I tweaked the recipe a bit and my, oh my, was it delicious. Sweet and sour with some smooth vanilla accents.
We assembled and baked this in a cast iron pan, but if you don't have one, don't worry, you can use a large round cake pan or pie plate just as well.
Lemon Upside-Down Cake
adapted from the recipe in the L.A. Times 7/16/13
Cut the ends off the lemons, then slice them into very thin rounds. Remove seeds and set aside. Grate 1 teaspoon lemon peel from the lemon ends. Set aside the grated peel.
- 2-3 lemons (I used three and that was quite a lot.]
- One-half cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter, divided
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
Melt four tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Brush the sides of skillet with a little of the melted butter. Add the brown sugar, stir it into the butter and spread it into an even layer. It'll look grainy - that's OK. Put the prettiest lemon slice smack dab in the center. Arrange the rest of the lemon slices in overlapping circles to cover the bottom of the skillet. Let the lemons and sugar continue to heat on low while you mix everything else up. Keep an eye on it so the sugar doesn't start to burn. [If you're using a regular cake or pie pan, then pre-heat the oven and melt the butter in the pan the oven. Take it out to put the sugar and lemon slices in, then stick it back in the oven while you make the rest of the batter.]
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Cut up the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter into a mixing bowl. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with the point of a knife onto the butter. I scraped them off the knife right onto the ends of the beaters on my mixer. Beat the butter, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until creamy. Add the sugar and grated lemon peel and beat until light and fluffy. This took me at least 5 minutes. When you can't stand it anymore, beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Once you've got the eggs in, things will get very light and fluffy. Add half the flour mixture and beat until blended. Add the milk and beat until blended, then add the remaining flour mixture and beat until blended.
Spread the batter by the spoonful over the lemons in the skillet to cover evenly. Then smooth it down neatly. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden and the center tests done. Let the cake stand 5 minutes, then invert the skillet onto a platter. [It took two of us to do this. We used a very large, flat platter.] It will be oozy while hot, but will soak up some of the goo as it cools. I spooned the rest of the goo still in the skillet over the inverted cake.
Serving this is tricky - it's hard to cut through the lemon slices neatly. If you want something that serves beautifully, then consider cutting the lemon slices in half moons before you start and arranging them so that they'll be easy to cut along when the cake is finished.
I served this with a dollop of creme fraiche and was in lemon heaven. Be warned! -- It's hard to stop with just one piece. Or two. Hide it from yourself if you don't want to eat it all at one sitting.