Raspberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake and Gallery Wooing

On Wednesday, I had a meeting with the folks over at Gallery Acero, a local art gallery run in tandem with an iron forge. It is a wicked cool place. There’s heavy metal music (not sure if they intend the pun) playing over the sound of hammering and torches. The three brothers who run the place and their cohort create everything from custom furniture to fine art.

I am fantastically lucky enough to be friends with one of their production assistants, who  also helps out with running the gallery. She encouraged me to send images of my work to Dan, the owner, and propose a show, which I did. He liked my work, so we set up a meeting. And then suddenly I needed, like, a portfolio, a really spiffy up-to-date artist statement and exhibition history, some kind of plan for how I envision my current work being shown, and a face that says, “I’m a grown-up and a serious artist.” Gulp.

I decided to cheat a little and bake Dan a cake, in hopes that the instant affinity created by sugar and butter would help him overlook whatever fears and faults of mine peek through. Turns out berries are a straight route to his affections, so that went well. But funny thing, while showing up with baked goods always makes me feel more at ease in new situations, I was amazed to find that despite my nerves, I’m plenty capable of having a business meeting about art. When I take a deep breath and trust my own ideas and intentions for my paintings, I really enjoy discussing them with like-minded people. Having a dialogue with some one who is as passionate about art as I am and who responds to my ideas with interest, respect, and even a bit of challenge is seriously fun.

If that’s how to conduct business in the art world, I might just be able to make this work. And when I have doubts, there’s always cake. This particular one comes with high commendation from the gents and lady over at Santa Barbara Forge and Iron.

Recipe after the jump…

Raspberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Serves 12

2 6-ounce baskets fresh raspberries

2 teaspoons corn starch

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and browned

1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Grease and parchment-line a 9-inch cake pan.

Toss the raspberries with the corn starch and granulated sugar. Spread them evenly in the bottom of the cake pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, butter and oil.

In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk. When it reaches a simmer, turn off the heat, dump in the cornmeal and stir vigorously. Once the cornmeal is entirely saturated, add it to the yolk/sugar/fat mix and, again, stir vigorously to incorporate. Add the dry ingredients and mix just enough to incorporate.

In a clean non-plastic bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the balsamic vinegar until they reach medium peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the pan and use a spatula to gently spread it over the raspberries.

Bake 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean save perhaps a few moist crumbs. Check the cake at 30 minutes and turn the oven down to 350˚ F if it is already deep brown but not fully cooked in the center.

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