Giving a peek at what lies under the frosting, a naked cake is rustic and undone. Fat berries, split figs, or a few blooms are the decorations that indicate this stack of layers is ready for the table. Otherwise it might be the half-dressed cake we are about to finish, our buttercream laden knife slightly out of frame.
These cakes invite us for a romp, a slice. If a berry rolls this way or that as we dig in, we have just made it more rustic. No one is afraid to cut a naked cake.
The original undone cakes were the upside down type – thin, buttery layers topped with caramelized fruit and maybe a dollop of whipped cream. The allure of a blueberry version goes further. Other fruits may brown or intensify in the oven, but the blueberry transforms from dusty blue into purple sweetness.
This recipe for blueberry upside down cake satisfies the craving for sultry desserts that feel indulgent without being frosted to the hilt. The addition of a flavored whipped cream takes it over the edge and might just change your view on culinary lavender, but omit that part if you wish.
½ cup butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups blueberries
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
Lavender Whipped Cream
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender flowers
1 to 2 cups whipping cream
Unless you previously have cooked with lavender and have a preferred variety, select a dried form of a common culinary type. The scent and flavor of lavender are powerful, which is why I make an infused simple syrup that can be added incrementally to the whipped cream.
For the syrup, combine the sugar, water, and lavender in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute. Remove from heat, allow to steep for 1 hour, then strain to remove the flowers. Set aside to cool. You will have more than enough for the whipped cream, and can use the rest for cocktails, iced tea, and other drinks.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter, making sure to generously coat the bottom so that the fruit is less likely to stick.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and stir in the brown sugar. Spread this mixture onto the bottom of the cake pan so that it coats it entirely. Top with blueberries.
Whisk the egg into the milk and set aside. Cut 6 tablespoons of the softened butter into cubes.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed. Add the butter cubes along with the egg and milk mixture and beat on medium speed until combined. Spoon the batter over the blueberries and smooth to work it toward the edges of the pan. The batter should cover the blueberries. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, and the sides are starting to pull away from the pan. Test after 20 minutes to check progress.
Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it. Wait about 3 minutes then place a flat plate over the cake pan and invert so that the blueberries are on top. Lift the pan and allow to cool slightly. If any topping remains in the pan, use a spatula to pat it into place. The blueberry upside down cake can be served warm.
While the cake sits, whisk chilled whipping cream in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the cream forms soft peaks, begin adding lavender syrup one teaspoon at a time until it reaches the desired flavor. Confectioners’ sugar can be added at this point if you like the lavender content but would prefer a touch more sweetness.