It happened so that I have never eaten or made an upside down cake that was a disappointment. They always turn out moist, caramely, and with a perfect crumb. Different fruits for a topping allow innumerable  variations of already lovely idea.

Blood oranges are great here since their skin is thinner and white bitter pith is less pronounced, so the cake gets just a hint of bitterness which is quite charming.

I wish you all wonderful holidays!!!

Makes one 10-inch cake, about 12 servings

For the topping:

  • ½ cup granulated
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
  • About 3 medium size blood oranges, thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch thick)

For the cake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup fine stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

Make the topping:

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F while making the caramel. Place a 10-inch seasoned cast iron skillet over the low heat to warm it up (it will prevent the caramel from hardening too soon as it’s being transferred to the skillet, so you’ll be able to distribute the caramel evenly on the bottom of the skillet). There’s an option to cook the caramel directly in the skillet, but it’s more difficult to judge the color in the dark cast iron skillet rather than in a stainless steel saucepan. It’s also very easy to overcook the caramel in the skillet since the caramel continues to cook even after it’s been removed from the heat. And once overcooked, the caramel gets unbearably bitter and the whole cake can be tossed out.

In a high-sided large saucepan, stir together ½ cup sugar and 2 tbsp water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, then raise the heat to moderately high and boil without stirring, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup turns amber in color. When color is achieved, take the pan off the heat and very carefully whisk in the butter. Place the saucepan back over the medium heat and whisk until the caramel is completely dissolved. Pour into the warmed skillet and quickly tilt the skillet to cover the bottom evenly with the caramel.

Arrange the orange slices, slightly overlapping them, over the caramel. Set aside.

Make the cake:

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl or liquid measuring glass, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer for a few seconds, until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape the bowl as necessary, and beat only enough to incorporate the ingredients after each addition.

Spoon the batter in dollops over the orange slices in the skillet. Spread the batter evenly without disturbing the oranges, and bake the cake until golden brown, for about 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the skillet on a rack for 15 minutes.

Run a thin knife or offset spatula around the edge of the skillet and invert a plate over the skillet. Wearing the oven mittens and keeping the plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert the cake onto the plate. Carefully remove the skillet and let the cake cool on the plate on the rack. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.