Peaches are in season and they make a perfect dessert. Ripe Ontario peaches are one of my favourite treats – sweet and juicy, they practically burst with flavour and I wait every summer to sink my teeth into them. Pick some up at your local farmer’s market and make this upside-down peach and cornmeal cake for a perfect easy dessert that will delight and impress. It is light, fluffy, delicate, flavourful, and not too sweet, so it pairs really well with ice cream. I took one to a dinner party last week and there were hardly any crumbs left.
The recipe is adapted from an old Martha Stewart magazine recipe I saved years ago. I’ve witched up some of the ingredients to suit my taste preferences and it works like a charm. You can use any kind of sugar in this recipe. I like the more full flavour of brown sugar but you can use regular white if that’s more your jam. You can also swap out the nutmeg for another spice if you would prefer. The original recipe called for lavender, so feel free to experiment. Depending on the texture you like, you can also use coarse or fine cornmeal for a slightly different result.
You will need:
A cast iron skillet
1/2 cup butter, softened (plus 3 Tbsp for the pan)
1 cup brown sugar
4 medium peaches, skins on, pitted and cut into wedges
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whipping cream (35%)
How to make the magic happen
Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the extra 3 Tbsp of butter in the skillet over medium heat and tilt the skillet to coat the bottom evenly. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar evenly over the melted butter, cooking until the sugar melts and starts to bubble. Arrange the peach slices in the skillet, packing them tightly. This will be the top of your cake, so make it pretty! Reduce the heat to low and cook until the juices are bubbling and the peaches begin to soften (about 10 mins). Take off the heat and sprinkle with freshly ground nutmeg (I like a good amount, so I just grate it liberally right overtop). Set aside while you get the batter ready.
For the batter, mix all the dry ingredients together: flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and more grated nutmeg to taste (again, I’m pretty generous with mine). In a bowl, beat the remaining butter (1/2 cup) with the remaining sugar (3/4 cup) until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one a time, and cream, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides. Slowly beat in the dry mixture until fully incorporated.
Drop large spoonfuls of batter over the peaches in the skillet, distributing evenly. With a spatula or a spoon, spread out evenly, pulling gently so as not to move the peaches. Bake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let sit on a wire rack for ten minutes before inverting.
The cake would have come away from the sides a little as it bakes, making it easy to invert. Run a knife or a spatula around the edge to make sure the sides are loose and cover the skillet with a plate that’s at least as wide as the skillet. Hold the plate firmly to the skillet on two sides, with your thumbs facing up, and quickly flip over towards you. I find this technique works very well for preventing any sliding. You can look up some videos of inverting cakes online if you’re unsure how to do it. Tap the bottom of the skillet before lifting from the plate. If any peaches get stuck to the bottom of the pan, simply scrape them off (along with any caramel left in the bottom of the skillet) and position them on the cake to fill in any holes.
Let cool slightly and dig in!
If the cake survives the night, cover and place in the refrigerator for storage. Reheat before serving.