Mandarinquat Upside Down Cake

I've been on the fence when it comes to upside down cakes after having difficulties with them several times in a row.

But after those mishaps, I realized that I can't treat an upside down cake like the cake I want to eat.

A fluffy, moist cake, like this chocolate cake, is not going to cut it for a upside down cake. Instead, you want a dense cake that will only soak up that sauce on the top or bottom (depending how you look at it) and keep the rest of the cake sturdy and solid. In a more porous cake, the caramel sauce that the fruit nestles in will soak all the way through making the cake soggy.

 It makes for very sad results.

My go to for upside down cakes is generally stone fruit because I love the stuff but since we are months out from stone fruit, I decided to make one with these mandarinquats that I got from a foodie friend who got them in his box from Nevermore Farm.

I was never into any type of 'quats until I tried them last year but even then, I was still a bit hesitant. There was something about the combination of mandarins and kumquats that intrigued me more than just plain kumquats to accept the offer of trying to make something with them. Maybe it's that I am a sucker for mandarins in the winter or I was just feeling up to the challenge.

And definitely because these are so, so cute.

I have a thing for mini.

These are bigger than your regular garden variety kumquats but with a lot more seeds which you should remove for this cake. But they have the same tart sweetness and were so juicy upon opening. Probably even juicier than some other citrus I have seen as of late. 

I figured that tart, juicy mandarinquats would go perfect with super sweet caramel sauce and buttery vanilla cake. I was pleased with the combination, especially as someone who likes sweet but not too sweet. 

For me, the best part about making upside down cakes is arranging the fruit in the caramel sauce. As a designer, I like patterns and order so this is a super fun exercise in that. 

On top of that goes a simple butter cake batter flecked with vanilla bean seeds because I feel like I always save them but never use them. 

When flipping the cake, it must be done immediately when the cake is out of the oven so that the fruit doesn't stick. And if any pieces do stick, carefully rearrange them back on the top. This is definitely the most nerve-wracking part. I always find myself counting to prepare myself whenever flipping anything like pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches. But surprisingly, I just go for it when doing air falls in hapkido.

The final result is a brilliant orange, mandarinquat-studded cake. The mandarinquats almost become candied after bubbling in the caramel sauce for 30 minutes.

In retrospect, I would have added more or another layer but that is an experiment for another day. 

Excellent with a nice cuppa. 

Mandarinquat Upside Down Cake

Adapted from The Kitchn

Yields: one 9-inch cake // Active Time: 45 minutes // Inactive Time: 30-40 minutes