish Doug bought me for Christmas quite a long time ago and which I particularly love. It's a cast iron beauty with particularly well-designed handles which make it easy to turn out whatever is in it, and there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of using something that works perfectly for its purpose. 

To make the cake you need an oven proof skillet or dish about 23cm across that can also sit on a hob. Put 2 tablespoons of water and 100g of granulated sugar in it, let the whole lot spread evenly across the pan, and heat until it starts to go golden. No need to stir but you might want to shake it occasionally. When it's a good colour take it off the heat and add 75g of butter, stir in and add the light crushed seeds of 2 teaspoons worth of cardamom pods plus any extra juice or flavourings you might want to add to the caramel. 

Thinly slice 2 oranges and arrange the slices in the bottom of the pan - you'll have more than you need and can decide exactly how much to use based on preference. I've used a basic pound cake recipe for the sponge - 3 eggs, 6 ounces of self raising flour, butter, and sugar, but I could happily add semolina, or ground almonds or walnuts. I like to use a golden or light brown sugar to carry on the caramel flavour, but again that's a matter of preference. I think some rye flour would add something interesting as well - the important thing from my point of view is that these basic quantities gave a good sponge-to-fruit ratio that soaked up excess caramel without becoming soggy. Cover the fruit with the batter.

Bake in a moderate oven (I have no idea anymore, mine runs really hot and I keep having to turn it down well below any recipe recommendation to avoid burning) for about 25 minutes and then check. If a knife comes out of the sponge clean, or it's come away from the sides of the pan, it's done. 

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then turn it out onto a plate to cool properly before it can weld itself to whatever you've cooked it in!


  1. I find myself thinking back to those months off during the pandemic too. Although the weather was so wet, cold and rainy you could not do much outside. But just the idea of restful days to do what I want, when I want was blissful at the time. Makes me look forward to retirement even more although still a way to go. BTW that cake looks fabulous; thanks for the directions.

    1. It was a glorious spring here, and although Leicester ended up in lockdown for almost a whole year and I was more than done with it by the end a lot of that time was good for me, and like you makes me look forward to retirement. I was lucky in that I didn't have to please anybody but myself so lockdown mostly bought opportunities to reset. I love my job but occasionally miss being time rich.