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Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

The carefree days of summer are embodied in this relatively effortless, yet elegant, skillet dessert. Aromatic lavender permeates the lightly sweetened cornmeal cake, and plump peaches impart even more fragrance and flavor.

  • servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 ounces (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 medium ripe peaches (about 1 1/4 pounds), skins on, pitted, and cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh lavender, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Cook's Note

Perfectly ripe peaches, available from May to October, will feel heavy for their size, yield slightly to gentle pressure, and emit a sweet, heady perfume. Avoid any fruit tinged with green, as it won't ripen. Ready-to-eat peaches last 3 to 5 days refrigerated; firmer ones will soften when kept in a brown paper bag on the counter for up to 3 days.

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, using a pastry brush to coat sides with butter as it melts. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar evenly over bottom of skillet, and cook until sugar starts to bubble and turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Arrange peaches in a circle at edge of skillet, on top of sugar. Arrange the remaining wedges in the center to fill. Reduce heat to low, and cook until juices are bubbling and peaches begin to soften, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.

  2. Step 2

    Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, lavender, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat remaining stick of butter and 3/4 cup sugar with a mixer on high speed, until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in vanilla and cream. Reduce speed to low, and beat in cornmeal mixture in 2 additions.

  3. Step 3

    Drop large spoonfuls of batter over peaches, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer skillet to a wire rack, and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around edge of cake. Quickly invert cake onto a cutting board. Tap bottom of skillet to release peaches, and carefully remove skillet. Reposition peach slices on top of cake. Let cool slightly before serving.

Source
Martha Stewart Living, August 2008

Reviews (14)

  • 2 Aug, 2013

    My favourite!!

  • 26 Aug, 2011

    I used fresh lavender from my herb garden: I rinsed and patted it dry, then diced the heads finely, saving some whole stems w/flowers for the garnish. I used coarse-ground cornmeal and a 10" Lodge cast iron skillet and the cake turned out perfectly. Guests raved that the cake is not too sweet & the lavender added a delicate flavor. And everyone loved the crunch of the cornmeal ... and the beautiful presentation. Trouble w/moisture or dryness? check your oven thermostat. Ovens vary.

  • 14 Aug, 2011

    Loved this cake. It looks fabulous and tastes great. I am not a huge fan of the lavender though, next time I think I will try cardamon instead. I also used nectarines instead of peaches and it was fine. I agree with other reviews that under-ripe fruit works well in this recipe.

  • 11 Jul, 2011

    this is a fabulous summer recipe. I love the lavender flavor, but it can be omitted. Every time I make it, I get raves. It can be made 2 days in advance and is just great with vanilla ice cream. Freezes well also.

  • 26 Apr, 2010

    I love love love this cake. Its very easy and not too sweet. The lavender is an fabulous suprise to lavender eating virgins. I used a 12 inch pan and found the cooking time appropriate. I've made this 3 times and it has delighted all sorts of palates.

  • 19 Jun, 2009

    This is a great, simple, show stopper of a dessert. I actually found that using slightly under ripe peaches worked well, since you cook them. Also, since I didn't have lavender, I used 1/2 t. corriander, 1/4 t. nutmeg and 1/4 t. cloves. Although I'm sure lavender would be great, I really liked it with the other spices.

  • 31 Oct, 2008

    I'm the editor of Living and this was one of my favorites of the recipes we printed this summer. I made it twice, both times it was easy, and slid out of my 10" cast iron skillet perfectly. I loved the contrast of the cornmeal with the sweet syrup of the browned peaches. A definite keeper for next summer as well.

  • 16 Sep, 2008

    I made this tonight without the lavender and it was delicious!! I used a 12" cast iron skillet and baked it for about 30 minutes...it turned out great. I used regular salt instead of coarse, but it wasn't salty at all. I love the coarse texture and the baked sugar on the crust...YUMMY!!

  • 5 Sep, 2008

    Althought delicious, I thought it was a little bit too salty. Did anyone else find that? Anyway, I will use less salt next time. (And my butter WAS unsalted as recipe says.) Could it have been my cast iron pan?

  • 1 Sep, 2008

    Looked great and came out of a well-seasoned cast iron skillet perfectly, but even with ten extra minutes was woefully underdone, though it had tested done and was well browned. And it was too sweet - probably because the peaches I used were too perfect! Would try it again and make some changes including upping the temp to 375.

  • 25 Aug, 2008

    I used a 10" Cuisinart

  • 4 Aug, 2008

    Look for fine cornmeal in Italian Stores. I like baking with fine cornmeal because you get the beautiful yellow color, the great taste of cornmeal without the coarseness.

  • 22 Jul, 2008

    The polenta I used was too coarse so my cake was gritty. I used a non-stick spray on my iron skillet and the cake slid out beautifully. I will certainly make this again with a less coarse cornmeal.

  • 21 Jul, 2008

    i substituted blueberries since they were fresh at our farmer market. reduce the time the berries cook vs peaches. also i need an additional 10 extra minutes for the cake to cook. it slid right out of the skillet. I used an All Clad 10 inch skillet.