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Winter meets spring: Pumpkin-Mango Upside-Down Baby Cakes

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The month of March is one that always keeps me guessing - is it spring or is it still winter? One day the thermometer may read 2 degrees below zero, the next day 42 above.

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I pay more attention to food-related signals that guarantee spring is right around the corner. Just as sweet, juicy clementines begin to disappear from their winter spot in the produce department at the grocery store, my favorite mangoes appear, ready to take their place. That is when I know spring is near.

On the first weekend of March, I celebrated this month of transition by making Pumpkin-Mango Upside-Down Baby Cakes. I had just purchased my first large, ripe mango of the season. Several little clementines were stored in the fruit drawer of my refrigerator. A container of pureed pumpkin I had prepared last fall sat in my freezer.

I pulled out a recipe for pumpkin muffins that I received from registered dietitian Kristin Klinefelter. In January she was one of the experts I called on to get her recommendation for a food we could all add to our menus for a healthy 2012. She didn't hesitate. Pumpkin was her answer. She shared her recipe for muffins that are made with the winter squash. That recipe was still on my desk, waiting to be tried. Those muffins became the base for my upside-down baby cakes.

Klinefelter had good reason to suggest we eat pumpkin throughout the year, whether from a can or homemade puree from the freezer. It is low in calories and packed with vitamin A, the one that protects our vision, maintains healthy skin, keeps our immune system functioning and contributes to bone health.

The muffin recipe Klinefelter gave me is made with whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour. The pastry flour has a finer texture, lighter color and milder flavor than traditional whole wheat flour. Using whole wheat pastry flour in muffins delivers nutritional benefits of whole wheat and produces a muffin that is not as dense and heavy as it would if it was made with only traditional whole wheat flour.

Klinefelter chooses to use applesauce as a substitute for oil, cutting down on fat calories. I adapted the recipe by using freshly squeezed Clementine juice rather than water as the original recipe directs. The muffins are moist and lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. "The muffins are very family friendly. Kids love to help prepare them," said Klinefelter. "The recipe makes a lot and they freeze well."

I chose to turn the muffins into upside-down baby cakes to celebrate the transition of seasons. A little brown sugar in the bottom of the muffin cups and a slice of fresh, sweet mango is topped with the pumpkin batter. Once they are baked and turned out of the pan, the baby cakes get a dose of sweet glaze.

If you've eaten all of the clementines in your house and your favorite grocery store no longer carries them, use orange juice instead. You'll have no trouble finding mangoes.

The creamy mango with its floral flavor caramelizes as it bakes between brown sugar and pumpkin batter.

The little golden cakes are moist with a gentle spiciness. They are perfectly luscious baked as plain muffins. The muffins can be wrapped airtight and stored in the freezer for up to two months.

Say good-bye to winter and greet spring with celebratory Pumpkin-Mango Upside-Down Baby Cakes. They will you get through the transition.

Pumpkin-Mango Upside-Down Baby Cakes

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups sugar

1 cup applesauce or oil

4 eggs

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin or 1 3/4 cups pureed pumpkin

2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice or clementine juice

Brown sugar

1 or 2 large, ripe mangoes

Glaze:

1/4 cup freshly squeezed clementine or orange juice

1/2 cup superfine sugar

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins.

In a bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar with applesauce or oil. Add eggs and beat well. Add pumpkin and beat until completely incorporated.

Add dry ingredients a little at a time, alternating with additions of juice, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar in the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Peel mango and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes that will fit into the bottom of muffin cups. Place mango cutouts over brown sugar. Spoon batter over mango, filling each cup 3/4 of the way to the top.

Bake cakes in preheated 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until wooden pick poked into the middle of cakes comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cakes sit in pan for 5 minutes. Tip pan upside down, turn cakes onto cooling rack.

While cakes are baking, prepare glaze by bringing juice, sugar and maple syrup to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer glaze until slightly thickened.

Spoon glaze over the top of each cake. Allow to cool before serving. Makes about 3 dozen cakes, depending on the size of the muffin tins you are using.

Tips from the cook

--I used white whole wheat flour in the batter. It has become my "all-purpose" whole wheat flour. It is available in most grocery stores. It has a pleasant flavor and fine texture.

--I used 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce for the baby cakes.

--Superfine sugar is sometimes called castor sugar. You can make your own by whirling regular sugar in the blender until it becomes very fine.

--I baked half the batter as Pumpkin-Mango Upside-Down Baby Cakes and baked the remaining batter as muffins.

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