Mid-July was the start of the season when my grandmother was making her wonderful milk and yeast cakes with fruits. Those cakes were quite labor intensive--the dough had to be kneaded and then left to rise for some time, until almost it doubled its volume. But later, when the cake was baked, its flavor filled the kitchen with the most amazing and addicting aroma that any cake can produce.
I already mentioned once before that I had never been able to attain my grandma's perfection in that matter, and I feel more comfortable making a complicated dessert than that easy cake, which is so basic in Polish cuisine.
It is said that the more skimpy this cake was on the ingredients' side(less sugar, butter, and eggs), the better it was. And my grandma's cake was tall, fluffy, and delicious. At the beginning of the season, she made it with sour cherries (I think available mostly in Europe if not only in Eastern Europe). Later she used black currants, plums, and--at the very end--apples in the fall.
As I read recently a lot about French cuisine and went through many French culinary magazines, I discovered a type of cake that I was not familiar with, but could substitute for the one that my grandma made. It also is made with yeast and only a tiny amount of milk, but it is made rather as a sponge cake than a traditional yeast cake that I know. This means that it is faster to make. I have been experimenting with many version of that idea and today's recipe is a result of that.
The cake turned out to be fantastic and disappeared in half an hour still warm. Even kids that had a play date at our place enjoyed it very much. And although from the picture this cake may seem kind of heavy it was surprisingly light and delicate. I made it with apricots, instead of making a tart of them, but I am sure it can be delicious also, for example, with plums or apples.
Upside Down Apricot Cake
(For a 9-inch baking pan)
9-10 soft apricots,
1 and 3/4 unsalted, soft butter stick,
1 packed cup of brown sugar (about 180 g) plus extra 3 tbsp,
1 and 1/3 cup all purpose flour( 150 g),
1/3 cup ground almonds (50 g),
1 tsp dried yeasts,
2 tbsp milk,
a pinch of salt.
1. Grease the bottom of the baking pan with butter.
2. Cut out from wax paper a 9-inch circle (22 centimeters) and place it at the bottom of the baking pan. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp of brown sugar.
3. Cut apricots in halves, remove pits, and place them skin up on the wax paper (sprinkled with sugar).
4. Preheat oven to 300 F (150C)
5. Put soft butter in a stand-up mixer. Add sugar and run mixer for about 3 minutes, until the two ingredients turn into a smooth batter.
6. Separate the eggs. Add yolks to the butter and run mixer for about 2 minutes. Place whites with a pinch of salt in a medium bowl an beat until stiff.
7. In a medium bowl sift in flour, add almonds and dry yeasts. Add all the dried ingredients to the mixer bowl and run it until everything is incorporated. At the very end add two tbsp of milk and again mix it in well.
8. Fold in whipped whites into the batter.
9. Spread the batter over the apricots and bake in oven for 45 minutes.
10. Cool down the cake, turn it upside down on the serving plate, and gently remove the wax paper.
Cut and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche on top.