Mandarin oranges are abundant around Chinese New Year and it is a cultural tradition for some communities to throw excess oranges into the river on Chap Goh Meh.
But with current Covid-19 standard operating procedures in place, it has turned a lot of these social events upside-down.
What better time than now to turn this upside-down situation into a festive cake?
Bake an upside-down cake to make use of the mandarin oranges that may otherwise go to waste.
An upside-down cake is basically cake batter that has been baked with fruit topping placed on the bottom of the cake tin.
When the cake is done, the entire pan is inverted and the fruit layer on the bottom becomes the top.
There are so many factors that affect the success or failure of this cake and you wouldn’t know the outcome until you have inverted the pan.
It’s always nerve-wracking during the flipping of the cake, not knowing if the fruit juices had watered down all the caramel during the baking process or if the caramel had hardened, causing the fruit to get stuck to the cake tin.
It is advisable to line the cake tin with paper to avoid anything from sticking directly onto the cake tin.
It is also perfectly fine to take off any stuck fruit and reassemble them into the cake.
It is quite normal for the exposed surface to be quite wet, so baking the inverted cake an additional 10 to 15 minutes will help dry out some of the fruit juice and crystallise the caramel.
The additional baking time turns the orange into candied peel.
Because it is essentially coated with melted sugar, the cake is very hot when it comes out of the oven.
You may serve it warm but it needs to be cooled down about 30 minutes before it can be handled safely.
You will also need to cut the cake with a serrated knife in a sawing motion to cut through the candied orange peel.
Mandarin oranges make this the perfect dessert to share with your loved ones for Chap Goh Meh, which falls on Feb 26.
However, you may substitute with other citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines or yuzu.
Mandarin upside-down cake
175g granulated sugar
4 tbsp water
3 mandarin oranges, sliced thinly
40g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ tsp salt
290g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
115g soft unsalted butter
240g castor sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Lightly butter the cake tin. Crumple a big sheet of baking parchment, spread out and press into the tin.
Slice the mandarin oranges to half-centimetre thickness, picking out seeds as you go and set aside.
Chop up the remaining ends of the orange in a blender and set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium heat.
Bring to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally for about 10 minutes, until it turns an amber colour.
Remove pot from heat, cool slightly before carefully stirring in the butter and salt until incorporated. Pour the caramel into the papered cake tin.
Starting from the centre of the pan, layer the orange slices on top of the caramel, overlapping a bit and working your way toward the outer edge.
Cut up the remaining slices to fill in the empty spots.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and then add in blended orange.
Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk, beating just to combine.
Pour the batter over the orange slices in the cake tin, being careful not to move them around too much.
Tap the pan against the counter top to smooth the cake batter.
Bake 60-70 minutes, rotating the pan halfway until done.
Invert the cake onto a heat-resistant platter while it’s still hot.
Bake another 10-15 minutes to sear the exposed orange slices.
Allow to cool before cutting with a serrated knife to serve.
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