I knew I shouldn’t have bought out-of-season blueberries. But in a moment of weakness, I fell for them. Then I tried them alone, in yogurt, and in fruit salad. Nope. They just lacked the intense blueberry flavor I yearned for. While I couldn’t bear to throw them away, everytime I thought of eating them, I just put them back in the fridge. What could I do to make them appealing? The answer was this jammy blueberry ginger cornmeal cake.
I turned my lackluster blueberries into a jammy, deliciously sweet topping that was a perfect foil for a not-too-sweet cornmeal cake. We ate it all day long – at breakfast, for a snack, and for dessert after dinner.
I love upside down cakes. With a slightly gooey top and a plain cake below, the upside down cake looks and tastes, as my mother used to say, “like a million bucks.” This one fits the mold well, no pun intended. Adding it to my repertoire of fig and ginger and cast iron orange olive oil upside down cakes, I feel as though I’ve created a whole subspecialty of baked delights.
The cake has 3 parts:
- The jammy blueberry ginger layer, which goes on the bottom of the pan. (When you flip the pan over, this becomes the top.)
- The cake itself, suffused with cornmeal and a bit of powdered ginger for a tangy, or somewhat dense and crumbly center. It is based on a Washington Post recipe, but only loosely so.
- Slivered almonds sprinkled on the top and then flipped over to become the base.
The ingredients are straightforward.
I recommend beginning the cake by getting the dry and wet ingredients into their respective bowls for the batter (separately) and putting them aside.
Then you can concentrate on making the jammy topping.
Once the topping is in the pan, mix the batter and pour it in the pan. Do not worry if a bit of the jammy topping streaks the batter. When you flip it over, that won’t matter.
Finally, scatter the nuts on top. That slivered almond layer becomes a crunchy base when you flip the cake over.
If a bit of the topping sticks to the pan when you turn it over, simply repair the damage with a butter knife. Lifting out any stubborn blueberries that stick to the pan is simple. And once you add them back after turning the cake rightside up, the topping looks just fine.
The topping here follows the butter and brown sugar pattern of a tart tatin. But like David Lebovitz’s lowfat tart tatin (which, by the way, is fabulous), I use much less butter than the typical recipe.
Note that my jammy blueberry cornmeal cake has a lovely bottom, courtesy of the toasted slivered almonds that I sprinkled on top of the cake batter. (Remember the top becomes the bottom when you flip the cake over.) That step is certainly optional, but I love the extra crunch and flavor that the nuts provide.
I’m a huge fan of ginger, especially when it is candied or crystallized. In this cake, I’ve used both candied/crystallized and powdered ginger. It pairs well with the blueberries and adds a note that deepens the overall taste. But if you’re not a fan, leave it out or use less.
You need a strong, quick hands to turn the cast iron pan over. If you can’t lift and flip such a heavy pan, use a lighter one. Cast iron is best, but as long as a pan can withstand a 375° F/190° C oven, it will work. (Don’t use one with a plastic or plastic-covered handle.) Another alternative is a 10-inch round cake pan. If your cake pan cannot withstand stovetop heat, make the jammy topping in a small pan and scrape it into the cake pan.
The cake tastes delicious for days. Although the center (the cornmeal cake) does dry up a bit, the topping stays jammy and moist. It is the perfect accompaniment for a cup of coffee or tea at any time of day.
Jammy Blueberry Ginger Cornmeal Cake
A sweet, blueberry ginger topping complements a not-too-sweet cornmeal cake below, with an almond bottom.
Blueberry/Ginger Topping (Bottom of upside downcake before baking)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted 1 oz/28.35 g
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark) 3.75 oz/107 g
- 2 cups blueberries 7.1 oz/200 g
- .25 cup candied or crystallized ginger, chopped into small pieces 1 oz/30 g
- 1.25 cups all-purpose flour 5.3 oz/150 g
- 0.5 cup yellow cornmeal 2.75 oz/78 g
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1 cup granulated sugar 7 oz/198 g
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted 3 oz/85 g
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt, with enough milk or water (about 2 tablespoons) to make 1/2 cup 2.66 oz/75.66 g
Nut Bottom (top of upside down cake before baking)
- 1/2 cup lightly toasted slivered almonds 2 oz/57 g
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F/190 C
Whisk together the dry ingredients for the batter (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, powdered ginger, and granulated sugar) in a large bowl. Combine the liquid batter ingredients (melted butter, eggs, and yogurt/milk or water mixture) in a small bowl. Set both bowls aside.
Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter for the topping. Add the brown sugar and combine it with the butter using a spatula until the mixture is thoroughly moistened. Add the blueberries and candied/crystallized ginger and cook on a medium-low heat, just until the blueberries soften and begin to release their juices.
Spread the blueberry topping evenly over the pan, turn off the heat, and set aside.
Add the liquid batter ingredients to the dry batter ingredients and whisk until well combined. Spoon the batter over the topping in the pan, and smooth it out. Scatter the toasted almond slivers over the batter and bake the cake for about 45-50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Once the cake is done, slip a butter knife around the sides of the pan and flip it over onto a large platter or cake dish. Repair the top if any of the blueberry/ginger topping has not come out. Cool to room temperature before cutting.