When I was a child my parents would give me Italian cookies called “breakfast treats” (I think the name validated them as a socially acceptable breakfast) to eat in front of the TV while I sang along to Sesame Street on Saturday mornings. (I miss those Saturday mornings.) This helped form my love affair with sugar. (We’re kind of best friends.) I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to find ways to eat sugar in all forms (Cookies! Cakes! Crumbles! Pie!) and have it be considered more then just dessert. In my head if you add fruit to the dessert, it’s no longer really dessert, its just a bowl of fruit with a little tiny bit of cake/crumble topping/cookie (the lies I tell myself).
This cherry cornmeal upside down cake allows me to live out these lies in a rather delicious fashion. I increased the amount of cherries (more fruit makes it less like a dessert!) and added a little more balsamic since I love the taste of balsamic. The cake itself has a wonderful texture from the cornmeal and whipping the eggs whites separately and then folding them in makes the cake super light and fluffy (like a pancake!). It makes the perfect dessert but it makes an even better Saturday morning breakfast with a cup of coffee (or a glass of milk)
Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 cups pitted fresh dark sweet cherries
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¼ yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk (I never have whole milk so I just mix a little cream into skim milk!)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Combine ¼ cup butter with brown sugar and vinegar in a 10-11 inch ovenproof skillet (I used cast iron!) with 2-inch high sides. Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high; add cherries and bring to boil. Remove from heat.
Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixed, beat ½ cup butter in large bowl. Add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry. Using a rubber spatula, fold ¼ of whites into batter to lighten slightly. Fold in remaining whites in 3 additions (batter will be thick). Spoon batter over cherries in skillet, then spread evenly to cover cherries.
Bake cake until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in skilled on rack 5 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake to loosen. Place large serving platter upside down atop skilled. Using pot holders or oven mitts, firmly hold platter and skillet together and invert. Leave skillet atop cake 5 minutes. Remove skillet. If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have been dislodged. Let cake cool 45 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.