Clementine Upside Down Cakes

by Michael on January 20, 2012 · 29 comments


Winter is dancing  on display outside.  The blustery winds shifts the snow from one side of the property to the other,  greeting me at my knees on the mornings following a snowfall. The city machines have been working overtime for the first time this year, plowing and spraying salt in all directions behind them.  Like a domino of activity, people up and down the street are bundled up and shovelling their driveway. This is the reaction to winter’s presence.

I’ve been attuned to her for as long as I can remember.  Mainly because of my father. Estranged father.

Although our relationship deteriorated many years ago, I still recollect. Especially when the snow comes calling. He lived fixated on the weather channel, always trying to stay one step ahead of the patterns. Planning his life around the forecasts, going to work when most people would rather be home. Safe. It was gruelling at times. He never complained.  He played the hand he was dealt.

My father didn’t finish high school. Junior high either. Back then that wasn’t an abnormality. Finishing high school was an achievement to some, leaving early an option for others. His father died when he was a toddler, forcing his hand and circumstance. He left to take a job to help out. Grew up much too soon. And without an education it limited his options. Laid out in front of him, he was left with little choice. Blue collar was his fitting tag. He wore it proudly.

He took to seasonal jobs before starting his own business. Young and without other necessary skills, he worked harder than most. He was backed into a corner. In the winter he took on contracts to remove snow. First by hand and eventually with a plow and helper. It was tireless and mostly thankless. Once the snow fell, he had to head out. Whether it was in the afternoon or the middle of the night. And if the snow roared on for days, he had to keep going. Tired, sick and worn through. It didn’t stop him.  He went in cycles,  sleeping only to recharge for a couple of hours here and there. And then back out to the storm. No end in sight. Sometimes he was out for days. Straight.

I thought he was crazy. But it was admirable.

If I had an event that saw me out-of-town or tied up for a weekend, he paid particular attention to the long term forecast. Most people check the forecast to plan their days and  wardrobe. He checked it to plan his life. And mine back then. If it looked bad enough, someone else would have to take me with them and he’d miss out. Even if he didn’t want that. I came to understand his absence at hockey tournaments. It wasn’t his prerogative. Never was.

When I was entered  high school I tried to help. When I could.  I figured I was old enough. On weekends I would head out in the middle of the night and help him. It was hard work and rewarding work. The sooner I helped him finish, the sooner he could come home. I was often tired and sore, but I didn’t let on. Just worked harder. Kept up. I wanted him to be proud. I was. So we shared stories on the drive from one place to another, passing the time in the still cold night.

He always kept clementines in the truck for me. They were easy to peel and I could get at them quickly. They were always on hand during the winter, in the crate in the fridge and on the floor in the truck. They would slide back and forth as the truck made turns on the slippery roads. Ever since then I’ve placed them hand in hand. Winter and my dad and those little orange jewels. He would stop for coffee and I would have my clementines. Our fuel.

Winter brought many things to my life as a kid. Some good things, some not. It meant a basket of clementines always filled and it meant less time with my dad. Mainly when it snowed, and it always seemed to snow back then. I can still hear the sound of the engine, humming to stay on as the cold evening air threatened to shut it down. I can see his winter jacket ripple as the frigid air pushed against it. And I can hear the sound of the shovel brushing against the concrete of the front steps at every stop we made.  Those were the days. The only ones I care to remember with him.

My father and I didn’t see eye to eye as I got older. The relationship eventually severed when I hit university. Time and space grew wider. It’s been a long time since I heard his voice, saw his face. I’m okay with that. Some of my memories from those days aren’t fond, but they’re honest. And real. But the days when it really snows, like today, I remember a hard working man. Doing his best. Doing all he could with what he had. And I’m good with that. We never did without.

Winter is dancing around the streets outside my window right now. I can hear the trucks making their rounds in the neighbourhood. The lights on the streets are turning off, one by one. Tucked away inside, warm and safe. The few cars left outside slide through the roads.  This is the reaction of winters presence. This is my memory flooding back. Years removed, but never forgotten.

