I was a very good girl, evidently, because the kumquat fairy visited my desk last week, bringing me 2 pounds of fresh kumquats (AND kumquat jam!!!).
…..so what do you do with 2 pounds of kumquats??*
For those of you who may have seen kumquats before but have no idea what to do with them, you eat the entire fruit! Yes! The rind AND the pulp. In the kumquat, the rind is the sweet while the juice is very sour. (Think warheads sour.) For the nerds out there, the kumquat is mainly composed of limonene, i.e. orange scent! As a kid, I would eat kumquats off of my Nana’s tree until my lips were numb from the sour-ness. Well, now I know that it’s more than just acid! Turns out an oxidation product of limonene (limonene-1,2-oxide) is a skin sensitizer! And a delicious one at that.
So back to the big question: What the heck do you do with 2 pounds of kumquats?? I set out to make use of them 3 ways: (1) kumquat upside-down cake; (2) kumquat squares; and (3) candied kumquat sugar cookies.
For now, I’ll tell you about venture #1: Kumquat Upside-down Cake. You’ve heard of pineapple upside-down cake, I’m sure. Super sweet. Super decadent. Super YUM. Here is an adapted version of that sweet, decadent dessert using nature’s candy. Let’s bake!
Directions: Wash & De-seed the kumquats: Cut the ends off of each kumquat and gently squeeze or pick the seeds out of the center piece. (Sorry I don’t have any pictures.) While removing the seeds, hold the kumquat over a bowl to collect spilled juice. Collect the ends and center rind of the kumquats in the bowl. Be warned, de-seeding can take a while, and if you have any cuts on your hands, it will sting! You can freeze the sliced kumquats if you don’t have time to use them immediately.
Preheat the oven to 325°F, and set one rack in the middle of the oven. I recommend covering the bottom rack with foil because the filling may start to spatter at the end of baking.
Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, cream the room temperature butter and sugar until smooth, ~3-5 minutes. Add each egg, one at a time, and blend. Finally blend in the vanilla. In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture until smooth. Set aside.
Make the caramel/kumquat topping: Melt the butter on medium heat in a large (11.5″) cast-iron skillet. (Watch carefully – don’t let it burn!) Add the brown sugar and mix to dissolve. Cook the mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in the honey, salt, and vanilla. Next, just sprinkle the de-seeded kumquat slices over the ‘caramel.’
Cake assembly: Finally, gently spoon the cake batter on top of the caramel/kumquat topping. Try to cover as much of the surface as possible, trying to not mix up the kumquats too much. Spread out the cake batter, gently, to cover all of the kumquat and spread to the edges of the pan.
Bake! Bake at 325°F for 1 hour. The top should be nicely browned, and you may see some of the filling start to spit out of the pan. Check that the cake is cooked all the way through by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake: if the toothpick comes out ‘clean,’ then the cake is done; if the toothpick comes out covered with batter, leave the cake it for a few more minutes. Once the cake is done baking, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Before you walk away, use a knife to separate the cake from the edges of the pan. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan.
Flip! Find a platter that’s at least 12″ in diameter (slightly bigger than your pan). Place the platter on the top of your cake, and flip! The key here is to do it quickly. The cake should fall out of the pan easily onto the platter. Then cut yourself a slice and relish in the kumquat extravaganza!
I cannot express how awesome this cake is. If it’s any gauge, Joe’s giant slice (pictured above) was gone in less than 30 seconds. So thank you, Kumquat Fairy! And thank you, everyone, for wishing me a happy birthday! (Yes, I made my own birthday cake. Whatcha gonna do about it?)
*I’ll admit, my challenge was much less terrifying than that of the Kumquat Fairy, Jolene. Backstory: Jolene brought home 80 pounds of fresh fruit (no exaggeration) from the fruit trees at her parent’s house. So she had to ask herself “What do you do with 80 pounds of fruit??”…apparently 2.5% of the answer was solved by putting 2 pounds of kumquats on my desk.