Upside down cakes are always fun to make. Not only do they taste delicious because they have a topping baked right in with the cake, but they look absolutely beautiful no matter what type of fruit you use to top them. The most common upside down cake is easily a Pineapple Upside Down Cake, but all kinds of fruits can be used, including berries and even oranges. This Orange Upside Down Cake is a rather unusual upside down cake featuring whole orange slices for a beautiful – and amazingly tasty – cake.
The oranges are sliced very thinly and arranged on a layer of brown sugar that bakes into caramel in the bottom of the pan. A light, buttery cake batter that is flavored with orange zest is poured on top of the oranges and the whole thing is baked. When the cake is set, the pan is inverted onto a serving platter and the orange and brown sugar layer becomes a stunning topping. Believe it or not, the orange slices can be eaten and are not just for looks! Like candied orange rind, the orange peel candies and tenderizes during baking. It loses its bitterness and simply becomes a tasty part of the cake. The thinner you cut your oranges, the more tender they will be, but the most important thing is to try and slice them evenly.
Since the orange slices will release a lot of juice as they bake, there will be plenty of caramel sauce topping when you turn the cake out onto a serving plate. Thanks to the parchment paper layer, the topping should not stick to the pan and should remain in place on the surface of the cake. It is better to turn the cake out while it is still hot (though that might lead to a little caramel drizzle on the sides of your plate) than waiting until it is too cool and sticky. If you feel your cake pan has become too cool, simply warm it up in the oven for a couple of minutes or even hold it over a low burner (if your pan can take it) on the stove. This cake is best when it is freshly baked, but leftovers are still delicious a day or two after baking.
Orange Upside Down Cake
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large or 2 medium oranges
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Prepare the topping: In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, brown sugar and salt. Mixture will resemble wet sand. Pour into prepared pan and press into an even layer.
Cut oranges into about 8 very thin slices (no more than 1/8-inch thick). One large orange will likely be enough, but you can also use the centers of two medium oranges.
Arrange orange slices on top of the sugar, placing 7-6 slices around the edge of the pan and 1 slice in the center. It is fine to overlap slices slightly if you have extra. Set aside.
Prepare the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat eggs until frothy. Add sugar and beat at high speed until mixture has tripled in volume. At low speed, whisk in flour mixture until completely combined.
In a small saucepan, combine butter and orange juice. Cook over medium heat just until butter has melted. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, stream butter mixture in to the rest of the cake batter. When batter has come together completely, pour into prepared pan on top of the orange layer.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a large serving dish or cake plate.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.