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Dessert Recipes

Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake and some Como

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Thinking of what to bake while in Italy is never easy. The requests start to come trickling in on about day 3 from my sister-in-law that has a huge sweet tooth. I settled on this quick and painless peach and cornmeal upside-down cake for a couple reasons.


Mostly, because Teresa (my mother-in-law), had just bought 20 kilos of peaches for 10 Euros. That is a huge bargain in Italian standards and especially in American standards. She got peaches for 6 Euros a case. And these weren’t just any ol’ peaches. They were juicy and delightful.

I woke up one morning before the rest of my family to find Teresa and Domenico (my father-in-law) peeling and slicing. And peeling and slicing. The pile was overflowing and I really wanted to help them. First I needed a little caffe’ to wake me up and so then I peeled and sliced and we made jam. Lots and lots of incredible peach jam. But it barely made a dent in our peach supply.

My sister-in-law came over aggravated the next day as Teresa stored a huge bowl of peaches in her fridge. When I say huge…it was HUGE! And if you’ve never been to Italy, you have to imagine how small their fridges are. Well, how small all their appliances are compared to ours. But that’s a whole different story I won’t get into here. I’d rather talk about this peach cake.

So one day I finally got an opportunity and drummed up the courage to gently nudge Teresa out of the kitchen for a minute so I could bake a little something. It wasn’t that easy. I did need her to show me where every single ingredient was. And it was a process. Because the eggs were stored down in her cantina (I’m not sure why). The flour was running out, so that was also another trip down to the cantina to get more. And while Domenico was there, he forgot to bring me a lemon. Then the mixer is stored somewhere in the dining room. A spatula would’ve been nice. That took about 15 minutes to find. The cake that should’ve taken only minutes to put together was taking almost an hour and dinner was about to made. I was in the way and I was rushing.

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While my father-in-law rounded up what I needed to make this cake, I started to brown the butter in the baking pan; Teresa was highly confused and asked why I didn’t just add some parchment paper to the pan. She kept pushing her parchment paper roll on me. She didn’t get it. I explained to her it was for the peaches. Teresa rarely browns butter for a cake and hardly ever makes an upside-down cake. The only butter she browns is to add fresh sage from her garden for a pasta dish. I probably looked like the crazy American baker. I kindly asked her to leave as she was reminding me that the butter was about to burn.  

So you see the 2nd photo of the cake is a little darker than the first photo. The first photo just made today in Florida. Yes, today I baked in my little kitchen. I found two packages of peaches at my local fruit market. It wasn’t quite the bang for the buck as it was in Italy. But it worked. And I didn’t overbrown my butter. And it also was really quiet in my kitchen. I sort of missed the chaos and the confusion. I missed Teresa questioning my every move and hurrying me to close the fridge door as it’s so hot and all the cold air is escaping. The flour wasn’t as soft as the Italian “00” type of flour. The eggs’ yolks weren’t that rich yellow like I see only in Italy. But the cake was as wonderful as it was when I made it a couple weeks ago in Italy. 

These are the peaches I was peeling and slicing for jam making in Italy a couple weeks ago. Remember, there were almost 40 lbs of them. This was just a small portion.
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So what was it like in Italy these days? There were lots of 500 spottings. This one was a classic and the owner was nice enough to even let Luca sit in it and pretend he was driving it. Fabrizio was telling the kids the story how every summer they would take their road trip down to Calabria. His mom and dad in the front and he and his two sisters squished in the back. Gabriella’s eyes widened in disbelief, “You ALL fit in this tiny car and drove all the way to Calabria?!?”

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There were lots of days filled with soccer games. We watched Italy make it even to the Euro 2012 finals. That was thrilling and I loved walking to the local bar to get a paper and here the soccer fans talk about their favorite players and how they predicted the final game would go.
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We took some long car trips and we also took some short trips to Lake Como for a gelato. I had fun messing around with Instagram and of course, with my camera. These are all shots of Como. I’ll share some more photos in the next few weeks. And some more recipes.
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Some cake notes: I made this cake in Italy in a regular non-stick pan. Today when I made it in Florida, I used my cast iron skillet. I just love my cast iron skillet. In Italy, I did use panna (heavy cream) and today I used lower-fat milk (I’m trying to lose some of the weight I gained there!).  Both times the cake turned out delectable. You can choose the sort of cream you’d like. I think it would be even nice with almond milk in case you are dairy-free.

Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
source: Martha Stewart

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

Directions

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. 

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.

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 or your cake plate. Tap bottom of skillet to release peaches, and carefully remove skillet. In case you lose some peaches, you can reposition peach slices on top of cake. We like it best when it’s warm and even better with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. 

Thanks for your friendship and support and I hope you’re having a peaceful and delicious summer!

35 comments

  1. I *love* an upside-down cake and I adore peaches - this looks just perfect, Lora! :)

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  2. she can store peaches in MY refrigerator anytime!

    this looks lovely - would you believe I have never made an upside down cake? I need to get on this, perhaps with all the cherries I have...

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  3. I just LOVE this recipe! Thanks for sharing.

    Stephanie
    www.theblondekitchen.com

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  4. I love this peach recipe. I'm going to Niagara on the Lake and picking up some fresh Ontario peaches while I'm there this weekend. YUM!

