Don’t you find it sometimes curious the seemingly ordinary things that spark inspiration in the kitchen? I picked up a couple of jars of flavored syrup at the Asian market last week–one was quince syrup and the other, ginger syrup. I found them in an aisle I don’t normally frequent. They’re Japanese products marketed as “Honey Tea”. When I got them home I opened the jars and found the texture to be more like fruit jelly rather than a smooth, fruit-infused honey. Still, both were pleasant on the palate and I was eager to work with them.
As I stood in front of my kitchen counter sampling my latest purchases, I spied a grapefruit sitting next to an equally lonesome, seen-better-days banana. The wheels in my brain started creaking, er, spinning. Then I remembered seeing grapefruit upside-down cakes while leafing through a book sometime ago. But I wanted a reduced-fat treat and the recipe recommends serving the cakes with créme anglaise (English Cream), meaning more sugar and a huge dose of milk and egg yolks. Would I be able to get away with altering the recipe to accomplish my healthier aspirations? There was only one way to find out.
I will preface by saying that I don’t have a big understanding of the science of baking. When I was a teenager I decided to make pancakes for my parents and sisters. How hard could it be, I thought. I dumped in a bowl some flour, eggs, milk and sugar. I was going for the consistency that my mom’s pancake batter had and I foolishly didn’t consult her or any cookbooks. I achieved golden disks all right and when my mom had her first taste, she said they were delicious. I was ecstatic until I had a bite myself and quickly realized that my mom was just being nice. They were awful–heavy, dense and flavorless! You will understand why my cooking career didn’t pick back up until many, many years later.
Knowing better this time around, I at least armed myself with a foundation to build on. I did take risks by cutting the butter (by 1/2), sugar (by 2/3) and by adding syrup to the batter, but I hoped that my addition of one ripe banana would be an adequate substitution.
I’m pleased to report that the cakes turned out beautifully. They were a little dense because of the banana but I didn’t miss the extra portions of butter and sugar. The quince syrup (in the batter) provided the extra bit of sweetness it needed, a nice contrast to the slightly bitter grapefruit. The latter most likely won’t win the heart of your kids but I enjoyed the tangy quality of the citrus against the slightly sweet cake and syrup served alongside it. Ideal for breakfast or afternoon tea.
Stay tuned this week for the next couple of posts–it’s been an inspired weekend!
Grapefruit Upside-Down Cakes with Quince Syrup
* Makes 6 servings
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup tightly packed golden brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut crosswise into six pieces
- 1 very ripe banana, mashed
- 3 tsp quince syrup plus more for serving (I microwaved for a few seconds to get smooth consistency)
- 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
- 3 tablespoons milk
- Corn syrup
Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
Butter six ramekins and press a slice of grapefruit in each. Place a drop corn syrup on top of each grapefruit slice and follow with about 1/2 teaspoon of quince syrup. Set aside.
Sift together the flour baking powder and salt and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. This will take a few minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition until the egg is fully incorporated. At this point, the mixture will look a bit wet and clumpy but it’s okay. Stir in the mashed banana and 3 teaspoons of quince syrup then fold in the flour. Add the grapefruit juice and milk to get a bit runnier batter.
Use an ice cream scoop to equally divide the batter among the six ramekins. Tap the ramekins lightly on the counter so the batter settles evenly. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan half-filled with boiling water and bake at 350ºF for 30-35 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
Take the cakes out of the oven, remove them from the roasting pan and let cool for a few minutes before unmolding.
Turn out on serving plates and drizzle with additional warm quince syrup.