Meyer lemons are in season and this cake is the perfect way to make them shine! The Meyer lemon is a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange. It is thinner and smoother skinned with a distinctive taste. In this cake, thinly-sliced Meyer lemon slices (use a mandoline) are arranged in a concentric pattern in a caramel base. The zest of 2 more Meyer lemons goes into the batter to add another layer of citrus flavor. The cake, inspired by a polenta cake from pastry chef Hannah Buoye of A16 Rockridge in Oakland, CA, is a dense, moist dessert as pretty as it is delicious. It has a really nice crumb and a bit of a crunch from the cornmeal. As the lemon slices bake, they absorb the butter and the brown sugar from the caramel base and turn into a marmalade-like consistency and taste. If you are a lemon lover, this cake is for you! The caramelized lemon slices will require a serrated knife to cut into. Let the cake cool 2 hours before taking it out of the pan.
Meyer Lemon Polenta Upside Down Cake
- Cooking-oil spray
3/4 cup butter, softened, divided
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 or 3 whole Meyer lemons, plus zest of 2 large Meyer lemons
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup flour
3/4 cup fine cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°. Spray inside of a 9-in. springform pan with cooking-oil spray. Snugly line pan with a 12-in. circle of parchment paper*, pressing pleats flat. Spray parchment with oil; set aside.
- Bring 1/4 cup butter and the brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Pour into lined pan and spread evenly.
- Thinly slice 2 lemons crosswise, using a handheld slicer and removing seeds with a knife tip as you go. Discard ends. Set a small lemon slice in center of butter mixture in pan. Arrange more slices in overlapping circles to fill pan (each slice should overlap the previous one by half). Save any extra lemon for other uses.
- Beat remaining 1/2 cup butter, the granulated sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed to blend, then on high until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 egg at a time, scraping inside of bowl and beating well on high speed, about 1 minute per egg. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Combine milk and vanilla.
- Add a third of flour mixture to butter mixture and blend on low speed; scrape inside of bowl. Blend in half of milk mixture. Repeat to incorporate remaining ingredients, ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into pan; spread evenly.
- Bake until cake springs back in center when lightly pressed, 50 to 55 minutes (it will be well browned). Let cool in pan on a rack at least 2 hours. Run a thin knife between parchment and pan; release rim. Invert cake onto a plate. Remove parchment and cut cake with a serrated knife. Can be made up to a day before serving.
14 additional recipes using Meyer lemon await in this Sunset Magazine article .