Blueberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Last November I took my first trip to Napa Valley…. and I pretty much ate my way through the town. I was traveling with two chef who had previously scoured the area’s restaurants, so I was never short of a meal or snack. One of our first stops along the road from Oakland to Napa was Mustards Grill. From the minute I walked into the restaurant, I knew I was going to love the place. It interior was warm and inviting, the tables were nicely set, and there was “happy to please you” skip in the staff’s step. We sat at the oversized mahogany bar and dined on polenta & mushroom tamales, roasted lamb with fresh herbed wild rice, and their famous pecan pie. Every bite was delicious (I’m drooling as I think about it). It wasn’t until a few days later that I found the Mustards Grill cookbook as I browsed through a bookstore in Napa. And now (almost a year later) I finally made something from the cookbook!

This blueberry cornmeal upside-down cake is an amazing cake and a wonderful summer dessert. It may seem like there are a lot of moving parts to this recipe, but I promise it is worth it!

Blueberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

INGREDIENTS:

Caramelized Berries

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Cake

  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Blueberry Sauce

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 2 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Whipped Cream (optional)

PROCEDURE:

This cake is baked in a cast-iron pan. You begin by making the caramel in the cast iron pan, then you will then pour the cake batter over the caramel and bake it.

To make the caramel, melt the butter in a 8″-10″ inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the brown sugar and cook, stiffing constantly, for 5-7 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and bubbly. Remove from the heat, distribute the blueberries evenly over the caramel, and set aside.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. THen add the vanilla and mix until smooth. On low speed, add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the sour cream, and starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat only until combined. Spread the batter evenly over the blueberries and caramel that are already in the skillet. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cook for 15 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the inside edge of the skillet. Invert a large plate over the skillet and, using oven mitts, turn the skillet upside down to flip the cake over onto the plate. If the cake has cooled down too much, it may not release from the pan. If this happens, heat it for 2-3 minutes on the stove top before attempting to turn it out.

To make the berry sauce, combine the blueberries and 1/4 cup sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer the berries gently, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until they give off their juices and the skins are just beginning to burst. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the sugar if necessary.

Serve the cake war, with blueberry sauce and whipped cream.

Note: if you don’t have a cast iron pan, you can still make this cake. Make the caramel sauce in a sauce pan on the stove top then pour into the bottom of your desired cake pan. Top with the blueberries and proceed according to the rest of the recipe.

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