The City’s Great Street Stalls – making apricot upside down cake
So I live in New York City and one of my first shocks when I started to live here is how truly expensive food is. Not just eating out (which there are too many great options for to choose from) but in the grocery store. Everything is “an arm and a leg” kind of expensive. I’ve made a spaghetti dinner for 6 people and had a grocery bill of over $70 for it! I’m not the kind of girl to waste heirloom tomatoes on spaghetti – that was the bill for my mom’s original recipe.
But then there are my neighborhood fruit stand guys. Everyday I go for a run in the park and end my run’s official time when I reach my fruit stand guy. He’s almost like the thrift store of grocery shopping. With only a couple of bucks in my pocket I can buy my fruit one days worth/one baking adventure worth at a time and am never short of inspiration from the mangoes, plums, apples and bananas sitting on boxes under his large beach umbrella. It’s actually how I keep track of what’s in season. So when apricots showed up out of no where at $1 for 4 I stopped and took notice.
Apricots remind me of home and growing up in California. I don’t know that they’re an especially Californian fruit, but I have rarely eaten them fresh since moving east. When they’re plump and firm they have an irresistible juicy flesh and sweet tartness that is completely lost in their beautiful dried counterparts. Maybe it’s their short ripe season or that you have to eat them right away before they go soft, but apricots taste like the very specific weeks of summer that they arrive in. My new issue of Sunset magazine had arrived just two days ago and a recipe of grilled apricots with lavender butter made me drool. I am just not likely to invest in lavender right now.
I bought $2 worth of my treasures and came home with no specific plan for them. I knew I had time to bake – a tart maybe? Some research would be needed.
Simply Recipes has been a consistently good source if inspiring recipes for me. Her rustic apricot tart was definitely a starting point, but it wasn’t summery enough for me right now. So I turn to google. What I like to do is actually do a google image search for what I’m thinking of and get inspired by the photos. The best are generally always for cool new blogs that I can check out (or old favorites – as I do love a blog with good photos).
I started baking tarts and cakes a few weeks ago as a seemingly random distraction. Baking is therapeutic in so many ways. My college roommate used to bake chocolate chip cookies any time she got stressed. During finals I got so spoiled that I wouldn’t even bother eating them unless they were fresh out of the oven. A sweet tooth has never been my weakness. I just love that I could whip up something elaborate and extravagant in my life in an hour and with almost no expense. Sometimes you just need to feel spoiled I guess.
I was thinking of making an apricot tart with maybe some almond filling. Something to make in my pretty new tart pan. There are some beautiful photos out there of apricot tarts! Through my random backwards search method I discover Zen Can Cook. Wow – he’s made exactly the kind of Parisian tart I want to invest my lovely glowing summer fruit in. Except I don’t have almond paste… or creme fraiche… or an orange to zest.
Maybe it’s not such a fancy day after all. I’ll just make a cake.
Still drooling over the grilled apricots in the magazine I decide on a gooey apricot upside-down cake. I still don’t have lavender but I steal a little inspiration from the rustic tart and add cardamon to my caramel. And since I’m still craving the taste of that Parisian tart I substitute some almond flour into the batter. This should work…
Oh. My. God. Yeah – it worked.
- 1/3 cup butter
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- Ground cardamon (just a light sprinkle even over everything)
- 8 apricots (if you have more than $2 to splurge with then I would shove 10 or more in until I could fit no more – cause they’re the best part)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup almond flour*
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- a big splash of vanilla extract (I’ve never been one to measure that)
- 2 large eggs at room temp
- 3/4 cup buttermilk (I stole some from my roommate – sorry man)
Preheat oven to 375°F
I heated butter in a seasoned cast-iron skillet (at least 2 inches deep) over medium heat until it’s done foaming. Reduce heat to low/med-low and sprinkle in the brown sugar evenly over butter. Cook it for 3 minutes until a caramel starts to form but not all of sugar is melted (no need to stir just leave it alone). Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle with cardamon. Arrange apricot halves cut sides down in the pan until you can’t fit any more of them in there.
*Almond flour is something I keep in my house all the time since it’s used in one of my mom’s (3) cookie recipes. I get it a Trader Joe’s for pretty cheap – but I realize that it’s not something everyone keeps around. You can use all regular flour and put in a little almond extract. It will still add a lovely fragrance to your cake but will have a lighter less crumbly texture.
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