Upside Down Broccoli and Cornmeal Cake Recipe

I love surprises, and I’m sure you’ll agree that cooking surprises are among the best.

You set out to make something, unsure where you’re going, assembling things, changing courses as you go; you don’t really know what you’re doing, half-thinking “oh dear that doesn’t look right”, but still, you’re going with the flow, following your intuition and reasoning that, with what’s in it, what could go wrong?

And then, despite your doubts — which you’d think would undermine the confidence of the dish, and cripple its ambition — what you make turns out, not just passable, not just okay, but plain excellent. You look at it and it looks really good. You eat it and you marvel, with each bite, at the sheer magic of cooking chemistry.

This is precisely what happened with this Broccoli and Cornmeal Upside Down Cake. I prepared it the other night, coming home from work: I had cornbread on the brain and I wanted to use up a lonely head of broccoli that was feeling neglected. I was going to fold the broccoli into a cornmeal-based batter, but at the very last minute decided to pour the batter on top of the broccoli instead, à la upside down cake.

But the batter seemed a little strange, I was wondering about the amount of baking powder I had used, and was generally unsure about the whole idea. Still, I put it into the oven and hoped for the best. I kept an eye on it, and saw it turn beautifully golden. When it looked about ready I flipped it onto a serving plate and was ever-so-pleased to discover how pretty it looked.

I cut it in wedges, served it warm, and was delighted with the outcome. Cornmeal and broccoli go wonderfully well together: the cornmeal batter develops a nice crust on the outside, and feels increasingly moist the closer it gets to the broccoli. The walnuts and raisins add great textural and flavor variety; next time I may try walnut and bacon bits for a non-vegetarian version. The leftovers were fantastic, served cold for lunch the next day, and I think this would be the perfect picnic item or brunch dish, made the night before and served at room temperature.

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Broccoli and Cornmeal Upside Down Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a side.

Broccoli and Cornmeal Upside Down Cake Recipe


  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 200 g (3/4 cup) cottage cheese
  • 125 g (1/2 cup) plain yogurt
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 80 grams (1/2 cup) finely ground cornmeal
  • 65 grams (1/2 cup) whole wheat or all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • A handful of raisins
  • A handful of walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring salted water to a boil in a large saucepan, add in the broccoli and let simmer for 8 minutes, until cooked through but not too soft. (This is my favored cooking method for broccoli, but you can steam it if you prefer.)
  2. Drain and set aside in the colander to finish draining.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Grease a 20-cm (8-inch) cake pan.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs and oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. In another medium mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour and baking powder.
  6. Fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined; the batter will be thick. Do not overmix, it's fine if it's still a little lumpy.
  7. Arrange the cooked broccoli at the bottom of the cake pan. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the walnuts and raisins. Pour the batter evenly over the broccoli, and smooth it out with a spatula.
  8. Put into the oven to bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden and lightly crusty.
  9. Let rest on the counter for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen the cornmeal crust, cover the pan with a serving plate, and flip assertively (protect your hands with oven mitts of course) so the cake ends up broccoli side up on the plate.
  10. Slice into wedges, using a sharp knife to avoid smooshing the broccoli. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. Any leftovers can be reheated for 10 minutes in a hot oven if you wish to revive the crispness of the crust.
  • Oh such a creative cake – or I should say you are so creative, Clotilde!

    Is it a sort of quick bread or something? Or maybe this cake makes a whole new category of baked goods?? Very interesting, I should try this one sometime.

    Well speaking of corn muffin, it was just a day before you posted about it that I myself had my very first bite of corn muffin and thought I should try and make it myself. It is great that so many recipes have been accumulated and now it is a matter of which one to try first!

  • Clotilde – what a clever idea! Seems like you could let your imagination run wild with this technique. Your choice of brocolli with the walnuts and raisins really sounds good – I’m going to have to try this!

  • Josie

    Mmm. I love the sight of that much broccoli in a cake! Seems like a healthier alternative to quiche, no?

  • Maryanne

    Hi Clothilde, must have been something in the air. I started making a ratatouille with some neglected zucchini and summer squash and wound up with a really good grilled vegetable bisque! My husband and I traveled to my parents at the shore this weekend, so we enjoyed it there with some fresh garlic bread and tomatoes with mozzarella! I’m going to try your cornbread cake with the broccoli I have in! Happy Monday!

