by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong for Savannah Magazine
This is a derivation on a recipe from my book, Sweet and Vicious. I honestly have not met a fruit that does not work with it. The cornmeal cake makes it just the slightest bit savory and the rum gives it the slightest Caribbean kick.
Strawberry Upside Down Skillet Corn Cake
For the fruit layer:
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Gosling’s Black Seal Bermudan Rum
1 pint strawberries, stemmed and sliced lengthwise to a medium thickness
For the corn cake:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine-ground cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
For the vanilla bean whipped cream:
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
To make the fruit layer:
In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until just bubbling. Add the brown sugar and rum. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely melted and the mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Arrange two layer of the fruit in a decorative pattern to cover the brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the skillet. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
To make the cake batter:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Ass the vanilla paste and beat to combine. Ass the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture, then add the milk and mix to combine, then add the remaining flour mixture. Mix only until the flour mixture is just incorporated. Spread the batter over the fruit, being careful not to move the fruit around too much. You may smooth the top, but don’t worry too much because everything will settle as it bakes.
Bake cake for 45 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the skillet and you can see the syrup bubbling around the sides. The center should feel set to the touch.
Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
While the cake cools, make the vanilla bean whipped cream: beat cream, sugar and paste with a wire whisk attachment, whipping it to a soft peak. Set aside.
Run a knife around the edfe of the skillet, then very carefully place a plate (much larger than the diameter of the skillet) over the top of the skillet and flip the skillet over to turn the cake out onto the plate. There will be wonderful, oozing syrup escaping around the sides. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with a dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream.
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