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Blood Orange Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free)

Updated: May 14, 2022

This upside down cake makes use of winter citrus to give bright flavour and a dark ruby colour to this naturally gluten-free cake. The cake itself is soft, and buttery and its use of cornmeal and almonds creates a great fluffy texture that beautifully contrasts the jammy and caramelized blood oranges.

Forgetting about pineapple upside down cake, baking citrus in its entirety is totally in. I'm definitely in love with this recipe because it makes use of the whole citrus, blood oranges to be exact, to not only make a beautiful pattern once flipped, but also to flavour this delicate cake.

Why this recipe works:

One thing that I really enjoy about this recipe is its texture. I find that recipes that are gluten free get a bad rap just because it's gluten free but what people don't know is that polenta cakes are actually super delicious and that they just happen to be gluten free.

By creaming the butter with the sugars, we are able to create a fluffy and yet crumbly texture to the cake. It's also not too sweet and the blood oranges give this cake a nice floral and bright flavour and when the orange slices gets caramelized, it creates a sort of jammy, marmalade-type of feel which is just absolutely delicious, and it makes the cake delightfully moist.

Key ingredients:

This cake has a few of your usual baking ingredients, but because its use of corn meal and ground almonds, it makes this cake naturally gluten-free.

We are also able to make use of ingredients and methods to help this cake rise so it will have a nice fluffy texture.

Blood Oranges - although you can use any citrus that you like, we are highlighting blood oranges not just because of its dramatic colour, but also because they are also slightly more floral in taste and less tangy than other citrus. We make use of the zest, juice, as well as slices for the cake.

Butter - I like to use salted butter. By using butter, we are able to cream it along with the sugar in order to incorporate air into the batter so that we are able to make this cake light and fluffy. It also helps with flavouring the cake, making it taste buttery, and it also adds moisture. Also, make sure to bring the butter up to room temperature before using so it can cream better.

Brown Sugar - Brown sugar is used to help with the caramelization of the blood oranges and to help create that jammy texture once you flip the cake. Because brown sugar naturally has that molasses flavour, it also adds a richness to the cake.

Greek Yogurt - it is used to add moisture to the cake, but also because of its acidic profile, it helps activate the baking soda to help the cake rise.

Baking soda, baking powder, and eggs - used as leaveners for the cake.

Cornmeal and ground almonds - it is used in place of gluten-free flour. It gives the cake a distinctive grit, add bulk to a gluten-free cake and gives a slightly sweet and nutty flavour.

Vanilla extract and salt - used to enhance flavour.

How to make this recipe:

This cake is very easy to make, but let me walk you through the process.

  1. Make the topping: Grease a 9-inch cake pan with non-stick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a parchment circle. Sprinkle with the brown sugar then arrange the blood orange slices in a random pattern. Feel free to slice some of them to also place on the edges of the cake pan, similarly to how I have them in my photos, this way the pattern isn't just on the top of the cake (when flipped), but also all around the edges.

  2. Prepare the batter: Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl (with the exception of the sugars). In a separate bowl (or bowl of your stand mixer) cream the butter with the granulated sugar on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy. This step is very important as you'll want to incorporate air into the cake to be able to create a tight crumb. Turn down the speed then add eggs one at a time until each is combined before adding the next. Then add the vanilla, Greek yogurt, blood orange zest, and juice. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

  3. Spread over the batter: Dollop the batter over the arranged slices carefully and gently spread with a spatula and smooth the top.

  4. Bake the cake: Place the cake pan on a baking sheet, then place on the middle rack of your preheated oven. This cake takes a bit of time to bake. You can check its doneness by using a toothpick or a cake tester and if it comes out dry, the cake is done. If a few crumbs stick to the tester, that is fine, so long as it does not come out wet. Another way to tell if the cake is done is when you press the top of the cake with your fingers and is springs back up, it means it is fully baked.

  5. Cool slightly, then flip: When the cake is done baking, cool the cake slightly, about 10-15 minutes, just to let the cake settle from out of the oven for a bit. Then using oven mitts, you'll want to carefully flip the cake onto a platter. If necessary, peel off the parchment paper. You can then serve this cake warm, or completely cooled.

Check out that beautifully baked pattern!

Expert Tips and Substitutions:

  • Be sure to make the topping before you make the batter. I find that making the citrus arrangement may take a little bit of time and you don't want your batter to sit while you make the pattern.

  • This may be a blood orange cake recipe, but you can easily use this cake base for any fruit you'd like to use - like a classic pineapple upside down cake, and also any citrus you have available. I've also been able to make this cake using peaches, plums, and cherries. So the possibilities are endless!

  • Use sour cream if greek yogurt is not available.

  • Margarine can be used in place of the butter.

  • This recipe can be made using a stand mixer, or a hand mixer.

Disclosure: I have an advertisement relationship with the stores and ads in this post. Check out my disclaimer here.

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Welcome to Kitchen Ventures! 

I'm Adrienne, and I'm a food and prop stylist, recipe developer & tester, cake artist, and food & lifestyle writer and blogger.


This is where I will be sharing with you my adventures in the kitchen and elsewhere. To read more about me and my work, check out my bio, and feel free to check out all that my blog has to offer.

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