Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fuzzy Quince Cake

Well, the quince are fuzzy, not the cake, but, except for the fuzz, from a distance, you might think quince are pears.

But then you get closer to the golden globes and you see the fuzz and smell the amazing scent that ripe quince has...and you wonder if they taste as great as they smell. Be sure to cook them because raw quince are inedible.

So you make an upside down cake and use lots of peeled, cored, sliced quince for the fruit, with a handful of chopped pecans sprinkled around them at the bottom of a cast iron skillet on top of a butter-brown sugar mixture. Before the cake is finished baking in that pan, the whole house smells amazing! Quince, butter, brown sugar all lend their fragrance.

Finally the cake is turned out onto a large plate, a few quince slices that tried to stay in the pan are returned to the cake and slices are cut and plated. The moment of truth has almost arrived...except with that melted sugar a few moments are needed so we don't burn our mouths.

Bliss! The quince still have some firmness but are sweet and delectable and have almost a floral taste. They go really well with the pecans and the slightly crunchy caramelized brown sugar. The buttery soft cake is the perfect complement to those tastes and textures. And it was easier to make than quince jelly!

This is the season for quince, but they are not easy to find. I'm lucky to have a very old quince tree at the end of the drive. This year there were lots of quince, but I truly didn't have enough time to really make use of them. I suspect that this cake will be it for this year. Quince take a bit more effort to prepare than apples (even though the prepared quince slices look a lot like apple slices) but it was worth it.

I used David Lebovitz's recipe for the upside-down cake and there was the perfect fruit-cake ration as he promised. The only changes I made were I used quince and pecans instead of apricots or plums and berries. I bet they would be outstanding, too. Maybe next time.

Quince Pecan Upside Down Cake
based on a recipe by David Lebovitz 
One 10-inch (25cm) cake, 8-10 servings

David says, "You have some latitude with the fruits that you use. Just make sure that whatever you use covers the bottom in a substantial layer, around double-thickness, since the fruit will cook down while baking and settle nicely into place. Berries" (or nuts) "...are good nestled in the gaps between the slices of fruits."
For the fruit layer:
3 tablespoons butter (45g), salted or unsalted
3/4 cup packed (135g) light brown sugar
fruit: 4  medium quince, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
a handful of pecans, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
For the cake layer:
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature.
1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, at room temperature

1. Melt the 3 tablespoons (45g) of butter in a cast iron skillet, or cake pan Add the brown sugar and cook while stirring, until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Once cool, arrange the fruit in a pinwheel design and put the rest over that in a second layer, then scatter the pecans over, letting some settle in the gaps between the quince slices. Set aside.

3. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. (190C)

4. Beat the 8 tablespoons 9115g) of butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Scrape bowl and beaters a few times during this step.

5. Whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

6. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix: stir just until the flour is barely incorporated into the batter.

7. Spread the batter over the fruit, then bake for 45 minutes to one hour (depending on the size of the pan, and the thickness of the batter.) The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center feels just set.

8. Remove from oven, let cool about 20 minutes, then place a cake plate on top, and wearing oven mitts, flip the cake out on to the plate, taking care, as there may be some hot caramel that might escape.

Serving: Upside Down Cake is best served warm, perhaps with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It can be made in advance, left in the pan, and rewarmed in the cake pan or skillet right before serving. It’s also very good rewarmed in a microwave, and served immediately.


  1. Quince is not something I've used much, but its got a wonderful flavour. This cake looks delicious and perfectly autumnal

  2. You know, we've only ever had quince as "quince paste" ... and I really don't think it's at all the same (just as "fig newtons" really don't convey what a fresh fig would taste like).

    The cake looks delicious!