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My husband’s generous coworker shared a bag of quinces with us; I had never cooked with them before but was over the moon at a chance to try some recipes. I started with a big batch of quince butter, with a little bit of cinnamon and a vanilla bean thrown in, and used the rest to make this quince upside-down cake. The butter is very tasty, with a flavor that’s almost like pineapple, but the cake was out of this world! The quince slices are sweet and tender and the cake texture is almost grainy, in a hearty, substantial kind of way, a nice foil for the softness and sweetness of the quince. A bonus prize you get when making this cake is leftover syrup– we used some Thanksgiving Day to make cocktails with Sound Spirits “Vow of Silence” Herbal Liqueur (amazing) and lime seltzer. And so the “Frenzied Turkey” was born.

Back to the cake– I was surprised that it turned out to be closer to a coffee cake than a dessert cake, if that makes sense, perhaps because of the spices and the almond meal. My husband thought it was the best fruit dessert I’ve made all year and happily ate a slice every morning with his coffee. (And another after dinner most nights, which made me smile.) The presentation is quite striking, with the rosy tint that cooked quince gets and the glistening syrup that covers the top and drips a little down the side. Though there are a few steps, none are challenging, and the effort put in to baking is well worth the results of this cake. If you don’t have enough quince, or any at all, I think apple would be a great addition/substitution for the fruit (though the poaching method/steps would need to be adjusted), and I am tempted to sprinkle some cranberries in there, too. Quince upside-down cake will definitely make a repeat appearance at our house, and I hope you’ll give it a try.

quince cake

Quince Upside-Down Cake (adapted from Fine Cooking)

For the Quince & Syrup:

  • 1 lb. fresh quinces, peeled, halved and with blossom ends trimmed (leave cores intact for structure)
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • rind of one lemon (or zest if you don’t have a peeler)
  • 2″ knob of fresh ginger, peeled

For the Cake:

  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 c. almond meal (sometimes called almond flour)
  • 10 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Day 1: Start by poaching the quinces. Combine water, lemon peel, ginger and 2 1/2 c. sugar in a large saucepan and add quince halves; bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Use a small plate to weigh the quinces down and keep them submerged in the syrup. Poach until rosy and fork-tender, about 50-60 mins. Carefully transfer the quinces to a container with the syrup, cover and refrigerate, at least overnight. The quinces can be poached up to a week in advance.

Day 2: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 10″ round cake pan with cooking spray, line with parchment paper and then lightly spray the entire pan. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife to halve each quince piece and carefully remove the core. Slice each piece of fruit into 1/8″ pieces and arrange in slightly overlapping concentric circles (or a design of your choice) on the bottom of the pan; pour 1/2 – 3/4 c. of the poaching syrup over the fruit and reserve the rest. (Here’s where the Frenzied Turkey comes into play…)

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together; whisk in the almond meal. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and honey together until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, scrape down the sides, then add in the vanilla. Gently mix in the dry ingredients until they’re incorporated, then increase the speed of the mixer and beat the batter until thick and smooth. Carefully dollop the cake batter over the arranged quince slices and use a spatula or butter knife to smooth it out evenly.

Bake the cake, rotating once halfway through to ensure even baking, for about 40 mins., until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 20 mins., then run a knife around the outside while still warm. Invert the cake, while still warm, onto a plate; replace any fruit pieces sticking to the bottom of the pan on the top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature, alone or with a dollop of whipped cream.