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  5. This cake looks SUPERB
    I love baking with fruits, especially in the summertime
    The funny thing is that I just bought cornmeal yesterday, now I know why :)

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  6. This cake looks so delicious!!!
    I love peaches.. so this is just fantastic!!
    Oh and I love that Tiny Red Car.. :)

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  7. peach and cornmeal are well together - I make a peach cornmeal muffins that is much loved by everyone

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  8. The trails and tribulations to went through to make this cake in Italy, but SO worth it! I love the photo of all those peaches..and wish I had a sinkful right now! I'm also a stickler for cast iron when making upside down cakes. Like in your photos..you just don't get as caramelized a fruit topping as you do with a plain cake pan. I am dying bto make this! I've made 'enough' apple tarte tatins in my life..now I want peaches, plus the cornmeal cake!

    Phew..finally, love the photos from Como. I hope to visit somewhere, anywhere, in Europe one day..France, Italy and Scandinavia at the top of that list, in that order :)

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    1. oh! yes, a peach tatin sounds dreamy!!

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  9. Umm..make that TRIALS and tribulations lol

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  10. sounds like a wonderful cake. Peaches in Italy amazing: like sweet flowers, don't they. I love seeing your Italy photos.

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  11. You made me so nostalgic with the pic of the Fiat 500, here it was everywhere when I was growing up, the first car for many since it was the cheapest (I´m talking many many years ago); you can still see them today as many think they are retro cool again.
    Love cakes with polenta! Will have to wait for the peaches though.

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    1. The Fiat 500 original models are the best. Grazie, Paula:)

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  12. Lora, I am in love with your cake! It is gorgeous! And cornmeal and peaches are perfect together. Plus perfumy lavender--Yowza:) The almond milk idea is perfect, too, since almonds and stone fruit are like peas and carrots. Smartie:) And I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing your photos; I'm especially enamored of the wee dog:)

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    1. Thanks, Jenni. The dog was too cute. There were so many fun photo ops of dogs around the cities;)

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  13. I want that bike! Your cake looks delicious. I love peaches and am jealous of you having so many at once.

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    1. Thanks Emily-there were so many fantastic bikes:)

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  14. How lovely to read about your stay in Italy. With the mother-in-law, the father-in-law, the baking, the peaches........So typical. Your cake looks delicious!!!

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  15. I love this story and cannot wait to see more photos from Como. That is yet another place to visit on my bucket list! So glad that you are back in your own kitchen baking for us again. :-)

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    1. I hope you do. If you do, we would have to meet up for sure:)

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  16. I'm so glad you had such a lovely time... and somehow I don't really believe that you gained that much weight. You look beautiful darling!

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    1. Thanks Brian. I was more careful this trip;)

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  17. This cake sounds wonderful Lora! It is so pretty as well. Love the combination of peaches and cornmeal, so delicious! Love all of your photos of the trip!

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    1. Peach and cornmeal is a yummy combo. Thanks so much, Amy:)xx

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  18. I love your photos! Thanks for the wonderful virtual tour...And this upside down cake looks really delicious. I may not be able to experience the smell of Italy (just yet!...perhaps soon!) but at least I get to enjoy the smell of this cake coming from my kitchen...Gotta go do a little baking...;)

    Myfudo here...Normally we'd never put a shameless plug back to us, but we just launched our new site and we would love for you to be a part of it. I'd love to share our newest launch with you, I hope you don't mind? Now that we are getting a new look...Myfudo is moving to a new domain http://www.yumgoggle.com This has been a project we have been working on for almost a year now. We just launched our new gallery submission site, and we are just thrilled. We’d be proud to have your work as part of our growing collection to continue to have a larger reach and further inspire all fellow food lovers out there! Please sign up and check us out (it's free) http://www.yumgoggle.com/gallery
    We look forward to seeing your wonderful pictures, as always.
    p.s. We are hosting a Kitchen Aid Mixer Giveaway to celebrate our new Yumgoggle site, we hope you'll participate =)
    http://www.yumgoggle.com/cakes-cupcakes-the-black-forest-cake-cupcake-a-kitchenaid-mixer-giveaway/

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  19. This peach cake looks divine. It sounds like you had an amazing time in Italy. I love the picture of the cat eating lasagna. Too funny.

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    1. that is a fun picture of a very happy cat. thank you, Jennie:)

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  20. Oooh, both your cakes look delectable! It would be my FIL who would be questioning all my moves in the kitchen if I baked at my in-laws! I love all your post Italy visit posts...the stories and recipes are so captivating~

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    1. thanks, Lizzy;) Your FIL sounds adorable.

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  21. This is such a fantastic cake! Absolutely love it!

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  22. That cake is so pretty...reminds me of the colors of sunset. I especially love your photos of Italy though Lora but this time I am a bit disappointed. You couldn't get near the lake? No George Clooney. Ahh...guess that adorable pup will have to make do. Probably a sweeter companion anyhow huh? XO

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  23. I love this post and I love this cake! Really beautiful and the peaches are perfect. I used to make something similar and it was JP's favorite cake but you remind me that it has been several years since I did. I really want to try your recipe for him.... I love all of your photos from Italy :-)

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  24. this is another beautiful upside down cake, this is something like a skillet cake where old days people used a skillet to cook the cake on fire. I dont think my skillet can go into the oven. Ha! i can imagine all the questioning from your mil in the kitchen..i think it's quite normal :)

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