Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake

Caramel Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake
Lately, I find myself wandering through the house, doing chores, taking care of the little people and cooking and I think, “I should be doing something more.”  And not more in the sense of extra stuff, but more…grand? Important? I am not sure.  I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on just what it is I’m feeling.  I think I remember this feeling from when Olive was a baby.  There’s a certain amount of monotony to taking care of a baby in that first year.  Every day it’s the same feedings, the same breakfasts, the same play time, the same nap schedules, the same dinners, the same bedtime routines, etc.  It’s all the same thing, every day, for months.  And when they get a bit older, you can start shaking up the routine because they don’t have to eat and sleep every 3 hours.  But for a few months, there’s a bit of a Groundhog Day effect and I have felt it even more in the winter as we’re cooped up from the cold.

Each morning I pray that God will show me what needs to be done in His kingdom.  Who needs served?  Who needs a kind word or an encouragement? Who needs a meal or maybe even just a smile in the store?  I believe, although I don’t follow through with this belief far enough, that seeking God’s kingdom FIRST, really will cause everything else in my life “to be added to me.”  I get it so backwards.  I become so self-seeking.  How can my children or my husband make ME happy today?  When I seek God’s way of serving others first, I immediately feel content.  Enough.  Important. Working for self and for the approval of others is a bottomless well. It will never be filled and neither will I.  But flip the equation around and see to it that others’ bowls are filled before my own and God will see to it that my cup is running over.  It’s not always going to look like material wealth and health, but more importantly, it will start to look like real joy – from the inside out.

This cranberry cake was made for a few sweet ladies at a ministry our church helps out with from time to time called Family Promise. It’s a program that helps families who find themselves on the brink of homelessness to live and save up their income for rent while they live in the Family Promise house.  Our church volunteers to help a couple times a year by bringing dinners, having activities for the children and staying overnight. Last week was our week to serve so Matt and I signed up to take a meal and hang out with the families for a while after we ate.  There were two single mothers with infants and one single mother with a sweet, twelve year old girl living there, whom we’d met before and were so happy to see them, again.  We brought take-out from our favorite Hawaiian BBQ joint (I didn’t get my homemade meal-act together this time) and I brought this cranberry upside down cake.  We ate and watched TV together and played and I felt blessed by them.  We just brought the food – they brought perspective and showed us real joy – from the inside out.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake with Orange Zest Upside Down Cranberry Orange Cake

 

Cranberry Orange Upside Down Cake

For the fruit layer:
8 oz frozen cranberries
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
zest from 1 orange

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup sour cream (or Greek plain yogurt)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  I like to do this to ensure all the fruit filling comes off the pan.

Pour the cranberries on top of the parchment paper and sprinkle with orange zest.  In a medium-size sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Add the brown sugar, orange juice and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and boils gently.  Pour the mixture over the cranberries in the pan.

In a small bowl, stir together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium until well blended.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla and almond until combined.  With the mixer on low, mix half the dry ingredients into the batter until just combined.  Mix in the sour cream and then the remaining dry ingredients until just combined (in other words, don’t over-mix).

Scoop the batter into the pan (it will be thick) and then spread it around evenly with a spatula.  Place cake pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch drips.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake and invert onto a serving plate.  Serve warm.

*recipe adapted from the Bonne Femme Cookbook’s recipe for Pear Cake Reverse

Cranberry Orange Cake Cranberry Upside Down Cake

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Apricot Pine Nut Cakelettes

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I used to have a huge apricot tree in my front yard.  It was so wonderful throughout the seasons to see the blossoms appear in spring and the fruit appear around June and the leaves turn shockingly golden in October.  It was one of my favorite things about our house and it introduced me to jamming and gave me a passion for it.  Because of that tree, I learned to make apricot preserves and the first two years we had fruit, I canned nearly 100 jars of apricot jam variants. Vietnamese Cinnamon, Chinese 5 Spice, Bourbon Brown Sugar, Rosemary, Vanilla Bean (the best version) and even Crushed Red Pepper Apricot!  I gave them away as gifts and really just reveled in the sudden surge of domestic satisfaction I was getting from the process of gathering, cleaning, cooking and canning a resource from my own yard.  I felt like such a good steward of those little golden gifts!

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To make a sweet story a bit sad, that tree fell victim to the terrible drought our area has been suffering the past three years.  The second year into the drought, the fruit on our tree was tiny but packed with flavor.  It was the last year it would bear fruit.  We had to chop it down last summer and I will admit, I mourned the loss of that tree for months.  We’ve tried planting replacement apricot trees twice, now, and borers got the second one (and the first – it was a borer/drought combo) and the second replacement got hit by two late frosts and never recovered (although I won’t call it officially gone till next spring).

So maybe it’s not meant to be?  Maybe the lesson learned is to make good use of what you have while you have it.  Revel in the gifts you’re getting now, because soon, they may not be available to you.  If you have a fruit tree and don’t have time to make anything from it, first, call me and I’ll come pick up every piece from your yard (I know there’s no fruit on trees in this area, yet – still, the sentiment always applies) and second, if nothing else, just eat from it!

This recipe is a wonderful, easy recipe that can be used with fresh, canned or even dried apricots (or any fruit, really).  I used dried apricots that I reconstituted in a bit of water, first, because I couldn’t find canned, as the recipe called for.  They turned out wonderful and they lasted for a week!  The cake part is a wonderful cake recipe and one that I plan on using for other purposes in the future.  It calls for buttermilk, and I happily used some raw buttermilk from our local dairy, Pereira Pastures.  They are suffering from the drought too, and could use your support if you are from this area and feel like making a donation and getting some amazing milk in the process!

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Apricot Pine Nut Cakelettes*
makes six cakes

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
8.5 ounces apricot halves, sliced
1 1/3 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter six 6-oz ramekins and place them on a baking sheet with a shallow rim.

Divide the pine nuts evenly among the ramekins.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat.  Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and the water and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the apricots and stir gently until coated.  Divide the apricots and syrup evenly among the cups.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the remaining 4 tbs butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and the granulated sugar on medium speed until well blended.  Beat in the egg and the vanilla until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, mix half of the dry ingredients into the batter until just combined.  Mix in the buttermilk until combined.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients until combined.  Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins and smooth the tops.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes (mine took more like 45).  Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and cook for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the ramekins to loosen the cakes.  Invert the cakes onto individual dessert plates and serve warm with fresh whipped cream, or a drizzle of amber agave nectar, like I’m currently obsessed with.  🙂

* recipe from the Bonne Femme Cookbook!

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