Bringing you a DIFFERENT sort of cake today. One I never expected to like, but one I’m pleasantly surprised to have fallen in love with.
Fruit-filled and supremely moist, this cornmeal cake is unlike any cake I’ve ever baked before. The texture will completely steal your heart, make your tastebuds dance, and knees weaken. And that’s just the cake. I haven’t even mentioned brown butter icing yet…
Over the past few months, we’ve explored the lightest of light cakes (sponge!), no-bake cakes, cakes with vegetables, bundt, pound, and shortcake. I’ve enjoyed getting my feet wet in the cake baking world where my go-to comforts (vanilla cake, funfetti cake, and chocolate cake) are only the tip of the iceberg. Like cookies, the very definition of cake is complex. Cake can come in all different sizes, shape, flavors, and textures. Heck, it can even come on a stick.
You’re a beautifully delicious world, cake.
But no cake– and I seriously mean no cake– compares to a skillet cornmeal cake.
Let’s get one thing straight. Cornmeal cake is NOT cornbread cake. This isn’t super grainy, dry, and blah. (Though my favorite cornbread is anything but blah, I swear.) Rather, it’s mega textured, light, very buttery, mildly sweet, and crisp on the edges.
Buttermilk, the key ingredient here, keeps the cornmeal cake extra moist. (And so does the brown sugar!) Buttermilk’s tangy flavor also helps balance the sweetness, so while this is definitely a dessert, you won’t feel guilty snagging an extra slice… even if that double serving is breakfast. Cornmeal, another key ingredient, gives the cake its pleasantly light gritty texture. Not as gritty as a slice of cornbread, but just enough to differentiate this dessert from regular yellow cake.
One of the best parts? It’s dotted with summer’s freshest fruit. I used peaches and blackberries because (1) they are soooooo good paired together and (2) super juicy. Every bite has a juicy POP which pairs perfectly with the cake’s unique texture.
Baking the cornmeal cake in a skillet encourages mega crisp edges, while keeping the center of the cake extra moist. I LOVE the varying texture in every slice. So if texture is your thing, this cake has your name written all over it. I strongly encourage a 10-inch cast iron skillet, but a springform pan works just as well. A regular 9-inch cake pan is too small and short.
Speaking of baking! Overbaking is skillet cornmeal cake suicide. Every single wonderful thing to love about cornmeal cake (light! moist! buttery!) will be erased. So keep your eye on it and follow my baking time suggestions!
For a little extra texture and crunch, I topped the cake with coarse sugar before baking. This is totally optional, but you know I love that little extra sparkle. Not optional? The brown butter icing I obsessed over in the beginning of this post.
It’s the same icing we use on the peach bundt cake and these pumpkin oatmeal cookies. After making the peach cake earlier this summer, I had to find another innocent dessert to drench with this stuff. The brown butter icing melts into every little crack and crevice– so while the buttermilk does a mighty job keeping the cake moist– consider the brown butter icing extra moisture insurance.
I mentioned this before, but because butter is solid at room temperature– the brown butter icing will set after several minutes. So it becomes this thick caramel-nutty-buttery layer on top of the blackberry peach skillet cornmeal cake. And yes, that’s a very good thing.
We brought this over to my in-law’s to celebrate my sis-in-law’s birthday and they all commented on the delicious flavors, textures, and– of course– the icing!! So if you make one cake from the smorgasbord I’ve shared this summer, let this cornmeal cake be it.
- 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (60g) yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup (160ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
- 1 peach, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup (115g) fresh or frozen blackberries (do not thaw)
- optional: coarse sugar for topping
Brown Butter Icing
- 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter
- 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
- 3 Tablespoons (45ml) milk
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly butter a 10-12 inch oven-safe skillet. Alternatively, you can use a 10-inch springform pan. 9-inch will be a little too small.
- Make the cake: Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and vanilla, then beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the buttermilk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. Finally, fold in the fruit. The batter will be slightly thick. Spread into prepared skillet. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired (and an extra blackberry or two!).
- Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If baking in a 12-inch skillet, the cake shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes since it will be thinner.
- Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool on a wire rack before icing and serving.
- Make the icing: Slice the butter up into pieces and place in a light-colored skillet. (Light colored helps you determine when the butter begins browning.) Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Keep stirring occasionally. After 5-6 minutes, the butter will begin browning– you’ll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will have a nutty aroma. (Visual pictured here.) Once browned, remove from heat immediately and allow to cool for 5 minutes. The butter will eventually solidify, so don’t let it sit too long. After 5 minutes, whisk in the rest of the icing ingredients until smooth. Add more confectioners’ sugar for a thicker texture, if desired. Likewise, add more milk to thin out if needed.
- Drizzle over cornmeal cake. Slice and serve warm or you can wait until it’s full cool to room temperature. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
*I strongly suggest using real buttermilk in this recipe. In a pinch, you can use DIY soured milk– simply add 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup and enough whole or 2% milk to reach 2/3 cup. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then use in the recipe.
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Fresh peach cobbler, anyone?