We highlighted several sophisticated citrus dessert recipes from Bon Appétit last week, but the Blood Orange Polenta Upside-Down Cake was the one that really called out to us. We've made similar cakes before and loved their simple preparation. This one turned out to be a bit more complicated, but well worth the extra effort.
We did come across a few stumbling blocks with this recipe, but the results were pretty fantastic, so we think it's worth trying.
The first step of the recipe was the trickiest for us. We're comparing this to the Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake where you melt butter in a skillet and then sprinkle sugar on top, cook until it starts to brown and place the fruit slices on top and let them cook for a few minutes.
The recipe for Blood Orange Polenta Upside-Down Cake, however, has you heat sugar and water in the skillet until it forms a syrup, remove it from the heat and then add the butter. There's such a small amount of sugar and water spread across the skillet and ours cooked too quickly and started to crystallize. We started over and removed it from the heat before it turned amber and added the butter. At that point, the sugar hadn't completely dissolved, but after baking in the oven with the fruit, we still got that gooey caramel result. So, we're wondering how much it really matters what steps you take in the beginning since it all seems to come together in the oven.
You'll also notice that a chunk of the instructions (at the beginning of the third paragraph) are missing. There's no mention of what to do with the dry ingredients, so we made an educated guess that the missing piece was to whisk them together in a separate bowl. We did that and didn't come across any more hiccups, so we must have guessed right.
Hopefully you haven't been put off by this recipe so far, because it really did come out wonderfully. It's not quite as rustic as other recipes that use all polenta (or cornmeal). This one calls for a mix of all-purpose flour with some cornmeal mixed in. The result is a fluffy cake with a bit of added texture. You can really taste the polenta in the crust – it gets nice and crispy – but the inside is quite soft. A great combination, we thought.
Much of the fluffiness comes from the added step of separating the eggs and folding in the egg whites at the very end.
The one change we made to the recipe was to use half Greek yogurt and half water in place of the milk. We were simply out of milk, but it added a bit of moisture and tang.
All in all, this recipe was a success and worth working through a couple hiccups. We'll definitely be making it again.
(Images: Joanna Miller)