quince upside-down cake

November 28, 2009 |  Category:   baked goods + desserts holidays recipes


Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. It really is my favorite holiday since it is the most food-centric of them all. Still, I have not yet cooked a real Thanksgiving meal myself in many years and this year was no different. I felt I needed to make some kind of a contribution in the kitchen so I made my pumpkin pie and also some braised red cabbage and roasted mushrooms.

A few days ago I saw these absolutely perfect quince at a farmer’s market. For those of you who don’t know, quince is my favorite Fall fruit which is saying a lot as Fall also brings persimmons, pomegranates and kumquats. The only downside to them is that they need just a bit of help to get their wonderful flavor out (that, and also the bumpy ones can be a serious pain to peel). I usually choose to poach them with just a few spices and lemon. A good quince has an almost tropical aroma and a golden yellow color, complete with the little fuzzy bits on the skin that lets you know that you’ve found a good one. The flavor is a combination of a perfectly ripe apple, pear and pineapple all mixed up in one. When properly cooked, the flesh of the quince will darken and turn into a nice shade of pinkish orangey-brown and you can eat them like you would a poached pear. This year I tried something different and made an upside-down cake. Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

Quince Upside-down Cake (makes one 9-inch cake)

Poached Quince:
3 medium quinces
4 cups water
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
6 pieces of star anise
6 whole cloves
1 lemon, thickly sliced

2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
juice of one lemon

First, poach the quince. Peel each quince and cut them into quarters. Cut out the seeds from each piece. Meanwhile, bring the water, sugar, spices and lemon to a boil. Add the quince, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer the quince until they have darkened several shades to a deep pink or red. Remove from the cooking liquid and set aside.

Now prepare the topping. Butter the sides of a 9-inch cake pan generously. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Whisk in the brown sugar and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Pour into the bottom of the prepared cake pan and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Now, slice the cooked quince into 1/4-inch slices and arrange decoratively in concentric circles on top of the brown sugar topping. Make sure to cover the entire pan.

Now prepare the cake batter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking soda and baking powder together in a bowl. Beat in the egg yolks, oil, lemon juice and vinegar. Beat the egg whites separately with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar until they hold soft peaks. Fold a small amount of the whipped egg whites into the flour mixture to soften it, then fold in the remaining whites. Pour into the cake pan over the quince. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the center of the cake has risen and feels noticeably firm to the touch. This is a very soft batter and it is important to cook it completely. Cool the cake for 30 minutes or so, to give the topping a chance to solidify a bit. Run a small knife around the edge of the cake so that it doesn’t stick to the pan. Now, carefully flip it over onto a serving plate big enough to hold it comfortably. Slice and serve whenever you are ready.





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  • Brenda November 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Mark, this looks and sounds delicious, thank you! Particularly for the description of a good quince, which I have to admit I’ve never had in my life. Now I’m wondering if I’ve ever seen one in real life! I’ll certainly be looking for it at Whole Foods today. :)

  • Lara November 29, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Oh my. Yum.

  • angie November 29, 2009 at 10:53 am

    What a wonderful idea…always looking to use quince in a way that I can really enjoy them! I think I try it. Thanks so much!

  • trinsch November 29, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    my mom has a quince bush/tree back in denmark. she is always trying to figure out what to do with them. i will certainly share this amazing looking cake with her. thank you.

  • Angela December 2, 2009 at 1:42 am

    Wow, what a tasty looking cake! Can’t recall if I’ve ever had a quince, but will be sure to look for them in the supermarkets.

  • Waverly December 3, 2009 at 10:09 am

    This looks wonderful – would it work out the same if I used pears or apples?