I’m having a little bit of a love affair with winter citrus lately and in particular blood oranges. I just can’t resist the jewel toned beauties, and I’ve been lately eyeing some stunning blood orange desserts on Pinterest. Blood orange loaf cake, blood orange cheesecake, blood orange almond cake – I want them all!
That blood orange almond cake actually gave me the inspiration for this stunning (and delicious) blood orange upside down cake. (And blood orange upside down CUPCAKES too!)
I honestly expected this cake to be harder to make – it’s just one of those things that looks like a lot of time and effort went into it. In actuality it’s no more complicated than mixing up some regular cake batter and layering blood orange slices at the bottom of your baking dish. But the end result is just so pretty and light and citrusy.
How to Make Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (1 min)
I started recipe testing for this by comparing lots of different sources for standard upside down cake recipes, comparing them, and looking for commonalities. These commonalities are what I determine are the recipe must haves, and then I iterate from there.
My final blood orange upside down cake recipe ended up pretty dang close to this versatile upside down cake recipe from David Lebovitz. I wanted my entire cake to have hints of citrus, so I added some fresh squeezed orange juice as well as a good amount of blood orange zest and loved the end result.
In fact I loved this cake so much that on the spot after tasting the batter and popping it into the oven, I decided to whip up cupcake versions of this as well.
For the cupcakes, I used meyer lemons AND blood oranges, and they were just heaven. It made me want to make a meyer lemon upside down cake, but I decided THAT would be the tipping point to excessive 🙂
Making Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
Upside down cakes are made by placing what will ultimately be the topping of you cake at the bottom of your baking dish to caramelize while the cake bakes on top of it. Then when you remove the cake from the oven, you invert it and your gooey caramelized bottom magically makes it way to the top of your cake.
I don’t know who decided pineapple should be the go to fruit for this scenario. I can think of lots of other fruit I’d rather have, and blood oranges are one of them.
To make this bottom layer that will eventually become your top layer, you simply melt brown sugar and butter together in your baking dish (I used my cast iron skillet for this recipe, but a round baking dish would work too). After the butter is melted and the sugar slightly dissolved, you let the mixture cool then add your blood orange slices over top.
My favorite part about this method is you don’t need to peel the oranges before slicing them and adding them to the pan! The rinds get soft and candied, and they provide a nice texture to the cake.
The hardest part about this blood orange upside down cake recipe is flipping your cake over onto a cake pan. You want to do this while the cake has cooled slightly but is still very warm so it releases from the baking dish.
The easiest method I’ve found is to place the cake stand directly on top of the cake in the dish and use hot pads to flip the whole thing over like it’s one big contraption. Then wiggle the baking dish or skillet a bit as you lift it up off of the cake pan that’s now right side up. The cake should release easily, leaving you with a perfectly golden and candied top to your masterpiece.
Making Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes
Transforming this stunner of a cake to cupcakes was really quite easy and fun. I used blood oranges and meyer lemons and think I may have even preferred the meyer lemons to the blood oranges (the horror, I know!)
You use the same ingredient measurements but divide them evenly between 12 individual cupcake tins instead of the one cake pan. I didn’t bother melting the butter and sugar beforehand, and they still turned out great.
After the tins are filled, you add a citrus slice to each cup and top evenly with the batter. There were two key differences for the cupcakes versus the the cake:
- You cut the baking time from 45-50 minutes to 25-30 minutes. It means the bottoms are less caramelized but they’re still soft and buttery and delicious
- You have to take the cupcakes out of their tins and turning them upside down quickly after removing them from the oven. They puff up on the top, resulting in an uneven bases, but if you invert them quickly enough the top will fall a bit .
I’m torn as to whether or not I liked these Blood Orange Upside Down cakes best fresh from the oven or settled in the subsequent days. The gooey topping settles down into the cake as it sits, and it’s just delicious. But it’s pretty hard to beat baked goods still warm from the oven.
I also crumbled these guys up after a day or two and added them to plain yogurt with walnuts for “breakfast” and it was SO good.
Blood Orange Upside Down Cake
This blood orange upside down cake takes the best of what winter citrus has to offer – gooey, sweet, and camarelized, this cake is sure to impress!
For the topping
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- Pinch salt
- 3 blood oranges ends removed & sliced very thin
For the cake
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter softened
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 tbsp blood orange zest
- 2 tbsp blood orange juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 and make the topping for the cake. Melt 3 tbsp butter and 1/2 cup light brown sugar in a 10 inch cast iron skillet or baking dish. Once sugar has dissolved slightly, remove from heat and let cool 1-2 minutes.
Layer the blood orange slices on top of the melted butter and brown sugar in the pan, overlapping to fill the entire pan. Set aside
To make the batter, cream 8 tbsp butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer
Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition
Add orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla and mix again
Add flour, baking soda, kosher salt, and whole milk and mix again until just combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and fold everything together
Pour the batter over top of the blood orange slices and spread to coat evenly.
Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean
Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Place a cake pan directly on top of the cake and flip the cast iron skillet and cake pan over together (make sure you use hot pads!). Lift the skillet up off the top of the cake pan so the cake releases.
Slice and serve!
To make these cupcakes simply divide the butter and brown sugar evenly among 12 greased muffin tins. Add a slice of blood orange to each cup and divide the batter evenly on top. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from their tins and place upside down on a platter to cool.