This Blood Orange Upside-Down Cake is moist, tender, and brimming with spiced citrus flavors. With blood oranges in full swing this orange season, this is your go-to treat!
I was inspired in the grocery store by the brilliant colour and spicy scent of blood oranges. Crafted to perfection, this cake is a burst of citrusy blood orange flavor with every bite, making it a treat for citrus lovers.
This blood orange cake has a special twist of vanilla and a mix of spices including cinnamon and cloves, which gives it a warm and energizing aroma. Although the list of ingredients may appear lengthy, many of these essential items are likely already stocked in your pantry.
For those looking for a delightful afternoon treat or wanting to make the most of the seasonal blood oranges, this cake is a great choice. It not only looks visually appealing with its colorful round of fruit on top, but it's also a comforting winter treat.
Ingredients and Variations
The Flour Mixture - Cake flour or all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Spices and Flavoring - Ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and vanilla extract create a flavor symphony.
Sugar - A blend of granulated and brown sugar, with a cup sugar ensuring the cake's ideal sweetness level. If you're feeling experimental, go for the top of brown sugar mixture for a caramel hint!
Butter - You will need unsalted butter, both softened and melted. The latter will be used to brush the sides of the springform pan, ensuring a golden exterior.
Eggs - Two medium-sized eggs, preferably at room temperature, bind the ingredients and introduce air bubbles for a soft, spongy texture.
Blood Orange - For this cake, slices, juice, and zest of high-quality blood oranges are the key ingredients. Half-inch thick wheels of blood orange will beautify the top of the cake (which will actually be the bottom when baking). Blood orange zest and juice in the batter give this cake a tangy twist, countering the bitterness of blood orange that some might taste. You will need 3-4 medium-sized blood oranges.
Buttermilk - Buttermilk is the primary liquid for the cake batter. If unavailable, combine ⅔ tablespoon of white vinegar with ⅔ cup of whole milk.
How to Make Blood Orange Upside-Down Cake
- Preheat: Preheat your oven to 175°C (350F). Ensure your oven rack is positioned in the middle to ensure even baking.
- Pan Prep: Line the bottom of a round 9-inch cake pan or springform pan with parchment paper. The circular base helps maintain the symmetry of the orange wheels. Brush the parchment paper and the sides of the springform pan with melted butter using a pastry brush. This ensures the edges of the cake are golden brown and crisp.
- Sugar Sprinkle: Sprinkle some of the brown sugar mixture at the bottom of the prepared pan (on the parchment paper). This will caramelize the blood orange slices, creating a juicy and slightly sticky top for the upside-down cake.
- Orange Formation: Slice 1-2 blood oranges into ½ inch-thick wheels. Arrange them on the sugar-covered parchment paper in a circular motion. The result? A colorful round of blood orange slices that will dazzle once inverted.
2. Making the Batter
- Creaming: Cream the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer on high speed. Aim for a soft, creamy consistency, which is the foundation of a moist cake.
- Eggs & Flavor: To the creamed butter mixture, add the vanilla extract, and the eggs—one at a time. After each egg, mix well for about 1-2 minutes, then add a few tablespoons of blood orange juice and fresh zest. It's normal for the batter to curdle slightly, but don't worry; it will come together.
- Dry Ingredients Mix: In a separate large bowl, sift and combine the flour mixture (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ground cloves). Sifting ensures no clumps, giving the cake its fluffy texture.
- Alternate & Combine: Gently fold in the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Ensure no air bubbles form, as they can create pockets in the baked cake. Overmixing could lead to a dense texture, so blend just until combined.
- Pour & Position: Pour the batter over the arranged blood orange slices in the prepared cake tin. Place the pan in the center of the oven.
- Monitoring: Bake for 40-50 minutes. To test for doneness, insert a cake tester or wooden skewer into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's ready. Baking times can vary based on oven models and the specific pan size.
4. Cool Down & Invert
- Initial Rest: Once out of the oven, let the cake cool in the tin for around 5-10 minutes. This rest allows the structure to set, making it easier to invert without breaking.
- Inversion: Using a thin knife or palette knife, run it along the edges of the cake to ensure it's not sticking. Then, place a large cutting board or serving plate over the top of the pan, and carefully invert. The beautiful caramelized blood oranges should now be on top.
- Final Touch: Allow the cake to cool further for about 20-30 minutes, ideally by first transferring on a wire rack. Once cooled, sprinkle some powdered sugar, slice using a sharp knife, and serve. You can also pair it with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Tips for the Best Upside-Down Cake
- Ingredient Accuracy: Always weigh your ingredients, especially your flour mixture, using digital kitchen scales. This ensures accuracy and the perfect ingredient ratio for the right cake consistency.
- Room Temperature Essentials: It’s not just butter that benefits from being at room temperature. Ingredients like flour, eggs, and even whole milk or greek yogurt should be brought to room temperature. This helps in achieving a uniform batter consistency and optimal rise during baking.
- Cream to Perfection: To ensure the right texture and airiness in your cake, cream the butter and cup sugar mixture until it’s pale and fluffy. Whether you're using a hand or stand mixer, make sure you achieve a creamy, almost cloud-like texture.
