After Thursday’s episode of Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello [and a full recap of the recipes from me to him], we started wishing we were alive in the ’50s. Maybe that was only me, but we did develop a hankering for cake.

Upside-down cake isn’t something about which I’ve ever thought: “That looks fantastic!” If I do come across one, it’s usually in an old-timey cookbook I’m flipping through to chuckle at the abundance of gelatin in recipes [meat aspic?!], placement of odd-colored maraschino cherries everywhere, and the silly titles people gave their recipes. Really a good time — you should give it a try.

To be perfectly honest, real old-fashioned pineapple upside-down cake has only been on my plate once or twice and, not to insult whosoever made those cakes, it’s never left an impression. Michael’s ‘gourmet’ version of pineapple upside-down cake — kicked up with chunks of mango and toasted macadamia nuts, cooked in individual ramekins — set my mind a-wandering… and apparently his, too, because as I was explaining the recipe, he asked if we could use papaya [we're still sitting on about three pounds].

So no, that’s not a typo up there. We baked a papaya upside-down cake!

This cake a home run. Unmistakably elegant and delicious. The crumb is meltingly tender and not too sweet, as is often the case for basic cake recipes or the store-bought varieties. Because I baked it in a smaller dish, the brown sugar and butter layer was thicker than normal, which is definitely not a bad thing!

Papaya Upside-down Cake [makes one 8" or 9" round cake]

I halved the recipe and baked it in a 5″ diameter soufflé dish, but I’m posting the recipe in its original size.

Printable recipe

12 T unsalted butter, divided

1/2 c dark brown sugar

1/4 c grapefruit juice

enough 1/4″ thick papaya slices to cover the bottom [from a ripe, red Caribbean or Mexican papaya, like a Maradol papaya]

1/2 c milk

1 egg

1 1/2 c AP flour

1/2 c granulated sugar [I decreased the sugar by about 1 T]

2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

whipped cream, to serve [optional]

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Melt 4 T butter in an oven-proof skillet or an 8″ or 9″ cake pan. Stir in the brown sugar and continue to stir over low heat until it dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the grapefruit juice. Arrange the papaya slices in one layer in the pan; set aside. [We arranged the papaya in the soufflé dish, prepared the brown sugar topping in a small skillet, then poured it atop the papaya.]

Melt the remaining 8 T butter and set aside to cool for a moment. In the a 2-c measuring cup, add the milk, egg and slightly cooled butter; beat well. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the milk-egg mixture and beat with the paddle attachment until smooth. Pour batter over the papaya slices and bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. [Ours was done at 33 minutes.]

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a plate, fruit side up. Serve in big wedges with whipped cream, if desired.

Adapted from Fannie Farmer

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