A recipe for a warm and inviting ginger, vanilla and quince upside down cake from the cookbook Alternative Baker by Alanna Taylor-Tobin.
This post is a part of a series of cookbook posts that I’ll be running from now through December. I was not monetarily compensated for this post but I did receive this cookbook for free as a review copy. I receive numerous cookbooks throughout the year and only choose to highlight and write about the ones I truly love.
It should not surprise anyone that Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s cookbook Alternative Baker is gorgeous. She’s a trained pastry chef turned food stylist for the New York Times and a blogger at the brilliant Bojon Gourmet. This is the book for all those who are looking for outstanding recipes that use whole grains and gluten free flours. (Jump directly to the ginger, vanilla and quince upside-down cake recipe.)
Sure I could go and on about how much I love the recipes in this book. From her Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Tart to her Lemon Ricotta Biscuit Bread Pudding with Berries and Honey, I basically want to make and eat every single recipe in the book. I love how Alanna chooses to pair her gluten-free flours with the flavors in her desserts. I’ve long advocating using whole grains and alternative flours in baking not just for the health benefits (strictly a bonus for me) but rather because those flours actually have MORE flavor than regular all-purpose wheat flour.
Alanna is definitely in the same camp as I am. I had a chance to taste her Chestnut Brownies at an event a couple of months ago and they blew me away with their earthy velvet richness. I have yet to experiment with chestnut flour (something that can be a tad difficult to source) but once I get my hands on it, I know I’ll be whipping up a batch. If you’re gluten free, or looking for a book that will help expand your baking experience, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Alternative Baker. You won’t be disappointed.
I’ll be doing a book signing with Alanna at Green Apple Books on Tuesday, November 21, 2016 here in San Francisco. If you are available, please swing by for tasty baked good samples from our book as well as an opportunity to buy signed copies of our book.
Ginger Vanilla and Quince Upside Down Cake
Courtesy of Alanna Taylor-Tobin
I’m obsessed with quinces, a winter fruit that is related to apples and pears. In fact, I have a quince tarte tatin recipe in my own cookbook. So when I saw Alanna’s upside down cake recipe I knew I wanted to share it with you all. Most folks aren’t familiar with the fruit as it’s a bit old fashioned. You have to cook the fruit first, for a long time, to break down the starches in it and make it edible (otherwise it’s tough and really tannic). But once you’ve done that, it turns an incredible rose colored and has the most beguiling scent and flavor. Alanna uses millet and oat flour in the cake, which gives it a tender delicate texture to the cake.
1 vanilla bean
1/2 large lemon (preferably Meyer)
4 cups water, plus more as needed
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup organic granulated cane sugar
1 3/4 pounds quinces
8 tablespoons (113 g) unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 teaspoons for the pan
vanilla bean seeds (from above)
1/2 cup (100 g) organic granulated cane sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated, packed fresh ginger
1/2 cup (80 g) sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup (65 g) millet flour
1/2 cup (55 g) gluten free oat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) crème fraîche
1. To poach the quinces, split the vanilla bean down the center and use the back of a knife to scrape away the seeds. Set the seeds aside to use in the cake and place the pod in a large saucepan. Use a vegetable peeler (T-shaped works best) to pare away the lemon peel and add to the pot. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pot along with the water, wine and sugar. Bring the liquid to a boil while you prepare the quinces.
2. Use a T-shaped vegetable peeler to pare away the skin of each quince. Cut it in half, leaving the seeds in for now, and add it to the pot. Continue with the remaining quinces. Place a small, heatproof plate (or round of parchment paper cut to fit) over the quinces to keep them submerged, covered partially with the lid of the pot and adjust the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer. Cook until the quinces are rosy and tender, about 1 1/2 hours, adding more water as needed to keep the quinces submerged. When done, carefully remove the quinces and let them drain, reserving the liquid (or let the quinces cool in the juices if using later). Cut the cores, stems and blossoms from the quinces and cut them into 1/4-inch thick slices, then chop some of the slices into 1/2 cup chunks (these will get stirred into the batter).
3. Return the poaching liquid to the saucepan and simmer until reduced by about half and bubbling thick, 10-20 minutes. Reserve.
4. To make the cake, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º.
5. Grease an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan with some of the 2 teaspoon softened butter and line with a round parchment cut to fit. Butter the parchment. Lay the quinces slices, slightly overlapping, in concentric circles over the buttered parchment and set aside.
6. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl fitted with your arm and a wooden spoon), combine the remaining 8 tablespoons butter, vanilla bean seeds and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, then beat in the grated ginger.
7. Meanwhile, sift the sweet rice, millet and oat flours with the baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.
8. With the mixer on low, stir half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Stir in the crème fraîche until just combined, then the rest of the flour, scarping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Stir in the chopped quince and give the batter a final stir by hand to make sure it is well combined. Gently spread the batter over the quinces.
9. Bake the cake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, 40-50 minutes. Let the cake cool completely, then invert onto a serving platter and gently peel away the parchment. If the reduced poaching liquid has solidified, warm it in a small saucepan until liquid. Brush some of this glaze over the top of the cake. Serve the cake at room temperature with a dollop of cream, if you like. Extras will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerated airtight for up to 3 days.
Makes one 8- or 9-inch cake, serves 8-10 people.