Satsuma Vanilla Upside-down Cake

February 18, 2011

This is definitely one of my favorite winter cakes.  Every year, I watch our satsumas ripen and dream of this dessert. I invent reasons to gather with friends, just so I can share this cake.  I am not to be trusted with this buttery, tangy, orange vanilla cake without many mouths with which to compete.  It is that good.  Make it quick, while satsuma mandarins are in peak season!  This cake would be great with any tangerine or mandarin.  We have  an overabundance of satsumas so that is what I use.

Upside down cakes are a new thing for me.  Nothing against the legendary pineapple upside-down cake, but it has never really captured my attention.  To be honest, I have a hard time veering from chocolate when choosing a dessert to make, especially in the winter.  This cake is so incredibly flavorful, moist, and buttery that I really don’t miss the cocoa  (If someone has an idea of how to make this better by adding chocolate, please let me know.  Though as is, I think it may be perfect.) Using real vanilla scraped from the pod infuses the cake with a serious dose of deliciousness.

To make this cake, start by thinly slicing the satsumas.  It is easiest to use a mandoline, but if you don’t have one you can use a knife.  Be sure to make the slices as even as possible.  Blanch the satsuma slices and then dry on a cloth.  Melt the butter, vanilla, and part of the sugar in the cake pan, then arrange the satsuma slices.

Gently layer on the cake batter and bake in the oven until the top is browned.  This batter is fabulous with other toppings as well.  I recently made a cranberry upside cake with this base and it turned out delicious!  This cake is best eaten the day it is made. It is delicious the next day as well, but the top gets a bit moist.

Satsuma Vanilla Upside-down Cake

adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Makes one delicious 9-inch cake

4-5 medium Satsuma mandarins (1 1/2 pounds) thinly sliced and seeded

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed Satsuma mandarin juice

1 1/3 cups plus 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 Tablespoon finely grated mandarin zest

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

the Topping

Bring a large pot of water to boiling.  Boil satsuma slices 3 minutes.  Drain and cool in a single layer on a clean dish cloth.

Place 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and half the vanilla seeds in a 9-inch cake pan.  Place in the oven and bake until butter melts, about 7 minutes.  Remove from oven and whisk in 2 Tablespoons of mandarin juice.

the Base

Whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) in medium bowl.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl (I use an electric mixer), cream 1 stick of butter with zest, 1 cup sugar, and remaining vanilla seeds until light and fluffy.  With mixer running, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Turn mixer down to low, add half the flour mixture, then the milk and remaining 1 Tablespoon of juice.  Finish by adding the last of the flour mixture.  Mix until just combined.

the Assembly

Arrange the whole satsuma slices on top of the butter mixture in the cake pan.  (Compost the broken or irregular slices) Start in the center and spiral outward, letting each slice overlap slightly. Gently spoon the batter on top of the arranged slices.  Take care not to slide the slices around and disrupt your arrangement.  Smooth the top to the batter with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 44-50 minutes.  Until top of cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Be careful not to overbake.  Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Invert the cake onto a platter or cake stand.  Let cool before slicing.


Don’t toss the vanilla pod.  Make vanilla sugar by adding it to a jar of sugar. Let sit for 2 weeks.  The sugar will be strongly scented and flavored with the vanilla.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Satsuma Vanilla Upside Cake

You may also like:

Orange Quinoa with Almonds, Olives, and Feta

Apple Blackberry Cake

Meyer Lemon Curd


4 Responses to “Satsuma Vanilla Upside-down Cake”

  1. Mitzi Says:

    Made the cake this evening and everyone liked it. I will cut the satsumas thicker the next time as they were too thin but still tasted delicious! Thanks.

    • Karen Says:

      I’m glad you liked it, Mitzi! There is a fine line with the satsuma slices, they need to be thick enough to stay intact, but not so thick that are unappetizing to chew through.

  2. […] Satsuma Vanilla Upside-down Cake […]

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