Orange & Fennel Upside Down Cornmeal Cake

This fennel & orange upside down cornmeal cake recipe is a showstopper for special occasions! The moist cake features blood oranges for a pop of color.

cornmeal cake | orange cake recipe | orange upside down cake | orange cornmeal cake

How stunning is this upside down cornmeal cake? This recipe is from the cookbook Season by Nik Sharma, and the moment we saw it Alex and I were intrigued. The design of the jewel-toned oranges against the yellow cornmeal was too striking to pass up. So we baked the cake, took a million photos of it (see below), and then tasted it: and it was the most moist, flavorful cornmeal cake we’ve ever had. Season is cookbook featuring a fusion of Indian and American cuisine from author Nik Sharma’s two cultures, and if the recipes are all like this, you’re in for a treat! Nik is a San Fransisco food writer and the face behind A Brown Table. Keep reading for the upside down cornmeal cake recipe, and a special Q&A with the author.

Cornmeal cake | orange cake recipe | orange upside down cake |  Season Nik Sharma

An interview with the author, Nik Sharma

1) You grew up in India and then lived as an adult in the United States; Season is a fusion of influences between the two cultures. What are a few of your favorite Indian foods and American foods that you like to cook on an everyday basis?  

I try to look at how I cook as more of an adaptation to what I have available around me, while I try to bring in my influences from India and the different parts of America that I’ve lived in. Like most folk I love sweets and fried food! So yeah, fried chicken when we visit my in-laws in the South is always on my mind, I love making chili (I went to grad school in Ohio) but I also live for making kheer (a type of aromatic rice pudding made with basmati rice and seasoned with spices and dry fruit and nuts) and biryani (because it is essentially a one-pot dish and requires just a bit of yogurt and or a salad on the side).

2) You’ve noted that being gay and a person of color in an online world has brought some unpleasant anonymous comments on your social media at A Brown Table (we’re so sorry to hear that!). What helped you through that challenge to keep doing what you do today? 

I had to move on, I had no choice. I could either let negativity take over my life and take away something I enjoy so much, cooking. That would have been a shame to lose something I love for nothing. In the end, I had to be true to myself and I wasn’t going to change or hide my identity.

3) The Foreword of your book beautiful speaks about you inviting us to your table, “a place where everyone belongs”. What can the everyday person do to support tables and communities that are inclusive to all? 

Start by talking to people who don’t look and sound like you, it will pleasantly surprise you as to how similar you might be and the common interests you might share. In the food world, it’s easier, try and read articles written by authors you might have not heard of, you could purchase a cookbook written by someone from a country you’ve been eager to visit or learn about, celebrate them and their work.

cornmeal cake | orange cake recipe | orange upside down cake | orange cornmeal cake | fennel cake

cornmeal cake | orange cake recipe | orange upside down cake | orange cornmeal cake | fennel cake

How to make this cornmeal cake recipe

This fennel & orange cake recipe is something special occasions are made of. This upside down cornmeal cake requires refrigerating overnight before baking, so think ahead! We had planned to make this recipe on a certain day and then realized we were supposed to factor in the overnight refrigeration: oops! However, Nik indicates that this is his grandmother’s trick so that the cake batter absorbs as much liquid as possible. It gives the cake a very tender crumb, which we enjoyed immensely. So don’t skip this step!

A unique ingredient featured in this upside down cornmeal cake is fennel seeds: fennel and orange are a natural pairing, but we’d never cooked them together in a dessert! After tasting the cornmeal cake, it was just as we’d hoped: the fennel adds just the right amount of complexity and pairs well with the lightly moist cake. And the thin orange slices come out perfectly sweetened, almost tasting like a candied orange.

Another tip: be very, very careful as you slide this cake out of the pan. Alex had a bit of an accident with our cake, and if you look ever so carefully you can see some cracks in the cake surface in our photos. Take care when sliding the cornmeal cake out of the pan, and you should have a much easier time of it than we did!

One final note: This cake recipe requires a 12-inch pan, which we had to special order. With lots of butter and sugar, this cake is a little outside our standard “A Couple Cooks” recipe, but it’s a perfect treat for a special occasion and makes a massive cake! If you’re up for a decadent treat, top this cornmeal cake with our Homemade Whipped Cream!

cornmeal cake | orange cake recipe | orange upside down cake | orange cornmeal cake

cornmeal cake | orange cake recipe | orange upside down cake | orange cornmeal cake | fennel cake

Get the book

Get Season by Nik Sharma here

Looking for more fruit dessert recipes?

Outside of this orange fennel upside down cornmeal cake recipe, here are a few of our favorite fruit dessert recipes on A Couple Cooks!

This recipe is…

This orange and fennel upside down cornmeal cake recipe is vegetarian.

cornmeal cake | orange cake recipe | orange upside down cake | orange cornmeal cake | fennel cake

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cornmeal cake | orange cake recipe | orange upside down cake | orange cornmeal cake

Orange & Fennel Upside Down Cornmeal Cake


1 Star (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 1)

  • Author: Sonja
  • Prep Time: 9 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 10 hours
  • Yield: 18 servings
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This fennel & orange upside down cornmeal cake recipe is a showstopper for special occasions! The moist cake features blood oranges for a pop of color.


Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 4 tablespoons, melted, to grease the baking pan
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 blood oranges, unpeeled
  • 1 Valencia orange, unpeeled
  • 2 cups fine cornmeal
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup cup fresh orange juice (any type of orange)

Instructions

  1. Using a pastry brush, liberally great a 12-inch round cake pan with half the melted butter. Line the pan with a parchment round and brush the paper with the remaining melted butter. Sprinkle the whole fennel seeds and 3 tablespoons of the sugar over the bottom of the pan. Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the oranges 1/8 inch thick. Arrange the orange slices over the sugar and fennel seeds, covering as much surface area as you can.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, orange zest, ground fennel, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the remaining 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar for 4 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Lower the mixer speed to medium-low and add half the dry ingredients, beating until combined, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Beat in the orange juice, and then the remaining dry ingredients, and beat until well combined and there are no visible streaks of flour. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Cover the surface of the batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes , rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the center is firm, yet spongy, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake, and invert the cake onto a plate. Let cool for another 10 to 12 minutes, then gently tap the bottom of the pan to unmold the cake. Peel off the parchment paper and cool completely. To serve, cut the cake with a sharp, serrated knife.

Notes

Reprinted with permission from Season by Nik Sharma

Keywords: Cornmeal Cake, Upside Down Cake, Orange Cake, Oranges, Fennel, Dessert, Cornmeal,

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious.

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Terry Covington
    October 17, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Thank you! I always love to be introduced to cooks I have not come across before. This cake looks beautiful. And I am extremely happy that your interview included questions about inclusiveness – very close to my heart.

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