Cook the Book: Mango Upside-Down Cake with Basil Ice Cream

[Photographs: Ben Fink]

Upside-down cakes aren't exactly the height of fashion these days but after making Michael Schwartz's Mango Upside-Down Cake with Basil Ice Cream, I think it's high time they made a comeback.

This lovely upside-down cake from Michael's Genuine Food replaces pineapple with caramelized mango slices. This is one case where slightly under-ripe mangoes are preferable, since they have to withstand a good amount of heat; squishy ripe ones might not stand up to the heat.

Once you've melted butter and brown sugar into a thick caramel in a cast-iron pan, slices of mango are fanned out and an eggy vanilla batter is poured over the top. The residual heat from the pan gets the baking started immediately and it comes out the oven golden and puffy in just about 45 minutes. And for those of you who have had issues with upside-down cake stickage, here's a tip: baking in an already seasoned cast iron will result in a cake that slides out of the pan beautifully intact.

Most of us would be more than content to enjoy a slice of this Mango Upside-Down Cake on its own but that's not how Schwartz does things—he's also included a recipe for an incredible Basil Ice Cream to serve alongside. After steeping a basil-sugar mixture in an eggy cream base, it starts to resemble green tea ice cream, but it's bursting with bright basil flavor.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Michael's Genuine Food to give away this week.

Adapted from Michael's Genuine Food by Michael Schwartz. Copyright © 2011. Published by Clarkson Potter. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

Cook the Book: Mango Upside-Down Cake with Basil Ice Cream

About This Recipe

Yield:8 to 10
Active time:45 minutes
Total time:1 hour 30 minutes
Special equipment:Ice cream maker, 10-inch cast-iron skillet


  • For the Mango Upside-Down Cake:
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Two 1-pound firm-ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • For the Basil Ice Cream:
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt


  1. 1

    To make the Mango Upside-Down Cake: Put a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the 4 tablespoons butter. When the butter is melted, stir in the brown sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture looks like caramel, about 5 minutes. Swirl the pan around so the caramel covers the bottom completely. Remove from the heat. Tightly fan the mango slices over the caramel in concentric circles to cover the entire bottom, overlapping the slices.

  2. 2

    Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  3. 3

    In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat the softened butter with a handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed. Gradually sprinkle in 1 cup sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Stir in the buttermilk, then add the remaining dry ingredients, stirring to incorporate.

  4. 4

    Beat the egg whites in another bowl with cleaned beaters until frothy.
    Sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and continue to beat until the whites hold stiff peaks. Gently fold half of the beaten whites into the batter with a rubber spatula to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining whites; it’s okay if some white streaks remain.

  5. 5

    Pour the batter over the mangoes and spread evenly to the edges of the
    skillet. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the inside rim of the pan to loosen it from the sides and make sure the cake will come out easily. Set a serving plate firmly on top of the pan and carefully flip it over to invert the cake onto the plate. Cool before serving with basil ice cream, if desired.

  6. 6

    To make the Basil Ice Cream: In a food processor, combine the basil and sugar. Pulse until very finely ground. The sugar should be bright green and look almost like pesto.

  7. 7

    Combine the cream, milk, and basil-sugar in a large pot over medium heat. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean and add them to the cream mixture; put the pod in there too for extra flavor. Simmer gently, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Ideally, the temperature should reach 175°F (just scalding); this should take 5 to 8 minutes.

  8. 8

    In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until slightly thick and yellow. Gradually whisk in half of the hot cream into the yolk mixture (do not add too quickly or the eggs will scramble). Return the entire mixture to the pot and whisk constantly over medium-high heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leaves a path when you run your finger across it, about 5 minutes; do not allow to boil.

  9. 9

    Pass the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large container. Chill the ice cream base completely in a large bowl full of ice water, stirring here and there. Mix in the salt once completely cold.

  10. 10

    Churn it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. When done, the ice cream will be the consistency of soft serve. To hard the ice cream completely, freeze in an covered plastic container.


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