The Secret to a Perfect Upside-Down Cake Is Lots and Lots of Butter

Just trust the process and use all the butter.

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I was halfway through eating a fruit cup the other night when I had the following revelation: I have never, ever in my life, eaten an upside-down cake. Not a peach one, not a chocolate-cherry one, not even a pineapple one. As a self-proclaimed lover of all sweets and treats, I knew I needed to remedy the situation.

Turning to the Food Network Kitchen app for guidance, I typed in the words “upside down cake” and my eyes settled on the recipe for Erin McDowell’s Clementine Polenta Cake. Just from the picture alone, I knew I had to make it. In addition to turning out a beautiful upside-down cake, I learned some tricks along the way.

Buttering Your Pan Does Double the Work

You probably already know that when it comes to keeping cake batter, muffin mix and, really, any other baked good from sticking to the bottom of your baking vessel, butter works wonders. It wouldn’t surprise you then that Erin uses a significant amount of it — three tablespoons to be exact — to coat the sides and bottom of her cake pan.

Though this definitely helps keep your pan adequately greased throughout the baking process, this use of butter is also key for creating your cake’s signature toffee-like topping. “You’re probably looking at this and thinking, ‘Okay, Erin that’s way too much butter for that tiny pan’, but it really isn’t,” Erin shares. “What’s going to happen is eventually we’re going to sprinkle some brown sugar in here and that brown sugar and the butter are going to melt together in the oven and basically form this incredibly delicious caramel sauce. This much butter is also going to ensure that none of that caramel sticks to the pan.”

Whatever You Do, Keep Your Clementines Whole and Your Slices Thick

While most people break clementines apart and eat them wedge by wedge, you’ll want to try your best to keep your clementines whole before slicing them to make the top of this upside-down cake. Because clementines are segmented, they tend to fall apart a lot easier than other kinds of fruit. In order to combat this, Erin cuts hers into extra thick rounds to ensure she’s getting the right amount of citrus. “You want to barely be able to see any of that brown sugar in the base of the pan,” Erin advises.

Polenta is Just as Delicious in Baked Goods as It Is in Savory Dishes

Chances are you’ve used polenta before alongside shrimp, salmon, meatballs or a variety of other savory dishes. Though there’s absolutely no doubting just how delicious polenta is when served in this way, using it in a sweet dessert is just as enjoyable. “There’s something about corn and citrus that really go well together,” Erin shares when answering a viewer question about the unexpected, yet yummy, flavor combination.

Not only does the inclusion of polenta give your upside-down cake a crumbly cornbread-like texture, it simultaneously acts as a natural decor for your cake when paired with the bright citrus slices on top. “I love the color that polenta lends to dishes. We’ve got this sunny clementine, we’ve got this sunny polenta — we’ve just got a very happy cake here,” Erin says.

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