Monday, February 21, 2011

Chez Panisse Blood Orange Upside Down Cake with Cardamom Whipped Cream

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
Let me just say right off the bat, that it is incredibly difficult to take a good photo of an upside down cake. Which is why I'm giving you a photo of the one I had at Chez Panisse Cafe a year ago, rather than the one I made myself.  I promise you, they looked exactly the same.

I have actually been waiting with bated breath for blood orange season to come around again so that I could both make this again and share it with you. It's really pretty simple, a buttery cake batter poured over brown sugar, butter and blood orange slices in a cast iron skillet.  Still, there is something deceptively ingenious about the combination of cardamom with the blood oranges and brown sugar topping.  It's a strange harmony that keeps pulling you back in, bite after bite.

As soon as I returned home, I started looking for a recipe, and found one on David Lebovitz' website.  Since he used to work at Chez Panisse I figured it must be the real deal.  Indeed - when I made it at home, it was every bit as good as it had been at the restaurant.  He has since pulled the recipe from his site, but he has another one up that can be used for various types of fruit, etc. and does not include the cardamom.  Luckily I had saved it the first time around - so when blood orange season rolled around again, I was ready to go - and now you are too.  :)
Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
Chez Panisse Blood Orange and Cardamom Upside Down Cake with Cardamom Whipped Cream Adapted from David Lebovitz

David's recipe called for a lot of cardamom - in the topping, the cake and the whipped cream.  I definitely think it should be included in the cake, but I can live without it in the topping or the cream.   If you decide to add it to either or both, 1/2 teaspoon will do the trick.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 medium-sized blood oranges, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 orange

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Center rack in oven.
2. In a 9 inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter and the brown sugar (along with 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom if using) until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Lay the orange slices in concentric circles over the brown sugar mixture.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and ground cardamom. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, vanilla and orange zest.
5. Using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and thoroughly incorporate into batter. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
6. Stir in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk mixture. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined.
7. Line the lower rack of the oven with aluminum foil to catch any drips.  Pour batter over the oranges and even out with a spatula or knife.
8. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
8. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes. Place serving platter over skillet and flip carefully while still hot.  

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.  This is definitely best eaten the day it's made. Leftovers will keep for a couple of days, but the cake will become progressively more soggy.


  1. I love orange desserts and I love the look (and taste!) blood oranges give to a dish. Thanks for posting!

  2. I just know I would adore this cake. Will put this recipe in the file.... :-)

  3. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I can't wait to make this.

  4. oh my gosh, yes. I've also been waiting for the blood orange season... for totally different reasons: salads, cocktails, etc. And now, cakes! Hooray.

  5. Lovely! For those in Southern California, Ralphs now has 1-pound bags of Moro Blood Oranges. (Moro variety has the darkest internal flesh color.)
    Please check out our fun little blood orange video:

  6. ok, just made this, haven't tried it, but it looks and smells AMAZING! thanks alice q!

  7. Your food photos are amazing! I’ve been lurking on your blog for awhile and finally thought I’d say something…. your photography is excellent.

  8. This looks amazing, can't wait to try my hand at some blood orange/kumquat marmalade as soon as I get back home to the States! This one's definitely going on the list as well.