There is something immensely satisfying about baking something that is both beautiful and tasty, add two notches of oh yeah for using up some garden fresh tomatoes.
With just a whisper of sweet, this mostly savory skillet cornbread does double duty as a summer tomato upside down cake. Whether you call it cornbread or corn cake (it is richer and more cake like than a standard southern style skillet cornbread) this makes a stunning side at dinner , a perfect slice for lunch, and yes, tomato upside down cake is also delicious with a few bonus tomatoes and scrambled eggs at breakfast.
I was never enthralled with upside down cakes, to me they meant boxed cake, canned pineapple, and cherries the color of fast cars and fairground hot dogs. Then came tart tatin and the stunning revelation that you can upside down most anything. I still have fluttery mid-winter dreams about this strawberry rhubarb upside down cake.
Last week, as I eyed the box of beautifully multi-colored summer tomatoes I bought at the farmers market, I thought “tomato upside down cake!!!” and for the three minutes it took me to google it I held up the illusion that I was the first, that this recipe was mine. Almost. Most were too cakey or not tomatoey enough (those are words, all of them). I love how cornmeal goes with summer fruit- be it strawberry, blueberry, or tomato but I didn’t want my usual skillet cornbread.
This turned out exactly how I imagined in my head. When it deflated a bit after baking I was worried I had a mushy mess but no mush, just moist. Moist and not toothsome like cornmeal recipes can sometimes be. Best of all, you can taste all the flavors of the summer fresh ingredients- dill, tomato, corn- offset and complimented by the always pleasant brine of a good hard cheese.
tips, tricks, and modifications for savory skillet cornbread: tomato upside down cake
- the parchment paper will make your life a lot easier. the tomatoes might not stick without it but they probably would. But, unlike when baking a cake the parchment cut out can be slightly larger that the bottom of the pan so I just trace bottom of the pan and cut out the round with scissors
- just like the parchment forms a layer between the tomatoes and the pan, the parmesan helps block some of the moisture from those juicy summer tomatoes so that your cake/cornbread doesn’t get mushy
- don’t like dill? try the classic accompaniment to tomatoes instead- basil. I almost did but the basil is in a pot four flights of stairs away and the dill was in a bag in the refrigerator. If using basil I would leave the leaves whole inside the cornbread and then sprinkle some julienned fresh basil over the top just before serving
- want to modify even more? want all of summer in one cast iron pan? feel free to add some fresh corn kernels to the batter.
savory skillet cornbread: tomato upside down cake
a hybrid savory cornbread corn cake topped with summer tomatoes and fresh dill
- 3 medium tomatoes sliced into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices
- 3-5 Tablespoons fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese
- several grinds black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh dill chopped
- 3/4 cup medium grind cornmeal
- 1-1 1/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon diamond kosher salt less if using regular salt, way less if using salted butter
- 6 Tablespoons melted butter
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 3/4 cup yogurt
- 2 eggs
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat to 425°F. Cut out a round of parchment and line the bottom of a 10-10 1/2-inch cast iron skillet. Lightly oil the parchment with a little olive oil.
Place the tomatoes in a single layer, cut-side up, on the parchment to cover the entire skillet. top with a grind or two of pepper, most of the dill (reserving just enough for a pop of color and flavor in the final garnish), and a generous layer of fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese- between 1/4 and 1/2 cup depending on how fine of a grate you use.
In a medium saucepan combine the milk and cornmeal over medium heat. Cook, stirring or whisking constantly, until it is the consistency of batter and completely lump free. About 3-4 minutes. If the mixture gets too thick add another tablespoon or two of milk. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl; set aside.
Whisk together the melted butter and sugar, add to cooked cornmeal mixture. Next add the yogurt and whisk to combine. Make sure the cornmeal mixture isn’t so hot it will cook the eggs and then whisk in the eggs until throughly combined. Fold in flour mixture until thoroughly combined and the batter is very thick.
Pour the batter into the skillet, then smooth it into an even layer over the tomatoes. Bake until the top is golden-brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the skillet, 22 to 25 minutes.
Let the cake cool for at least 10 minutes, then run a knife along the edge of the pan. Invert onto a large plate and carefully remove the layer of parchment.
Garnish with remaining fresh dill and additional sprinkle of grated parmesan.
Slice into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
Can be covered and stored at room temperature for one or two days.