Ok, bear with me, this cake may seem like an odd bird, but there is indeed a method to my madness.
For starters, I thought of the Tomato Soup Cake made popular by the Joy of Cooking and the late poet Sylvia Plath, who, aside from her poetry, was an avid baker in her spare time, and this was her favorite cake! Her birthday was Friday, October 27th, (she would’ve been 85), and people have been posting their versions of the cake online in honor of her, so I thought I’d get on that bandwagon!
I thought a fresh tomato version instead of using a can of tomato soup would be good, and THIS RECIPE seemed to fit the bill. The only change I made was to cut the recipe in half and put it in a round pan and to use cherry tomatoes since those are the only tomatoes still in season in October. Did you know local cherry tomatoes are available up until the first frost?
Another thing happening this weekend was the release of the new season of Stranger Things on Netflix! This made me want to do something somewhat related to the show, and I thought that an upside down cake would be a subtle nod to the alternate universe in the show, referred to only as “The Upside Down.” Found a few foxy looking recipes for tomato upside down cake online, but decided to go with Rachael Ray’s recipe HERE.
And so there you have it. The inspiration for a cherry tomato upside down spice cake for the season!
Cherry Tomato Upside Down Cake
3 pints of cherry tomatoes – puréeing about 1 and 1/2 pints for the batter and slicing the remaining tomatoes in halves for the bottom of the pan.
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses (I used date molasses, which is milder than blackstrap molasses, but either would work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: whipped cream and cream cheese:
1 cup whipping cream, cold
4 ounces regular cream cheese
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt, optional
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch round springform cake pan, and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, buttering the top of it. I used baking spray.
Melt the butter with the brown sugar and spread evenly over bottom of the prepared pan over the paper.
Slice about 1 and 1/2 pints of cherry tomatoes each in halves. Place on the bottom of the pan on top of the butter/sugar mixture, cut side down. Try to fill in all the gaps.
Purée the rest of the cherry tomatoes (1 and 1/2 pints), which should yield more than a cup. Use 1 cup of the puréed tomatoes and reserve the rest for something else. (I just up and drank mine then and there!)
(Optional: If you have any leftover cherry tomatoes that were sliced, or any needed for the purée, you can make candied dehydrated tomatoes with them. To do this, dredge sliced tomatoes in some sugar, bake at 200 degrees F., for about 5-6 hours on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. After baking, dredge again in more sugar plus a small pinch of salt.)
Place the 1 cup of puréed tomatoes in a small sauce pan and heat on high to reduce liquid to about 3/4ths of a cup and cool to lukewarm before using.
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a bowl and stir with a whisk several times.
Combine the oil, sugar, molasses, eggs, and vanilla in another bowl and mix with an electric hand held mixer with beaters until smooth.
Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture a little at a time, while also incorporating a little of the puréed tomatoes between flour mixture additions, folding and scraping sides and bottom of bowl as needed, continuing to mix on low.
Pour batter into prepared pan over the sliced cherry tomatoes and smooth out top, if needed.
Place pan on a baking sheet because the springform pan may leak just a little, and bake for roughly an 50-60 minutes, until toothpick test comes out clean from the center, and top is no longer all jiggly.
Let cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Place desired platter over the springform ring of pan and turn over upside down, then remove springform ring and base, removing paper lining carefully. Watch for any tomatoes that get stuck on paper and place them back on top of cake, if needed.
(Optional: To make the whipped cream/cream cheese combo, simply place the cream cheese with the powdered sugar and vanilla and salt, if using, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and beat until smooth, then pour the whipped cream and continue to beat until fluffy and stiff peaks form.)
Serve by itself or with candied sliced cherry tomatoes and/or a dollop of the whipped cream/cream cheese combo.