This magnificent pudding (aka cake) was made with the purpose of showcasing winter lemons, their bitter flesh a great way to cut through an otherwise decadent eating experience. As happy accidents go, this was tested alongside a separate dish that included a maple-butter sauce. A squeeze of lemon and a generous amount of maple butter was spooned over the cake because well, why not, and it suddenly dawned on us that lemon-maple butter had been the missing component all along. Lesson learned: sometimes that which is very, very wrong can turn out to be really quite right.
Be sure to remove the butter for the pudding from the fridge well in advance—it needs to be super softened at room temperature before making the base. —Food52
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour 40 minutes
- Serves 8
- Lemon Upside-Down Cake
medium lemons, thinly sliced into 1/16-inch/1/4 cm thick rounds to get 24 slices, seeds removed
(160 ml) grade B maple syrup
vanilla pod, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved with the pod
1 3/4 cups cups
plus 1 tablespoon (225 grams) all-purpose flour
(225 grams) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, then cut into 3/4-inch/2cm cubes
large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
plus 1 tablespoon (225 grams) packed light brown sugar
(60 ml) whole milk
(240 grams) crème fraiche, to serve
- Lemon-Maple Butter
freshly squeezed lemon juice
(120 ml) grade B maple syrup
(115 grams) unsalted butter, fridge cold and cut into 1/2-inch/1.cm cubes
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking dish about 9 x 13 inches/23 x 33cm in size with a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the bottom and sides, with enough overhang to fold over the cake as well.
- Place a large, nonstick frying pan on high heat and, once very hot, char a third of the lemon slices on both sides—about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Continue in this way with the rest.
- Put 1/2 cup/120ml of maple syrup and the scraped-out vanilla pod in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with the charred lemon slices, spreading out so they cover the entire bottom, overlapping in places.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, with the whisk attachment in place, and mix on medium speed to combine. Add the softened butter, eggs, yolk, vanilla seeds, brown sugar, milk, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until combined. The mixture will look as if it’s split a little with some smaller cubes of butter—but that’s okay.
- Spoon the mixture into a piping bag, snipping the base, and pipe the mixture evenly on top of the lemons in the baking dish (piping the mixture ensures the lemons don’t move around too much). Gently smooth over the mixture with the back of a spoon. Fold over the excess parchment paper to cover, then wrap the dish tightly in foil.
- Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan (roughly 16 x 11 inches/40 x 28cm). Pour enough boiling water into the pan to come 11/4 inches/3cm up the sides (about 1 quart/1 liter), then bake for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the foil, unwrap the top of the cake, and lift out the baking dish from the water. Set aside for 5 minutes before carefully inverting the whole thing onto a platter, removing the parchment paper to expose the lemons.
- Toward the last 10 minutes of cooking, make the lemon maple butter. Put the lemon juice and maple syrup into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Cook for about 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and, when no longer simmering, gradually add the butter cubes a little at a time, whisking with each addition until incorporated. Don’t let the mixture boil at all—you should be left with an emulsified sauce. Remove from the heat.
- Drizzle one-third of the lemon maple butter all over the cake and serve warm, with the extra maple butter and crème fraiche alongside.
- Make it your own: Try this recipe using kumquats instead of lemons, and orange juice instead of lemon juice.