Fans of chef Kelly Fields’ New Orleans restaurant Willa Jean will finally have the opportunity to test out Kelly’s recipes, pulled from her new cookbook “The Good Book of Southern Baking.” Kelly has spent years perfecting recipes for beloved Southern staples like flaky biscuits and hummingbird cake, both of which can be found in her baking tome.
Related Reading: This Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Comes with a Poignant Story
Here, you’ll discover more than 100 Southern recipes to add to your baking repertoire, with plenty of options for muffins, cookies, bars, puddings, cobblers, crisps, quick breads, pies, cakes, and tarts. Feast on the likes of New Orleans-style bread pudding, chocolate-coated moon pies, and cinnamon-infused morning rolls. With this book set securely in your collection, you’ll not only become engrossed in the variety and diversity of Southern baking, but you’ll also finally master building the flakiest of biscuits. After all, there are seven recipes for the morning confection (including one made exclusively for dogs), like sweet potato biscuits and quick drop biscuits.
The Good Book of Southern Baking: A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes, and Cornbread, $32.30 on Bookshop.org
At the beginning of the book, Kelly takes time to walk both newcomers and pros through ingredients you’d need in a Southern kitchen to be successful, along with techniques and equipment you’ll use in many of her recipes. Plus, the book is packed with plenty of handy tips for making your baking soar, like choosing to soak cornmeal overnight, which produces a much more soft and moist cornbread.
Mueller Austria Premium Quality V-Pro Multi Blade Adjustable Mandoline Cheese/Vegetable Slicer, Cutter, Shredder with Precise Maximum Adjustability, $34.97 on Amazon
Below, Kelly shares a recipe for her caramelized upside-down cake. She’s adamant that upside-down cakes are more about a formula and less about a mandatory fruit, meaning you can go far beyond the ubiquitous pineapple and instead use whatever’s in season: peaches, plums, bananas, and apples. One thing is key, though, Kelly states: You’ll want to try to slice each piece of fruit to the same thickness—if you’ve got a mandoline, that’ll certainly help—which makes sure the fruit will cook consistently and evenly. Kelly’s version boasts a sour cream cake, buoyed by buttermilk and plenty of eggs, which gets covered in a dark brown sugar-caramel sauce and your fruit of choice. Serve it either hot or at room temperature—both excellent choices—bringing a little bit of the South straight into your kitchen.
Reprinted with permission from The Good Book of Southern Baking by Kelly Fields with Kate Heddings, copyright (c) 2020. Published by Lorena Jones Books, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Upside Down Cake Recipe
Here’s the thing about upside-down cakes, y’all: there are no rules beyond caramel + fruit + cake batter = upside down cake. Experiment with the fruit you love that’s in season and think beyond pineapple (even though I do love pineapple). I would go so far as recommending you invest in a mandoline so you can cut paper-thin slices of fruit for social media–worthy shingling, should that be something you’re after. But, practically speaking, cutting fruit exactly and consistently will yield better results in baking because all the fruit will cook much more evenly. Some of my favorite alternatives to the classic pineapple are peaches, plums, bananas, citrus, apples, pears, and rhubarb. I won’t tell you an exact amount of fruit to add because it depends on the actual fruit, the season, and your personal taste. The important part is to ensure the cake has a single, even layer of fruit.
Upside Down Cake
- Caramel Sauce: 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
- 3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Sour Cream Cake: 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- Sliced fruit of your choice (see recipe introduction)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 cup almond flour
- 3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 1⁄4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3⁄4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 4 eggs, at room temperature 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Make the caramel sauce. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pot, combine the brown sugar and butter and cook over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is at a full rolling boil, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, and set aside.
- Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Liberally butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Pour the sauce into the pan and arrange the fruit(s) over the caramel sauce in an even layer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together the sour cream and buttermilk. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, cream the butter with the granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla. Alternately beat in the dry ingredients and the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan, pouring it directly over the fruit. Bake on the center rack in your oven for about 1 hour, rotating the pan after 30 minutes, until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.
- Set the cake on a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Header image by Oriana Koren.