Happy Chinese New Year! I am taking a brief (v brief) break from my nian gao eating ways to share this mandarin orange upside down cake recipe with y'all. Do you celebrate Chinese New Year? Do you have any Chinese New Year traditions? Is eating my body weight in nian gao considered a tradition? This is my first time celebrating Chinese New Year with a cake that isn't nian gao, turnip cake, or taro cake. This is also my first time making any sort of upside down cake - but for sure this will not be the last time that I make one.
Before y'all get riled up and yell at me for not knowing what people actually eat during Chinese New Year, I just wanted to say that your homegirl does know. I will be eating plenty of dumplings, uber long noodles, rice balls, and other spherical carbohydrates. I wanted to make something that was true to me and my blog, but with a Chinese New Year twist. To add some Chinese New Year fun to a traditional pineapple or orange upside down cake, I decided to use mandarin oranges instead. Mandarin oranges are popular during Chinese New Year because the Chinese word for 'mandarin orange' sounds exactly like the word for 'gold.' Gold equals prosperity, and in Chinese culture, we are all about that (haha). Besides mandarin oranges, blood orange makes a tiny appearance just because they are so beautiful in colour.
While recipe testing for this cake, I toyed around with variations of this cake where I took off the citrus rinds and variations that kept the peel. My initial thought was that the rind would make the cake tart and bitter, but also wanted to keep it on because of aesthetics. After playing around with the citrus fruits and slicing them in different ways, I found that cutting the oranges really thin with the rind on made a very delicious (and equally beautiful) cake. The rinds get really soft and sweet when you bake it underneath the cake batter. Using mandarin oranges also meant that I had thinner rinds, aka less to worry about! Whether you keep the rind on or take the rind off, the cake will be delicious and very fragrant. If you have a citrus fruit with a thicker rind on hand, you may want to consider carefully taking the peel off.
Whether you decide to go the more traditional route and use oranges or pineapple for the cake, the butter cake batter would still complement it very nicely. And no matter what fruit you use, remember to grease your pans really well and use parchment to line the bottom so the sticky, caramelized fruit slices do not get stuck to the cake pan. Happy baking and happy Chinese New Year!
Yields one 8-inch cake
Mandarin and Blood Orange Layer
3 - 4 mandarin oranges
1 small blood orange
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Vanilla Butter Cake
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
200ml whole milk
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare an 8-inch cake pan by lining the bottom with parchment and greasing the pan all over. Using parchment (especially for this recipe) makes removing the cake from the pan much easier - it will prevent some oranges slices from sticking to the pan and prevent the oranges from getting too brown. Sprinkle granulated sugar where you have greased the pan. This will prevent the cake from sticking and will caramelize the orange slices beautifully.
Thoroughly wash the oranges. With a sharp knife, slice the mandarin oranges into very thin slices, about 1/2cm in thickness. Remove any seeds in orange slices. Do the same with the blood orange.
Using the larger centre pieces of sliced oranges first, line the bottom cake pan. Alternate between mandarin orange and blood orange slices. You will have smaller oranges slices leftover; do not feel like you have to use up all the slices. Once you have finished lining the cake pan, set cake pan aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix well.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Alternating between the two, gradually add the dry ingredients and milk to the butter-sugar mixture. Careful not to overmix.
Transfer batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cake cool for 5 minutes before flipping cake over onto a plate to let cool completely.