now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped

Last week I disclosed the tormented hours I’d spent with “A Bear Went Over The Mountain” stuck in my head. I think I managed to top that this morning, when I got Hail Holy Queen from Sister Act stuck in my brain, on repeat. Specifically, the alto part, which I learned for the Waiuku Combined Schools Choir Festival in…1994? Which is a whole other story, involving creaky, unsafe bench seats and droningly earnest songs about dying sparrows, but that aside, isn’t memory a strange thing? I can remember the vocal parts (including Latin breakdown!) of a song I learned in primary school but frequently struggle to count things or do simple addition or return a movie to the rental place on time.

Luckily the part of my brain that has been reserved for that alto part (and a meaty one it was too, considering the rest of our songs were sung in monotonous unison) hasn’t edged out the part of my brain that likes inventing cakes. It’s possible that those two segments are right next to each other, sneering at the small part of my brain that’s responsible for mathmatics. And then the mathematics segment says “Won’t you let me play? I’m useful for recipes!” And then the recipe inventing bit says “Oh alright, but I’m only using you”, and then –

Actually…I think that’s run its course.

Upside Down Caramel Nut Cake is what my occasionally crafty brain came up with. Something in their very upside-downness is what makes these kind of cakes so come-hither. Whatever you put on the base becomes stewed and caramelised under its blanket of cake batter, and then when you turn it out you have an instantly good looking cake without having to faff around with making an icing.

I don’t want to present you with this recipe and then make it sound like it’s not all that special. It is indeed special just the way it is. However. It is very likely that you could use your own go-to cake recipe on top of the upside-down nuts, for example to make it gluten-free or dairy-free. In the meantime though, the cake I’ve created is sturdy and delicious, exactly suiting a gleaming, sugar-coated crown of toasty almonds. Don’t be shy with the golden syrup, it’s one of the best flavours in the world.

Upside Down Caramel Nut Cake

  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 25g butter
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 125g butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk
  • 250g flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Firstly, set your oven to 180 C, and put a double layer of baking paper in the base of a 22cm springform cake tin. The double layer is to stop the nuts burning. Heee.

Melt the first measure of butter gently in a pan with the golden syrup and cinnamon. Pour it carefully over the base of the springform tin and pour in the almonds, spreading them out so they’re evenly spread in a single layer.

In the same pan (if you like!) melt the second measure of butter, then remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar and golden syrup. Once it’s cooled a little, whisk in the eggs, buttermilk, and then the dry ingredients. Scrape this carefully over the nuts in the tin, smoothing it out.

Bake for around 40 minutes, or until golden. If necessary and it’s risen up heaps, carefully trim a little off the top so it’s flat, before clapping a plate on it and turning it upside down. Carefully peel away the layers of paper and – ta-da! Upside-down cake.

Possibly because I took these photographs early in the morning, but I was suddenly inspired to stick the plate on a small upside down bowl.

The nuts themselves get all candy-sweet and delicious, getting just enough heat to develop the toasty edge of their flavour, but not so much that they become bitter. The cake underneath is a triumph of balance: delicious in its own right, but not so amazing that it overshadows the nuts; robust enough to actually handle a topping but soft and light from the buttermilk.

It’s possible that the makeshift cake stand was a little off-centre…

On Monday, something cool happened: I saw Stephen Fry! We had a moment! Well, it was a one-way moment – he didn’t actually see me, but nonetheless, we were in the same room together. The room that brought us together for said imaginary moment was Hippopotamus, where I’d been happily sent to a Cocktails and Canapes evening for Visa Wellington on a Plate. Holy smokes it was good. It’s a pretty pricey place to hang out (possibly why Fry was there) but everything is executed with both precision and panache, and it is one of those places that makes you feel like you’re an important person just by being there. If that makes sense. It’s occasionally a nice thing to feel. Tim was there too, but I was at the bar and Tim was down at a table, staring intently at a menu or something. My sincere attempts at telepathy didn’t work, so in the end I had to try and throw my voice and say “TIM” through clenched teeth, then do that “over there” gesture with my head. So I guess all three of us had a moment, two out of three people actively feeling something in that moment isn’t too bad I guess. Let me have my moment!

Title via: There’s really only so much Bob Dylan I can handle, and predictably, this tends to be his 60s and 70s stuff. Idiot Wind is what gives us todays title and comes from the excellent album Blood On The Tracks.

Music lately:

Stevie Wonder, As. I have a bit of a thing for songs which feature minor keys in this fashion. It can make things very confusing when it’s a song I don’t actually like, but luckily here it’s an extremely good song, too.

TLC’s deliciously languid yet darkly cautionary Waterfalls from CrazySexyCool. All of a sudden enough time has passed so now it’s one of those oldie-but-a-goodie songs. I actually heard it on an easy listening station recently…although alas, they used an edit without Left Eye’s rap 😦 anyway, thanks to Peter McLennan of DubDotDash for reminding me of this song via the power of Twitter today.

Next time: I thought up this seriously cool pudding idea. Now…I just have to find time to actually try it out. Also, there’s still a whole lot of buttermilk in my fridge and a whole lot of buttermilky Lee Brothers recipes to try…


13 thoughts on “now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped

  1. Foodycat says:

    And now, you crazy woman, I have Hosanna in Excelsis, the soprano part, from the Sydney combined choral concert in 1984 stuck in my head! Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua…


  2. georgi hampton says:

    wow !! upside down cakes must be on the brain at the moment .. i made three on monday (with granny smith apple, cranberry and cane sugar) to celebrate my birthday coinciding with a snow day.. so good! i even photographed it to potentially blog it at some point, haha. my recipe's totally different to yours, with an egg, oil and a little bit of milk/soy milk… one of my flatmates is dairy free so one of the three was a dairy free version. caramel and nuts sound like a winning combination.. hmm pear and pistachio?


  3. Mrs Cake says:

    I am constantly astounded at my brain's capacity for recalling every single word/note of songs learned in choir in primary school. I only wish I could apply that memory to other things – perhaps life should be in song! The cake looks very yummy – anything with caramel and you have me swooning. 😉


  4. Vanille says:

    Perfect Laura ! Being a total nut lover this cake just call my name !
    I made an almond/ polenta cake yesterday and I wish I had your good idea of adding this crunchy almonds in the bottom of the pan…


  5. Kay says:

    I can remember the number plate of our Mark 2 Zephyr from 1964 but cannot even be sure of the first three letters of our current car which we've had for a longer period of time than my age at the time of the afore-mentioned memory.

    And, spookily, was humming alto part of Hail Holy Queen on-and-off all yesterday – somewhat perplexed at its unintended reappearance in my vocal memory banks.

    My usual upside-down cake is that which was intended to be upside-up but got lost in transition…

    How wonderful to see Stephen Fry. One day, he may discover that he was once in the same room as hungryandfrozen, and regret that he was blissfully unaware of the opportunity he missed.


  6. Anonymous says:

    This looks great! I thought you had a cool fancy cake stand in the first photo, was going to ask where you got it until you explained the upturned bowl! The cake looks delicious 🙂


  7. Anonymous says:

    I totally wouldn't have guessed that old upside-down-bowl-plus-plate cake stand trick if you hadn't said anything! But cool! This looks yum… I love a good nutty cake, somehow fools me into thinking it's healthy (protein! fiber!).

    Also, rather than some awkward school-choir songs I was afraid I'd start singing after reading the beginning of this post, you've got Waterfalls stuck in my head. Which is just as 90s-nostalgia-inducing, but in a way better way. Thanks! 🙂


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