  • Robert


    Rapini works well in such a dish as this. We sauté it in olive oil with chopped pancetta, garlic slivers, raisins and walnuts – adding a few crushed red pepper flakes at the end. We prefer the contrast of the more bitter greens with the raisins. Of course, we had never thought to use corn bread batter – having always used a stiff polenta instead. We serve slices with grated Parmesan on the side, as a brunch dish. I look forward to trying your lighter version – it sounds terrific!

  • Interesting – I wonder if some cheddar inside might be a good idea…

  • Nassim

    Salut Clo,

    c’est exactement ma conception de la cuisine: freestyle et advienne que pourra!
    Parfois c’est bon (rarement dans mon cas) et d’autre fois c’est plus expérimental voire carrement infect.

    mais bon, tout ce qui nous tue pas nous rend plus fort!

  • Keri

    It IS lovely with cheddar! My brocoli was a little past its best days, and so i grated some chedder over the warm tart and let it melt in the heat. Today, I’m having it for lunch with some spicy salsa!

  • Chika – I would say this is sort of a hybrid quick-bread/corn-bread/quiche type of thing.

    Cathy – Oh yes, you should try it out, it’s really one of my favorite recent inventions!

    Josie – Yes, this is relatively healthy and low-fat… If you’re not irresistibly tempted to eat the whole thing! :)

    Maryanne – Yum, would you share your serendipitous recipe for grilled veggie bisque?

    Robert – For some reason, I’ve never seen rapini in stores here. But it does sound good, and with parmesan, too!

    Nassim – Très juste! Mais je suis sûre que ce que tu fais n’est pas si souvent raté… si?

    Redbeard and Keri – I can imagine how cheddar would work well in this! And salsa, too!

  • Fabienne

    Hi Clotilde,
    First message to you but not the first visit on your blog or the first attempt to make one of your recipes. On the contrary! In fact we have exactly the same food obsession, visit and love the same places in Paris. Yesterday, I made the brocoli upside down cake and it just turned out wonderful but I made one addition, thinking it would be a little “boring” without a spice : I added some Dean and deluca tandoori blend and think it tasted great. So here is a suggestion for other’s.

  • Hande

    Oh, I must laugh!
    Last night I was somewhere where I didn’t have any internet access and no shopping possibilities either, but I could remember something of a “broccoli upsidedown cake”. And I had broccoli. So I made up along the way. Now when I read the original ingredients, I see that I substituted more than half of it with other stuff! But oh well, it was yummy anyways!
    In mine were: ricotta, sourcream, eggs, cornmeal, buckwheat flour, spelt flour, yeast and almonds!

  • melissa silver

    thank you! this is my first message to you for the first of your recipes that i’ve made. i made it just as listed (as i always do for the first time i’m making a recipe) and loved it. i served it with a salad and cherry tomatoes that i briefly sauteed in a butter and olive oil with a dash of sea salt and pepper. luckily my husband likes when i make vegetable-based dinners – i’ll be making this again soon! i bet it would be good (although not as colourful) with cauliflower.

  • debra frohlinger

    Love to make broccoli and cornmeal upside down cake — any suggestions on what to substitute for the diary ingredients — cottage cheese and yogurt?
    Would love sugestions

  • Debra: Try tofu and/or plain soya yoghurt.

  • Hi. I too am writing you about the first of your recipes that I’ve tried. I loved the Broccoli Cornbread Upside Down Cake. I had to make some substitutions, as I didn’t have cottage cheese or yogurt. I used sour cream and 1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream very slightly whipped with 2oz. of Montchevre (garlic and herb) mixed into it. Not your low calorie version, but very satisfying indeed. Mmmm! I’ll be reading and cooking along with your other readers. Thanks; your blog is really wonderfully appetizing and engaging. I’ll bet you actually COULD rely on your readers to bring you ingredients from other locales when you need them!

  • Kristina

    Could anybody tell me how much 1 1/2 cup of cornmeal and of flour is in grams? Please?

  • Viji

    Hi, I have tried your recipe and made some variations. So to say, its really good. here is the link. When you have time, please visit. Thanks for the wonderful recipe. Viji

    • Deborah Young

      I would love to see your take on the Broccoli Cornmeal Upside Down Cake. I tried the link form Chocolate and Zucchini but your blog has limited access. Is there a way in?
      thank you,

  • Mitchell

    I loved this! I too used ricotta, as I had it in the fridge, and, lacking walnuts and brown raisins used some pine nuts and sultanas. The friend I served it to loved it and she has made it exactly as the recipe reads and loved it. Thank you.

  • Marry Murray

    Made this tonight-It is so good and easy. I followed the recipe exactly and will make it again exactly the same. Thanks!

    • How lovely to hear Marry, thanks for reporting back!

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