26 November 2009


What? Orange cardamom upside down cake? What gives?

OK, I know that today is the day for turkeys and cranberries and mincemeat pie, but at our house Thanksgiving is this coming Saturday. That’s because here in Belgium nothing is closed today, and everybody has to work. So we’re celebrating on Saturday, when I’ll cook the only whole turkey in Belgium this week, if you don’t count those that are still walking around. More about that later...

I saw this cake at The Pastry Studio, and knew I had to try it. Anything that uses cardamom and oranges is OK with me. And if you can add some pink peppercorns, that’s even better. No peppercorns in this one, though, but it’s still pretty amazing.

I had a little kitchen detour on the way to making this cake. As I was trying to describe upside down cake to my friend Fran├žoise, she said, “oh, a Tarte Tatin”. Hmmmmmm, I wondered, could I make an orange and cardamom Tarte Tatin? Was that even possible? Gentle reader, I tried it: I caramelized the sugar with orange juice and some cardamom, I artfully arranged the orange slices, I lovingly placed the crust on top and I baked it until it was golden brown on the top/bottom. I inverted it on a plate, and I am here to tell you that orange Tarte Tatin is just a bad idea. It tasted wonderful, but there is one very big problem: oranges are all about juice. Tarte Tatin is not a really juicy dish. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

It was so ugly that Dan and I laughed as we ate it, but I LOVED flavors. So I decided to go back to my original idea (actually, The Pastry Studio’s original idea) and try the cake. Of course, I had to change it a little bit. But not too much, actually. It was pretty intriguing as it was.

To make this you’ll need a heavy pan about 25 cm / 10 inches in diameter. It needs to be one that you can use on the stovetop and then put in the oven. A cast iron skillet will work very well. I used an enameled cast iron pan made for (what else?) Tarte Tatin.

One more thing--don’t bake this if you don’t want your neighbors to stop by. Our apartrment smelled heavenly for a couple of days after I made this. Don’t say I didn’t warn you...

Orange Cardamom Upside Down Cake
adapted from The Pastry Studio

For the topping:
50 g / 3 Tablespoons butter
150 g / 3/4 C brown sugar
4 medium-sized navel oranges
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the cake batter:
200 g / 1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
85 g / 6 Tablespoons butter at room temperature
125 g / 2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange

  • Preheat oven to 175 C / 350 F
  • Peel the oranges by slicing the peel and the white pith off with a sharp knife. Slice them into thin slices.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy oven-proof pan and stir in the brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom. Remove from the heat and press the mixture evenly into the pan. Allow to cool.
  • Arrange the orange slices over the topping in the cake pan. You’ll probably have enough to make two layers. Good.
  • Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and the rest of the cardamom in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vanilla and orange zest.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time.
  • Stir in half of the dry ingredients until nearly combined, then add the milk and mix. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir just until combined -- don’t overmix. Try not to breathe as you do this, or you’ll just sit down on the floor and eat the batter. It smells THAT good. Really.
  • Spread the batter carefully over the oranges and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the cake at least 15-20 minutes, then place a serving platter over the cake pan, hold your breath, and turn them both over. With any luck, you’ll hear a very satisfying ‘plop’. Remove the cake pan and VOILA!

  • I don’t have vanilla extract, so I used vanilla sugar and I mixed it with the other sugar.
  • I had to bake mine 43 minutes. It could have used a minute or two more.
  • I served this with some vanilla gelato. It was heaven.
  • Pastry Studio suggested that this might be good with blood oranges. I think that’s a wonderful idea.


La Table De Nana said...

I smiled at the tarte tatin :) We all do things like that..Your ingredients please me:) Thank you for this new recipe..And have a great day Saturday!

Hungry Dog said...

Kate, this sounds amazing! I happen to have a ton of oranges and clementines right now, and I love anything with cardamom. Fabulous! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Kate said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Kate! I saw the work cardamom and knew this would be for me. I love the spice! I chuckled at your description of the end result....flavor is what counts! If you enjoyed it, who has to see it?!

zurin said...

Happy thanksgiving! I had a baking disaster myself two days ago.:)

The cake looks very delicious!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Your cake sounds wonderful. Disasters seem to come with life. Our dishwasher decided to give up the ghost the day before Thanksgiving. C'est la vie.

Barbara said...

Love this cake, Kate.
The tarte tatin story is funny- it happens to all of us.

The Gypsy Chef said...

Love the story of your tarte tatin. I just had a disaster myself, pan de chocolate that refused to rise. Frankly each one weighed 5 pounds......I just so happen to have a lot of oranges, I intend to sugar them so I think I will set aside a few for this cake. I could use a boost.
Happy Thanksgiving! Pam

pastry studio said...

Kate, lovely delicious cake you baked! I love oranges so I can imagine your desire to make an orange Tarte Tatin. Hope you enjoyed the aroma all that cardamom brought to your home! Thanks so much for mentioning my blog.

Anonymous said...

OMG! Cardamom! And with orange! Oh, divine! Might need to try this one! Fun post, Kate!

once in a blue moon... said...

this sounds and looks so good! glad you had a test run and got to enjoy it twice! hope you had a great belated thanksgiving~

Bob said...

Oh my, that looks awesome. Heh, maybe that's how I'll introduce myself to my new neighbors. I'll just cook up one of these and wait for them to stop by! :D

Grace said...

three things:
1-i've never seen an orange (or blood orange) upside down cake. awesome.
2-it's not ugly AT ALL.
3-there's nothing wrong with eating an aromatic batter. nothing at all.

Kate at Serendipity said...

Thanks for your comments! I see that I've not been clear in my description--it was the TARTE TATIN that was ugly, not the cake. The cake was lovely and had that lovely caramel color that you know will be delicious!

Zurin, tell us about your baking disaster!

Sam, I'm sorry about your dishwasher--just before Thanksgiving! How do they know....

Gypsy, your pan de chocolate sounds, well, heavy. What did you do with it? Was it edible?

Peggy, wonderful to see you here!

Bob, good luck with your move, and I promise that if you bake this you'll meet your neighbors. But they won't come with a cake for you--they'll come with a plate and a fork!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Yummo! I love the flavours in this.

Jill said...

Happy belated Thanksgiving! This sounds so great--I love the idea of orange and cardamom together. Thanks for posting!

2 Stews said...

I'm a new fan of cardamon...I know I'm a little late to the party ;-)) Your recipe is just what I needed now for my newly appreciated spice . Thanks....Diane