We arrived at the food blog conference on Sunday to find a long table loaded with sugar-topped scones, breakfast breads, and freshly-made plump sausages. I scanned the table for the most intriguing bits and found myself fixated on the most unsuspecting item. Fresh apricots sliced in half, exposing their golden flesh. It’s rare to find apricots on a fruit tray and even more rare that this fruit could steal my focus from the sausages.
The delicate apricot scent ushered me back to the age of 10 when every morning I boarded a long yellow school bus at 7:15am. The journey lasted 45 minutes, bounding quickly and roughly over countryside dirt roads. To fill the time, my classmate Kelly would often bring her Strawberry Shortcake dolls, unpacking each one and setting a scene for the day. Sometimes Strawberry Shortcake was running from the devious Purple Pie Man, other days she merely skipped along the bus seat in search of imaginary Spring flowers.
In a stroke of marketing brilliance, the manufacturer associated each Strawberry Shortcake doll with a particular food and scented it to match. Many classmates and other bus passengers found Apple Dumplin’ to be the most desirable. I was a fan of Apricot though, a toddler wearing an apricot shaped hat with a pet bunny named Hopsalot. I often placed the doll to my nose and inhaled deeply, as thought the sweet smell could cut through the dank bus odor or the pungent dairy farms we passed.
My brain wrangles with the concept now and I have to say it out loud to even believe it, “I grew up with food-scented toys”. [And, we wonder why there’s childhood obesity.]
After returning to Vancouver on Monday, I realized my refrigerator seemed pathetically empty, so I dropped my bags and headed off to the market. Within moments of entering the store, I noticed deeply red colored apricots and my weekend apricot urges returned. They looked almost magical. And, I bought a bag full.
The apricots have an atypical color and are aptly named Red Velvet Apricots (a type of plum-apricot hybrid). The flesh is firm and golden, but slightly tart and tastes reminiscent of a mild flavored plum.
I wasn’t sure how I would use the apricots but feared they would somehow disappear if I didn’t scoop them up immediately. In retrospect, I did not need 2lbs. My head moved from left to right, looking for nearby shoppers who may have an eye on the same apricots. I stood in front of the bin, elbows slightly outward from my body to block anyone approaching, then I lifted each one to check for blemishes, firmness, weight, and most importantly … the scent. It was like childhood doll-sniffing all over again, without the bumpy bus ride.
I’ve based the following upside-down cake on my mother’s recipe, with the addition of a honeyed whip cream flavored with cardamom and cinnamon. I also served the cake with a good dose of chopped pistachios.
Apricot-Cherry Upside-Down Cake w/Honeyed Cream
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
In a skillet, melt the butter and add brown sugar. Cook over medium heat just until sugar begins to bubble. Remove from heat and cool.
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 /2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1/3 cup cherries, pitted
1. In a large mixing bowl, blend together the butter and sugar. Add eggs and milk, continuing to beat until combined.
2. Slowly add flour, mixing just until blended. Add all remaining ingredients. Beat together until the mix is smooth, about 1 minute.
3. In the cooled skillet, arrange slices of apricots and cherries on top of the butter and brown sugar mixture. I sliced each apricot in half, removing the pit. Then, I cut each half into 3 pieces (so, 6 slices per apricot). Arrange in concentric circles, along with the pitted cherries.
4. Pour cake batter over fruit, using a spoon to gently spread it smooth and to the edge of the skillet. Bake at 350F (175C) for 40-45 minutes or until cake tests done.
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup chopped pistachios (for garnish)
Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and whip at high speed until stiffened. Adjust flavorings to suit your tastes — I liked it best with the subtle taste of honey and just a hint of the spices.
More upside-down cake ideas:
Cherry and Peach Upside-Down Cake – Food Blogga
Pear and Almond Upside-Down Cake – Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once
Plum Upside-Down Cake – Simply Recipes
Banana Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake – David Lebovitz
Peach Upside-Down Cake – FatFree Vegan Kitchen