Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

This week's recipe for Tuesday's with Dorie is Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake.  I was pretty excited to make this cake, as I finally found some fresh tasty nectarines and the recipe sounded so yummy....  fluffy cake, streusel filling, fresh nectarines.  Sounds like a good combination!  However, I have mixed feelings about the end result.  I'll explain as we get there.

Plus, I had to deal with a few challenges on the way to creating this cake. 

Let's start with my first challenge.  The recipe calls for a 10-inch springform pan with 3 inch sides.  My springform pan is 9 inches.  I didn't so much feel like buying another springform pan, as I just don't use them that often.  What to do?  I posted a request to borrow a 10 inch pan on the kids forum in  my neighborhood.  I have to say, our kids forum is fantastic!  It is good for all things kid-centered, but so many other things as well!  Like springform pans!  I asked if anyone happened to have a pan I could borrow for a few days and a few hours later I had several offers!  Yahoo!  I love my neighborhood!  Challenge one - overcome.

My second challenge was a bit more difficult.  A couple days before I planned to bake this cake, I seriously injured my neck/shoulder at the gym.  Seriously readers, I was simply doing push-ups but I turned my head a funny way and felt tearing pain shoot from my neck into my shoulder.  Not good.  Working out can be dangerous!  That night I was in such pain I didn't sleep a wink and actually woke up Mr. Clever Mom at 3am as I was in pure agony to see if he could help.  That dear man massaged me for an hour.  Bless him!  Anyway, I was laid up in bed the entire next day, wondering how in the heck I would make this cake.  Breathing hurt.  Standing hurt. How would I bake?  Well, when baking day came, that sweet man became my sous chef.  He sliced, he measured, he mixed.  I couldn't have done it without him.  Challenge two - overcome!

On to the cake!

You start by melting butter in the springform pan on the stove.  I was really leery about this, since this was a borrowed pan, so I melted that butter really slowly and gently.  It worked with no pan damage, phew! 

Then you press dark brown sugar into the melted butter, and arrange sliced nectarines on top of the sugar. 

In the mean time, mix roasted almonds, flour, more dark brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, butter, and oats in a food processor, and then bake it until it is golden brown.  This will become the streusel.

 A chiffon cake is made with oil instead of butter.  Since you can't really beat air into oil like you can butter, chiffon cakes use beaten egg whites plus baking powder/soda leaveners to create the puff.  The Baking with Julia book describes chiffon cakes as "light textured, springy, moist".  Let's remember the word "moist" as we continue.

Egg whites are beaten until foamy, then sugar is added and the egg whites become meringue!

Ta-da!  Meringue!  The book said "if you run a finger through the whites, it should leave a smooth, even path".  Got it!  I love good descriptions like that.

A small amount of the meringue is folded into a mixture containing egg yolks, oil, lemon juice, flour baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Then this mixture is folded into the rest of the meringue and the cake batter is finished!

Half of the batter is poured on top of the nectarines in the pan.  Then most of the streusel is sprinkled on top, finished with the rest of the batter and the rest of the streusel.  Mmmm.  This pan was filled to the absolute brim!

Here is where my satisfaction with this cake started to wain.  The cake is supposed to bake for 45-50 minutes at 350F, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean.  After 50 minutes, the cake was golden but it was still very jiggly.  It stayed in for another 10 minutes.  At this time, when I pulled the tester out, it came out clean.  Theoretically, it is done, right?  One might think "yes" is the correct answer.

Not so much.

I brought the cake over to our friend's house for our Labor Day party and proceeded to invert it onto my serving platter.  And I noticed that the center of the cake appeared to be raw.  It was very liquidy.  How did the tester come out clean?  It is a mystery.  I promise, I poked that tester in several places and it was clean each time.  All I can figure is that the MOISTURE was wiped away as the tester came up through the rest of the cake, which was baked properly.  Remember how I asked you to keep that word "moist" in mind?  Yeah.  Here it comes again.

I carefully put the springform pan BACK on the cake, turned it the right way again, and stuck it in my friend's oven for another 25 minutes.  I figured I had to get the cake itself back up to temperature and then it needed to cook some more.  25 minutes later, the cake tester comes out clean.  Again.  Surely after this long it is done, right?  I let the cake cool for 25 minutes on a rack, and then inverted it again.

Looks good, right?  Lets get a better look at the middle....

See how the middle of the cake looks kind of wet?  That would be because it IS wet.  It sort of looked like raw cake batter.  But how could that be, really?  I still don't understand.  I finally convinced myself that the eggs were surely cooked and that the moisture must have to do with the juices from the nectarines and the brown sugar/butter mixture, and that no one could possibly get sick from this cake, and I served it.  I put a big blob of almond whipped cream on the more questionable looking part of each slice to conceal the imperfections.

And it tasted really good.  Definitely moist.  Though a bit too moist for my preferences. 

It was good.  But what's the deal with the center of this cake?  There is actually a photo of this cake in the book and the middle looks perfect.  (Of course).  I am very curious to see if any of the other bakers in my group had this problem, or how they maybe avoided it if they didn't.  So, even though it ended up tasting pretty good, if you have some fresh nectarines, I recommend you make the Blueberry-Nectarine Pie instead.  That was a hands down winner!  This one had more mixed results...

If you are interested in the recipe, it is on pages 241-243 of Baking with Julia.  Or, please visit Marlise's blog, The Double Trouble Kitchen, and Susan's blog, The Little French Bakery.  If you are curious to see how other renditions of this dish turned out, check out the post entitled "LYL: Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake" on the Tuesday's with Dorie blog.  That is where we all go to post our blog addresses once we create the recipes!


  1. Looks wonderful! I had a 10-inch springform pan but chose to use an 8-inch and it came out perfect, I made the recipe as is then just used what I needed for the size.

  2. That neighborhood forum does sound very nice and useful! I made mine in a 9" pan and had to bake it for about an hour and 15 minutes before it was done so I think the baking time in the book is definitely not right. At least it tasted good right? And whipped cream, ice cream, or frosting can hide a multitude of sins! :)

  3. Mine looked like that in the middle as well. I think maybe there is too much juice from the fruit. Next time, I will slice the fruit thinner and use less. It still tasted good to us!

  4. I baked mine until the oven was smoking with burned up brown sugar. Yikes! In the end I won't be making it again. Enjoyed your post! Catherine Blessings, Catherine http://praycookblog.com/2012/09/twd-bwj-nectarine-upside-down-chiffon-cake/

  5. That's so strange - it's frustrating that it passed the skewer test and it still wasn't cooked. The flavours of this cake are so good, it's a shame it didn't work for so many folks.

  6. I can't believe you were able to re-invert the cake back into it's pan and bake it. A clean tester is a mystery though.

  7. I noticed that my toothpick was coming out clean while the center was still jiggly, so I kept baking it (several bad cheesecake experiences have made me gunshy on that one...).
    I am impressed with how you were able to recover! And the almond cream sounds like a good complement.

  8. So weird that the tester kept coming back clean. I ended up baking mine for almost an hour before the center stopped jiggling and moving the oven rack lower since the top (or I guess bottom) of the cake was getting pretty brown from being in the oven so long. Sorry you had so many hiccups with this one. But your husband gets a gold star for being sous chef. :)


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