Blood Orange and Olive Oil Polenta Upside-Down Cake

Blood Orange and Olive Oil Polenta Upside-Down Cake

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Credit: From The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition (Sterling Epicure, 2015), by Amelia Saltsman
The National Culinary Review, September 2015


4 blood oranges
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal (not stoneground)
1 t. baking powder
¾ t. salt
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more, as needed
¾ cup + 3 T. granulated sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 T. Cointreau
1 T. fresh lemon juice


1) Preheat oven to 350ºF. With microplane, grate zest from two blood oranges; reserve. Juice remaining oranges; reserve. Cut both ends off zested oranges; cut each orange crosswise into 1/8- to 1/16-inch-thick rounds. Cut all but one slice in half; discard center pith.

2) Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over bottom of flameproof/ovenproof 10-inch skillet; sprinkle with 2 T. orange juice. Heat skillet over medium-low heat until most sugar bubbles. Remove from heat.

3) Starting at pan's outer edge, lay halved orange slices in melted sugar with "scalloped" edge of each slice touching pan edge. Fit as many orange slices as possible into circle, pinching corners as they are set in hot sugar. Make sure slices with "prettier" side are placed face-down in sugar. Arrange remaining halved orange slices in concentric circles toward center, finishing with reserved whole slice in center.

4) In medium bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, on medium speed, beat together olive oil and ¾ cup granulated sugar until thickened and golden. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until mixture is thick and creamy-gold, 3-5 minutes, total. Beat in zest and 1 T. orange juice. On low speed, add flour mixture in three batches, beating after each addition just until blended.

5) Pour batter evenly over orange slices; gently smooth top. Bake cake until golden-brown, top springs back to touch and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

6) While cake is baking, make soaking syrup. In small pot, stir together remaining orange juice, remaining 3 T. granulated sugar, Cointreau and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook until mixture reduces to consistency of maple syrup, 3-5 minutes, reducing heat as needed to prevent burning.

7) Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Run thin-bladed knife around inside edge of pan to loosen cake sides. Invert serving plate over cake, invert pan and plate together, lift off pan. If fruit sticks to pan, loosen, place on cake. While cake is hot, use fork or bamboo skewer to make holes without going all the way through. Spoon or brush some syrup over cake. Allow to soak in; spoon or brush on more. Repeat until all syrup used. Allow cake to cool completely before slicing.


12 servings


Dessert, The National Culinary Review

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