Part of the fun of Pinterest, the online “pinboard,” is following others’ boards, seeing what they like and getting inspired. I follow Ponte Winery’s boards and recently had a “wow” moment when I spotted a recipe on their Delicious Foods board. The photo caught my eye first – see it here – and when I clicked through, I knew this luscious-looking Blood Orange Polenta Upside Down Cake with Whipped Crème Fraiche would be making an appearance in my kitchen in the very near future. Most of the ingredients are kitchen staples, in fact, the only element I needed to buy were the blood oranges. The recipe calls for three small ones, which I thought was a little much for one cake so I bought one and one was plenty. Besides the fact that I’ve never made an upside down anything cake, something else in this recipe was new to me: making caramel. I’d always cringed at the thought of boiling sugar and water together until it turned to caramel. As one who can barely fry bacon for fear of popping oil, making caramel just spelled “b-u-r-n-s” to me, so I’ve shied away from it. But, the recipe made it sound simple and there is a first time for everything, right? This ended up being one of the simplest cake recipes I’ve ever made. The caramel is made in a 10-inch, oven-proof skillet (I used my iron skillet) by boiling water and sugar until it turns a light amber color. A knob of butter is then swirled in. Then, paper-thin slices of blood orange are placed in the skillet on top of the caramel. When the thick cake batter is made, it is spooned on top of the orange slices and smoothed out before baking for a good 45 minutes…and did it ever make the house smell good! Once done, the cake is flipped onto a platter where the now-candied oranges glisten and warm caramel crowns the top and sides of a very pretty confection.
I ate a piece immediately. The cake was moist and not terribly sweet with a warm, buttery glaze of orange-scented caramel oozing over the top and down the sides. The citrus flavor is subtly refreshing with a hint of bitterness – not unpleasant bitter, but friendly bitter– think Grand Marnier. I think, though, that if your orange slices are too thick, this could turn into an overwhelming dessert very easily. I can’t stress enough the importance of slices that are as thin as you can get them. I opted not to do the whipped crème fraiche, even though I’m sure it would be wonderful. I did, however, choose to drink wine. Sparkling Moscato was my accompaniment and was absolutely delicious. This pairing could be served at a special dinner, a dinner party, or just when you feel like giving your winter a little summer spirit. I also think this cake would be great with a cup of hot tea.
–What is your favorite dessert and wine pairing?