Here’s a recipe from Baking with Julia. (The picture is a photo of the cake's page in the book.) It comes from Johanne Killeen, the baking half of the Killeen-Germon duo, owners of Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island.
If I remember correctly, Johanne was the first person to come to Cambridge, MA to tape an episode of Baking with Julia in Julia’s kitchen. Julia and Johanne had worked together before and it was clear they were both happy to see one another and happy to be side-by-side in the kitchen again.
Johanne was our butter-cake teacher for the series and she chose to make upside-down butter cakes in individual sizes. In her on-air cake, she poured caramel into 4-inch round cake pans, covered the caramel with rhubarb and poured in the batter. (You can find the recipe on page 244.) But in this cake, a bonus recipe for the book, Johanne omitted the caramel and put fresh sage leaves in the bottom of the pan and it was both beautiful and delicious.
If you’d prefer to make one large cake, use a 12-inch cake pan and bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes.
Of course, you can swap the sage for other fruits or herbs. Johanne made a wonderful cake using rose geranium leaves and adding a little rosewater to the batter and I've made the baby cakes with lemon verbena and a tiny drop of lemon oil. This is definitely a recipe with play-around possibilities.
Let me know if you find a new favorite combination.
BABY UPSIDE-DOWN SAGE BUTTER CAKES
Adapted from Baking with Julia
Makes 8 baby cakes
About 48 small sage leaves
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Melted butter, for coating the pans
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the insides of 8 mini or baby cake pans, each 4 inches across and 1 inch deep, with a light coating of melted butter, dust with flour and tap out the excess. Arrange 6 sage leaves, pretty side down, in the pan to create an attractive sunburst pattern.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together and reserve. In a separate bowl, stir the vanilla into the crème fraiche or sour cream and set aside until needed.
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or use a hand-held mixer, and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The butter and sugar must be beaten until they are light, fluffy and pale, so don’t rush it – the process can take 3 to 4 minutes with a heavy-duty mixer and 6 to 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Working with a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the dry ingredients and the crème fraiche alternately – 3 additions of dry ingredients, 2 of crème fraiche. You’ll end up with a thick batter.
Spoon the batter over the sage leaves and smooth the tops by rotating the pans while you run a rubber spatula over the batter. Put the pans on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. (Test a couple of cakes to be certain.) As soon as the cakes are removed from the oven, turn them out of their pans onto a rack.
Serving: These are nice with whipped cream – berries or grapes are a good addition.
Storing: Wrapped in plastic film, the cakes can be kept overnight at room temperature.
Related Link: EVO and Yogurt Cake