From my kitchen to yours,



 Upside Down Clementine Cakes


  • Butter, for greasing
  • brown sugar, for base
  • 4 clementines, sliced into thin rounds (1 per spot, total 12)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 2 clementines, juiced through a fine sieve and zested
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

For The Syrup:

  • 2 clementines juiced through a fine sieve
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 325F degrees.
  2. Using  a medium mixing bowl and electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar for 8 minutes. Sift the flour and fold in. Fold in the butter, almond meal, clementine juice and zest and cinnamon. Keep folding until fully combined.
  3. Butter twelve small muffin basins. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of brown sugar into each basin. Place a thin clementine round (minus the rind) into each basin.
  4. Divide the mixture among the basins until 2/3 full. Place on a baking sheet in the oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, start on the syrup. Put the clementine juice, superfine sugar and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil until the consistency is a thick syrup.
  6. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool for five minutes. Turn out on to a wire rack. Drizzle the tops of each cake with some of the syrup and let it soak in for a few minutes.
  7. Serves 12 small cakes.

(adapted from two recipes: Donna Hay’s Orange & Vanilla Upside Down Cake and Delicious Magazine’s Sticky Clementine Steamed Puddings)

Leave a Comment

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Rikki January 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I love those blue plates. It’s a perfect color balance with the orange clementines. Looks delicious!


Maria January 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Gorgeous little cakes and beautiful writing and photos, like always!


Michael January 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Thank you Maria! Always appreciated.


Jessica January 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Stunning! And I have a bag of Clementines already!! :)


Karen January 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm

the recipe looks really good, and the photographs are great!


Brian January 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us. You sure are proud of your dad… and for good reason. Beautiful cake, my friend!


Michael January 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Thanks Brian! I was at one point.


Jayne January 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Beautiful writing, thank you for sharing that story. Beautiful pictures and beautiful cakes. Just beautiful, sure bought a smile to my evening.


Kimmy @ Lighter and Local January 20, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Beautiful cakes and even more beautiful words. Thank you for sharing them with us, as always. Now, excuse me while I run out to get clementines and make these cakes.


cheryl January 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I was really touched by how raw and honest these reflections were. No sugar coating, no regrets — just a clear-eyed assessment from a grown man about the complexities of an important, yet imperfect, relationship.

It’s a very brave piece, and it couldn’t have been easy to write.


Britt @ The Magnolia Pair January 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Oh this looks so delicious! Man, anything with oranges is just so tasty!

XO. Britt
The Magnolia Pair



cindy January 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Wow, I dont know which one i love more.. your photograpy or the delicious recipes you provide. Thank you for this post and the heartfelt story. So descriptive I felt like i was there…

Cant wait to try this :)


Gail January 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Mike, this is a very touching story that you’ve told. Snowy, wintery memories of you and your dad. Vivid memories, too.
In a way, you’re honoring your Dad, despite your estrangement, with this beautiful recipe.
Nicely done, Mike.


Michael January 20, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Thank you Gail! So much!


Irvin @ Eat the Love January 20, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I love the photos and I love the story. Though you two are estranged now, I can feel the love and respect you have for your father through your words that continues to this day.


Dara Fragomeni January 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I’m happy you can look back and remember such heart felt memories of your daddy and only hope to know someday he will have the opportunity to witness a gift he has created on this earth! Always a touching story to read along with your delicious recipes.
Cheers to those Winter Storms and your upcoming blogs!!! xo.


Deb January 21, 2012 at 12:09 am

I very much enjoyed your post, haunting with a quiet and serene beauty. Story, photos and recipe all lyrically speaking to me. Just lovely!


beti January 21, 2012 at 1:18 am

they look lovely and this is just perfect, my tree is full of clementines right now


Eliot January 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Great presentations!


merry jennifer January 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm

My comment only echoes those before me, especially Gail’s. I love the way you weave the story in this post. Wonderful, Mike.


Kulsum@journeykitchen January 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm

That’s such a beautiful read, one of the best things I read this week! I have been finding ways to use clementine and eyed Delicious magazine’s sticky clementine puddings but this looks even better.


jen February 8, 2012 at 8:54 am

wow…what a beautiful way to share your memory of clementines & your dad…a nice surprise to read, along with a recipe. …I as well had a hard working dad…now in heaven…I am sure yours would be proud of you, your writing & gift you share with us all…have a blessed day ;-)


Kirsten November 29, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Your ingredient list seems to be missing the sugar? Would love to try these. Thanks!


Lily July 5, 2013 at 5:51 am

So far when it comes to upside down cakes i tried only the one with pineapple, but why not to try clementines?


fran January 8, 2014 at 1:37 pm

thank you for your memoirs of your Dad,,a wonderful tribute,,my Dad was 45 when he married and raised 10 children,,we never had everything we wanted but always everything we needed,,,,and lots of love


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