Serves 8 to 10
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 or 4 peaches or nectarines, peeled if desired, sliced into eighths
2-1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 extra-large eggs
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
About 2 tablespoons fresh chopped lemon herbs, optional
I’ve always had a fondness for upside-down cakes; my grandmother used to make a good one with cherries in the center of the pineapple rings. I suppose as a kid I liked that what was on the bottom of the pan turned out to be on the top. So I make upside-down cakes with all sorts of different toppings; I also like that they are baked in an iron skillet. Sliced peaches, nectarines, and plums or halved apricots all are delightful toppings for this simple, moist, not-to-sweet, eat-any-time-of-day kind of cake. A little chopped lemon herbs (I like lemon basil or lemon verbena—about 2 tablespoons, minced) or lemon zest can be added to the batter. I use a 10-inch skillet, if you use a 9-inch it will be a thicker cake and if you use an 11-inch it will be a thinner cake, the baking time will vary 5 to 10 minutes. This recipe was adapted from a Blood Orange Skillet Cake published in New Southwestern Cooking, which I co-authored with Carolyn Dille many years ago.Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch iron skillet over medium low heat. Add the brown sugar, stir until it is dissolved; it should look like thick chocolate syrup. Continue to cook until the mixture just starts to bubble, and then remove promptly from heat.
Arrange the fruit slices close together in the skillet on top of the butter and sugar. Arrange any extra fruit slices around the sides of the skillet. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, mace or nutmeg together in a bowl.
In a mixing bowl, beat the softened butter, add the sugar and blend well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture, alternately in three parts, with the buttermilk in two parts. Add the herbs or zest at the end, if using them; beat until the batter is just mixed. Stir to be sure the batter is smooth. Pour the batter over the fruit slices in the skillet.
Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350° F and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes more. The cake is done when it is golden brown, the edges pull slightly from the sides, and a tester comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and carefully run a metal spatula around the edges. Place a cake plate over the skillet and carefully turn the cake out onto the plate. It should come out easily; rearrange any fruit slices if they get out of place. If there is any excess topping in the skillet, scrape it onto the cake. Let the cake cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. It is good served slightly warm or at room temperature.