Mariel here. While my family isn’t particularly religious, we’ve always celebrated every holiday with a certain degree of religious zeal. When I was little, there were nearly as many decorations and preparations for Easter as there were for Christmas. We had an Easter tree flaunting hand-blown eggs that we painted on our front porch (my ears still hurt from rocketing the yolk out of those things); we awoke on Easter morning to bunny-themed gifts and tchotchkes; my parents arranged a full-tilt, no-holds-barred basket hunt whereupon one of us ALWAYS ended up in tears, swearing the grown-ups purposely made our basket the hardest to find; and my mom went all out with the Easter brunch, prepping days in advance for a meal that lasted approximately 20 minutes before we bolted out the door high on cocoa bunnies.
I’d be lying if I said my childhood saw the last of my egg-hunting days since both my mom and mother-in-law have orchestrated hunts for us adults. It’s still fun, it’s still wildly competitive and one of us still ends up on the verge of tears claiming favoritism.
This year, the holiday is looking far more civilized however. My mom will be out at the family beach house prepping for the summer season ahead, and my husband and I will be rifling through a shipment of family furniture from a storage unit in Philadelphia in the hopes that there’ll be enough to furnish at least a few corners of our new house in the ‘burbs. My stepmom and dad have kindly offered to host us for Easter dinner and since my stepmom is bearing the brunt of the cooking burden, I’m somewhat off the hook this time around. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t inspired to whip something up.
With a cornucopia of oranges and mangoes verging on the cusp of over-ripeness, I scoured the internets for a recipe that screamed springtime. As luck would have it, I came across this cake from a January 2002 issue of Gourmet. According to the comments, the cake in its original form was a tad too sweet, but I liked where the dish was going so I decided to use it as a base. I swapped out the mango nectar (which is pricey and can be hard to find in some areas), in favor of tart orange juice to add a dash of acid. I also cut the sugar content in both the cake itself and the topping allowing the fruit to shine through.
There is nothing about this cake I didn’t like. It’s as gorgeous to behold as it is to eat. I suggest using Champagne mangoes if your grocer has them – these yellow-skinned beauties are smaller and tarter than their jumbo size sisters, but their slight sourness brilliantly complements the sweetness of the cake. It’s the perfect finish to a sunny Easter day – even if the weather decides not to cooperate.
Orange-Mango Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from a recipe in the January 2002 issue of Gourmet
Ingredients for the Topping:
2 firm-ripe mangoes, peeled (I prefer Champagne mangoes, which tend to be a bit tarter and less fibrous) – $3.50
¼ stick (4 Tablespoons unsalted butter) – stock
¼ cup packed light brown sugar – stock
Ingredients for the Cake:
1½ cups all-purpose flour – stock
1 teaspoon baking powder – stock
¼ teaspoon salt – stock
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened – stock
¾ cup granulated sugar – stock
2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk – stock
1 teaspoon vanilla – stock
½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (I juiced two medium-sized tangerines, but store-bought OJ would work) – $1.78
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $5.28
Cost per serving: $0.52
Directions for the Topping:
1. Slice mangoes lengthwise and remove flesh from the halves using a spoon. Cut into half-inch slivers. Be sure to extract any excess flesh from the pit, since that’ll be usable too.
2. Melt butter over med-low heat in a small saucepan. Once melted, stir in the brown sugar and simmer (stirring occasionally) until the sugar is incorporated and you’re left with a thick paste, about 2 minutes.
3. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan and spread the butter/sugar mixture. It won’t coat the entire surface, but spread as best you can. Arrange the mango slices on top in whatever pattern you think is prettiest. Set aside.
Directions for the Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and softened butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 whole eggs and one egg yolk one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
4. Reduce speed to the lowest setting and add half of the flour mixture stirring until just combined. Pour in the orange juice and stir, then add the remaining half of the flour mixture. Finish stirring by hand to avoid over mixing.
5. Spoon the batter over the arranged mango slices in the cake pan – being careful not to disturb your lovely arrangement – and spread the batter evenly. Bake for 47-50 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
6. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife along the edges of the pan, invert onto a platter and continue cooling. Serve at room temp (with ice cream, if desired).