- Avoid Overmixing: Once you add the remaining flour and other dry ingredients, mix just until combined. Overmixing can make the cake dense. If you spot air bubbles, gently tap the batter-filled tin on a flat surface before baking to release them.
- Flavor Enhancements: While vanilla extract is a classic choice, consider introducing almond extract or a hint of orange blossom water for an extra layer of aroma. Remember, the key is subtlety; you don't want to overpower the primary orange flavor.
- Perfectly Placed Oranges: Arrange the orange wheels uniformly. This doesn't just affect presentation; it ensures each slice gets an equal share of the juicy, caramelized citrus.
- Cake Testing: Around the 35-minute mark, start checking the cake with a cake tester. Insert it into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, your cake is ready. If not, give it a little time and check every few minutes to avoid overbaking.
- Cooling Process: Once baked, let the cake cool in its tin for a while before inverting. This cooling phase ensures the cake holds its shape and doesn’t crumble during the inversion process. Then, after inverting, carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool for a further 20 minutes.
- Experiment with Toppings: While powdered sugar is a great finishing touch, you can also add fresh rosemary or other herbs for a contrasting flavor.
- Pan Flexibility: If your cake feels stuck, gently heat the base of the tin on a medium heat source for a few seconds. This little trick can help in loosening any caramelized sugar and make the inversion process smoother.
Common Cake Problems and Solutions
- Dense Cake: Often, this is caused by overmixing once the flour mixture is added. Use the right amount of flour (weighing is recommended) and mix just until combined. Do not overmix.
- Sunken Center: If your cake has sunk in the middle, it might be undercooked. Bake for the recommended time and always do the cake tester test. If your cake tester sticks with wet batter, you need more baking time. This blood orange cake requires 40-50 minutes of baking time at 175°C (350F).
- Cake Not Rising: Check your baking powder. Using old or improperly stored baking powder can affect the rise. Also, make sure you get your batter in the oven promptly after mixing.
- Unevenly Cooked Cake: Ensure your oven rack is in the center and that the cake is placed in the middle of the oven for even cooking.
Storing Leftover Blood Orange Cake
- Room Temperature: Store the cooled cake in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Ensure a tight seal to prevent drying.
- Refrigeration: If you live in a particularly warm climate, consider refrigerating the cake in an airtight container. Let the slice sit at room temperature for a bit before consuming, for the best flavor.
Using a Different Cake Tin
- Circular Base: The classic choice, providing a delightful round of fruit on top. A springform pan can be helpful, especially with the sides of the springform pan being detachable.
- Square Tins: For a more angular look, a square tin can be fun. Adjust the baking time as the area might differ.
- Loaf Tins: Perfect for a more bread-like, elongated cake. Great for slicing and sharing!
Baking times may vary depending on the size of your cake tin!
Blood Oranges vs. Regular Oranges
- Blood Oranges: These offer a deep color and a unique citrusy flavor. They're also a tad bit more exotic, making your cake stand out.
- Regular Oranges: Easier to find in any grocery store and can be just as delicious. Navel oranges or even small citrus fruits can be used as alternatives. Ensure you adjust the quantity to cover your chosen cake tin adequately.
This cake tastes even better after a day or two as the flavors blend together, making it a perfect make-ahead cake. Additionally, the fruit becomes juicier, making the sponge moist.
Once the cake is baked, allow it to cool completely. Then, tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, followed by aluminum foil. You can store it in a cool place or in the refrigerator.
When it's time to serve, let the cake come to room temperature to bring out the best flavor and texture. You can also add some fresh orange wheels or zest right before serving to freshen up its appearance.
Other Fruit Cake Recipes
Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter melted
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 medium-sized blood oranges sliced
- 250 g flour cake or AP (2 cups)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon optional
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves optional
- 113 g unsalted butter softened (½ cup)
- 100 g granulated sugar (½ cup) see notes
- 100 g brown sugar or cane sugar (½ cup) see notes
- 2 medium-sized eggs
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp. blood orange juice
- zest of one blood orange
- 160 mL buttermilk (⅔ cup)
- 2 tsp. powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 175°C (350F) and line the bottom of a 9" cake pan with parchment paper.
- Brush the surface of the parchment paper and sides of the cake pan with melted butter. Sprinkle brown sugar over bottom of cake pan (on brushed parchment paper).
- Arrange sliced blood orange in a circular motion on cake pan bottom.
- Sift and mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ground cloves in a bowl and set aside.
- Place softened butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until creamy. Use a spatula to scrape any ingredients from the side of the bowl.
- Add vanilla extract and eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add blood orange juice and zest and mix until combined.
- Add the dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk in two additions and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
- Pour batter in cake pan over sliced oranges. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool for 5 minutes in the cake pan, then run a knife along the edge of the pan. Place a large serving plate on top of the cake pan and carefully invert it to bring out the cake in an upside down manner. Let cool for 20-30 minutes before serving.
- Dust with powdered sugar, as desired, slice, and serve.