By Elizabeth Gawthrop Riely Amber apricots make a cobblestone surface to this cake while their syrupy juices seep into the crumb. With vanilla or ginger ice cream, this is a luscious summer dessert for any celebration.
Makes 8 or more servings.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 cup sugar 4 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or orange juice About 2 pounds apricots 3/4 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 3 large egg yolks 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon grated orange zest 3/8 cup whole milk 4 large egg whites Pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Over low heat, melt the butter in a 9-inch skillet with non-plastic handle (cast iron is perfect). Swirl the butter up the sides of the pan nearly to the lip. Remove one tablespoon of the butter and put it in a small bowl; set aside. Add to the pan 1/2 cup sugar and the liqueur or orange juice. Dissolve the sugar in the liquid, letting some of the moisture evaporate. Turn off the heat.
Cut the apricots in half around the natural segmentation; twist to separate the halves and remove the pits. Lay the apricot halves skin-side down in the pan side-by-side, close together.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. To the reserved tablespoon of melted butter mix in the 3 egg yolks, vanilla, and orange zest, and then slowly stir in the milk, smoothing any lumps.
Put the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl with a pinch of salt. Whip the whites until they begin to form soft peaks. Slowly, gradually, add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar until they form a glossy meringue. Fold one large spoonful into the flour mixture, then quickly fold that back into the rest of the meringue until no white streaks remain in the batter. Quickly, deftly, spread the batter over the apricots and smooth the top. Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake until the cake has risen and puffed, is golden in color, and the center tests done, about 35 to 40 minutes.
With an oven mitt, remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Leave the mitt on the handle to protect your hand from the scorching heat—it’s very easy to forget and burn your hand. Run a knife around the inside edge to loosen the cake as it settles.
When the cake has cooled somewhat, put a large serving plate on top of the pan, grasp firmly, and invert the cake onto the plate; you may well need an extra pair of hands for this maneuver. Make sure the cake is centered on the plate, then lift the pan off. Neaten the apricots, if necessary, and spoon any juices left in the pan onto the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature cut into wedges. Ice cream or whipped cream makes a delicious accompaniment.