I wanted to make a tarte tatin the other night, using the apricots in the fruit bowl, plump and ripe with blushing skins like giggly maidens with naughty secrets. I hadn’t thawed the puff pastry out in time, and came upon Bill Granger’s recipe for an upside down cake. Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s apricot tarte tatin to which he adds thyme, I combined the two ideas to make this cake. The apricots become sweet with a tart edge, the cake gets soaked with the buttery caramel and thyme adds a nice woodiness. Don’t be afraid to be generous with the thyme, it can get overpowered by the sweet caramel. Best part is you make the caramel in a pan on the stove, dollop the cake batter over the apricots in caramel and transfer the same pan to the oven. A one pan wonder!
10-12 apricots halved and stoned (stones smashed and kernels slivered and set aside)
1 lemon, zested and juice set aside (keep zest for cake batter)
80 g unsalted butter
3/4 cup (190 ml) caster sugar 1 t vanilla extract 1 heaped T thyme leaves.
For the Cake:
100 g unsalted butter
1 cup (250ml) caster sugar
4 extra large eggs, separated
1 t vanilla extract
1¼ cups (310 ml) cake flour
2 t baking powder
For the Caramel
1. Use a 26-28 cm frying pan with a metal handle or a skillet, heat on medium and add butter and sugar to pan. Allow to melt, swirling pan gently now and then.
2. Add lemon juice, vanilla and increase temperature slightly – the mixture will have started bubbling already. Swirl the pan and watch the liquid as it starts to colour. In about 5 minutes it should turn a nice caramel colour. Remove from heat, it will darken off the heat too. Stir with a wooden spoon.
3. Add the apricots, cut side down, in two concentric circles to cover base of pan. Scatter the thyme leaves over and between.
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Place butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer and cream until light and fluffy (or use hand held beater or wooden spoon if doing manually).
3. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and mix.
4. Sift flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture. It will be thick.
5. Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until stiff peaks form. Add the nuts and lemon zest to the batter. It will be a firm batter.
6. Fold egg whites thorough the cake mixture with a rubber spatula. Spoon evenly over the apricots and smooth with a spatula. (note batter is thick)
7. Bake cake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake – comes out clean. It may bake quicker in your oven, check after 30 minutes at 5-10 minute intervals.
8. Remove cake from the oven and leave in the pan for 5 minutes.
9. Turn over onto a plate by holding the plate over the pan and inverting the pan and plate at the same time – strong arms!
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt.
Cake browns very quickly so cover with heavy foil after 15 minutes, making a few holes with a skewer. Remove foil in last 10 minutes of baking.
The apricots in your cake may darken during the baking, with black spots as the caramel gets sticky. This is fine too.