Turning cakes + priorities upside down in 2012

And here we are in 2012. I'd wish you a happy new year, but it's feels a bit after the fact already. I spent the past week writing our new year's postcards, an annual tradition that has become Starbott's trademark answer to the rest of the world's Christmas cards. There is something deeply unsatisfying about all of those holiday greetings crossing paths in postal systems around the world: all declaration, no conversation. This way, we can actually respond to people's messages and provide (what I hope is) a bright spot in the otherwise disappointing mail month that is January.

I also spent the past week thinking about a theme for the new year. It's not that I'm against resolutions per se, but a theme is a more useful tool for guiding decisions all year long. Sort of like a compass to keep you headed in the right direction, regardless of what comes your way. 2010 was my first full year freelancing full-time, so my theme was "say yes"—to taking on new clients, pitching new publications, baking for more than hobby. 2010 was a good year. So good, in fact, that my theme in 2011 was along the lines of "it's OK to say no."

So where does that leave me this year? Well, I've noticed that blogging and other more creative writing projects consistently fall to the bottom of my to-do list. They make the list, but in a purely superficial sense, occupying roughly the same space as cleaning behind the oven or hanging those pictures we got framed last January.

In 2012, I'm going to turn things—my to-do list, in particular—on their head(s?). Grammar aside, I think turning things upside down just might be the way to start living right-side up.

"It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?"
– Henry David Thoreau

p.s. Good news! I'm already putting my theme to work. My first act of to-do list defiance? Writing this post instead of dealing with Mount Dishmore in the kitchen.

How we started years past on The Casual Baker:
Croissants in 2011
Peanut Butter Blondies in 2010
Polka Dot Pumpkin Muffins in 2009
Brioche aux Pralines in 2008
Gingerbread Men in 2007

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups frozen cranberries, rinsed and patted dry  

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of one orange (optional)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Begin by preparing the caramel. Melt the butter in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and simmer for four minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly arrange the cranberries in a single layer on top of the caramel. Set aside.

Now, get started on the cake batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a second bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, followed by the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and orange zest (if using).

Add half of the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Mix in the orange juice and milk, followed by the rest of the flour mixture.

Spread the batter carefully and evenly over the cranberry/caramel mixture, right up to the edges of the skillet. Don't be alarmed if the cranberries have started to melt and a bit of water has begun pooling around the edges. Spoon off a little bit of the water if you're able/worried, but know that my cake turned out just fine.

Bake the cake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the skillet for 5 minutes before attempting the big flip.

For the moment of truth, invert a plate over the skillet and press them firmly together. Say a quick prayer, then flip the two, so that the plate is on the bottom and the skillet is upside down. Slowly lift the skillet and reattach any stray cranberries/errant caramel to the top of the cake.

Serve warm.  

Source: A cranberry riff on this pineapple upside-down cake over at Smitten Kitchen, which originally came from the February 2000 issue of Gourmet.