Peaches? No, too fuzzy. Nectarines—yes!
You don’t even have to peel them when biting into them. At least, that’s what my husband always thought. And I agree with him. Allen was very particular about the window of opportunity for eating nectarines. They needed to be hard, crunchy, tart, and nowhere near soft. This was so ingrained in the Kornow brain, that no one in the family would eat nectarines when they were soft and sweeter. Rather than throw them away, I learned to use them up in a way that had everyone eager to eat them: baked with brown sugar and butter on the bottom of a pan under vanilla cake batter. Otherwise known as an upside-down cake.
This recipe is not too sweet but has just enough caramel oozing down to the cake and over the nectarines to make it delectable. Nectarine Upside Down Cake is wonderful with coffee in the morning or tea in the afternoon. It makes a great dessert after dinner because the cake is not too dense or heavy. It can be enhanced with freshly whipped cream, although that is not crucial to the overall goodness.
I like to slice the nectarines using a small sharp knife, rotating the knife in a smooth motion from the top to the bottom. Turn the fruit and repeat the action to start the first slice. When you get to the bottom, jiggle the knife against the edge of the stone to loosen the slice and turn it so it drops down to the cutting board. Repeat for the next slice. Once you get the hang of the movement, it goes very quickly.
Don’t Get Distracted!
Do not let yourself get distracted by text messages, kids, daydreaming, or an amorous spouse, while preparing the caramel topping. It is easy to make but will quickly seize up and get grainy if you happen to forget what you are doing. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir. I prefer to use a heat resistant silicone spatula because I have melted older rubber spatulas. You can also use a wooden spoon. At first it will look like the brown sugar and butter will never stay together, but just keep stirring. In about 2 minutes, you will notice that the mixture is starting to look smooth and emulsified.
Pour it into the pan, and smooth it over the bottom by tilting the pan and/or using the spatula to spread it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect but should end up covering most of the bottom of the pan. Speaking of pans, I have a silicone pan that works beautifully for this—a gift from my son in law. I am somewhat suspicious that daughter Erika helped with his present selection that Christmas, but I love it! Before I had it, I lined my abused, scratched, old round metal baking pan with foil and sprayed it with cooking oil spray. That helped the caramel slide out easily. If your cake pan is not as battered as mine, you probably won’t need the foil. Arrange the nectarine slices in concentric circles, staring on the outside. Layer and overlap slices as desired. Eat extra slices if you like those things soft. Or freeze them for your morning smoothie.
The cake is a simple combination of beaten butter, sugar, and eggs. Stirring in the milk and vanilla does make it look curdled, but don’t worry. It smooths out perfectly when the dry ingredients are added. Spread it over the nectarines and bake in the preheated oven for half an hour or so. Make sure a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.
The magic happens when you invert the cake onto a platter and lift off the pan. That should be done in 5 minutes, otherwise the caramel starts to stick in the pan, and pulls some of the nectarines off the cake. If you are using a metal pan, you should loosen the edges with a knife before turning it over.
NECTARINE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Ripe Nectarines, sliced thin
- 1/2 Cup Butter, softened
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1/2 Cup Skim Milk
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
- 1 1/4 Cups Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare caramel topping: melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Pour it into 9″ round cake pan. You may need to tilt the pan and/or use a spatula to spread the caramel evenly. Arrange nectarine slices overlapping in concentric circles in pan.
Prepare Cake Batter: Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until blended. Stir in milk and vanilla, blending well; it may look curdled. Stir together dry ingredients; add to batter and mix on low speed just until blended. Spread batter evenly over nectarines. Bake cake until wooden pick tests clean, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool on wire rack 5 minutes, then invert onto serving platter. Try to let it cool another 15-20 minutes; it slices up neater if you wait. Cut into wedges to serve. May also be served at room temperature.