Bake

Quince Buckwheat Upside-Down Cake

November 23, 2020
2 Ratings
Photo by PHOTO BY ROCKY LUTEN. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG. PROP STYLIST: MEGAN HEDGPETH.
Author Notes

Come fall, the elusive quince begins to appear in my neck of the woods (New York). I’ve sometimes even walked past, assuming they’re wonky pears or misshapen apples. This was a mistake. Once located, quince should be cherished. Their raw flesh is super-tart and quite firm: My friend characterizes the texture as “moving toward jicama,” but even tougher to crunch into. When cooked, though, pale quince flesh turns rose-gold, tender, and sweet, as evidenced in this upside-down cake.

If you can’t find quince in your area, or if they’re out of season (figure they’re available mid-October through December in Northeastern farmers markets, and through January for some commercially produced Californian varieties; if you’re lucky, you may find Chilean quince available from March through May), you can swap in the same weight of baking apples, such as Pink Lady or Honeycrisp, or pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou. Poaching the quinces brings out their rosy color, as well as softens the fruit’s flesh, which can take up to 90 minutes, depending on each quince. If you’re using apples or pears, peel, halve, and poach the fruit for about 20 minutes, or until a knife easily slides in. To achieve something similar to quince’s rosy color with apples or pears—or to give some oomph to paler quinces, which can happen!—make the same poaching liquid, swapping out 1 cup of water for 1 cup pomegranate juice, (or try red wine for an even deeper color). —Rebecca Firkser

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 15 minutes
  • makes one 9- or 10-inch cake
Ingredients
  • Unsalted butter or cooking spray, for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 pounds quince (about 3 large or 6 small, see headnote for substitutions)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced, divided
  • 1 large vanilla bean, halved and split lengthwise (or 4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided)
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 5 whole cardamom pods
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Flaky salt, for serving, optional
  • More Greek yogurt or whipped cream, for serving (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Combine 3/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, 1/3 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon extract), cloves, cardamom pods, and star anise with 5 cups of water in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to ensure the sugar dissolves.
  2. When the mixture comes to a boil, peel and halve the quinces, leaving the seeds and core in the fruit. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and immediately place the quinces cut side-down in the poaching liquid, making sure they’re totally submerged in the water by placing a small heatproof plate over the fruit (this prevents them from oxidizing and turning brown). Simmer the fruit, checking every 30 minutes, until they turn rosy in color and are tender enough that a paring knife slides easily into the flesh. This can take up to 90 minutes depending on the fruit. Remove from the heat and let the fruit cool in the poaching liquid. Poached quince can be prepared up to 1 week in advance, refrigerated in their poaching liquid in an airtight container. Note: The longer the quinces sit in liquid, the rosier in color they’ll get. (If you want to guarantee a more striking pink, see headnote.)
  3. When you’re ready to assemble the cake, preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease a 9- or 10-inch springform pan well with butter. Cut a round of parchment paper, place in the center of the pan, and grease that as well. Place the pan on a sheet pan to catch any drips. (You can use a cake pan for this as well, but you’ll need to use a 10-inch pan with a 3- or 4-inch depth, as the cake may overflow in a 2-inch deep cake pan.)
  4. Remove the quinces from the poaching liquid and transfer them to a cutting board. Cut each halved quince in half again, slice out the core and seeds and discard, then thinly slice the fruit into wedges. Strain the poaching liquid into a saucepan and set aside for later. Starting from the center of the pan, layer the quinces into the pan, in a pretty spiral if you’d like, or just toss them all in (it’ll taste the same!). It may look like too much fruit, but use it all, making sure none of the cake pan surface is exposed.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, both flours, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and ground cardamom. Crack eggs into a small bowl. If using vanilla bean, scrape the remaining 2/3 of the split vanilla pod into your eggs and lightly beat (if using vanilla extract, just pour in the remaining 3 teaspoons). Gently whisk the eggs and vanilla, lemon zest, yogurt, and oil into the dry ingredients until just combined. Scrape the batter into the pan over the quinces and gently smooth the surface with a spatula.
  6. Bake the cake until golden brown, pulling away from the edge of the pan, and a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes in a 9-inch pan, or 45 to 55 minutes in a 10-inch. If the surface of the cake starts to look dark partway, tent with a piece of foil and keep baking.
  7. While the cake bakes, bring the remaining quince-poaching liquid to a strong simmer over medium heat, and continue to cook until the liquid thickens and reduces to about 1/2 cup total, about 20 minutes.
  8. When the cake comes out of the oven, let cool for 5 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake, release the spring, and invert it onto a cooling rack. Remove the pan, then carefully remove the piece of parchment paper. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
  9. To serve: Cut into thick wedges. Serve with glaze drizzled over each slice, a sprinkle of flaky salt, and a big dollop of Greek yogurt or whipped cream.

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Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. Her writing has appeared in TASTE, The Strategist, Eater, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish and Basically. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl. You can follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.