Plum Upside Down Cake

My father should have a t-shirt that reads “I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like” or in this case, “Got Plums? Will Bake”. His baking endeavors might not always look their bakery best (please don’t ever ask him to frost a cake and sometimes his pies are downright scary-looking) but more often than not the results taste fabulous. This plum upside-down cake is actually quite pretty and is based on a recipe he found in an old issue of Fine Cooking magazine. The taste idea is that of slices of tart plum balanced by a sweet cake base. He used red Santa Rosa plums that are just now coming ripe. My mother thought the cake was just a bit too tart for her, but dad and I love it just the way it is.

Now that I think about it, the t-shirt should simply say “Real Men Bake”. Because if you could just see my 6’2″, 200 lb, works out 3 times a week at the gym, mows the lawn, splits the wood, 78-year-old father in his striped apron, gently arranging plum slices on top of melted butter and sugar in ramekins, that would be the T that fit the best.

Plum Upside Down Cake Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 4 individual servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 stick butter (10 Tbsp or 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp), softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 plums, pitted and sliced
  • 5 Tbsp buttermilk OR 4 Tbsp milk plus 2 teaspoons milk and 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Four 10 or 8 ounce ramekins

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the insides of the ramekins. Melt 3/4 stick (6 Tbsp) of the butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Pour into the bottoms of the buttered ramekins, dividing the sugar butter sauce evenly among them. Arrange a layer of plum slices at the bottom of each ramekin.

2 If you are not using buttermilk, combine milk and lemon juice in a small bowl (the mixture will curdle), set aside. In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

3 Use an electric mixer to beat together the remaining 1/2 stick (1/4 cup or 4 Tbsp) butter with the granulated sugar and orange zest. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix to combine. Alternately add the dry flour mixture and the buttermilk (or lemon soured milk) mixture to the batter.

4 Divide the batter among the ramekins. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and put in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until cakes are firm to the touch, and a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center does not come out with raw batter on it. (Might be wet from plum juice.) Turn the baking sheet around half-way through the baking to ensure an even baking for all the cakes.

5 Remove from oven and let cool on a rack until no longer hot to the touch. Run a paring knife around the edges of the ramekins. Invert onto a plate and gently lift off of the plate.

Serve alone or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Recipe adapted from one in Fine Cooking magazine, Sept 2001.

Links:
Cupcake project makes volcano cupcakes with using the plum upside down cake recipe

29 Comments

  1. ae

    This sounds really great but I was wondering if it could be adjusted to make one larger cake?

    I don’t see why not. Just cook for a longer period of time. ~Elise

  2. Anne-Jet

    That looks like a really good cake! It’s sweet how lovingly you talk about dad, both of your parents actually. Really nice to read!
    Greetings from Amsterdam, The Netherlands,
    Anne-Jet

  3. diningoncents

    Wow that cake looks amazing! I love plums in the summer because they are so juicy and refreshing- I will definitely try to make this recipe this summer. Thanks! ~Y

  4. carol

    Hi, Elise
    Can I make it with other fruit? I don’t like plums… Apples, for example? A lot of thanks

    If you want to make an upside down cake with apples, look online for a “tarte tatin” recipe. You can try this recipe with other fruit if you want, apricots might be nice for example. ~Elise

  5. Joanna

    Mmm, this looks delicious, I can’t wait until it’s plum season here in NY!! Also I love the description of your father in his apron. Hah, maybe he just needs an apron saying “Real Men Bake” — that would be perfect!

  6. Lisa

    Hello-this looks like a lovely recipe-I especially love that they are individual cakes! Quick question-I’ve never seen a recipe that called for 3/8 C. before-I just want to be sure it is not a typo (3/4) before I attempt it.

    Hi Lisa – I changed the measure to 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Easier to figure out that way. ~Elise

  7. Jeanette

    I chuckle at the way your describe your parents and their bantering. At the same time, I know how much you love them. Your father sounds wonderful, treasure your time with him, I just lost my father and he is missed.

  8. Nancy

    I’ve been looking for a plum upside-down cake recipe for years! This one looks yummy, and the produce market is full of tempting plums. I don’t have ramekins, nor do I feel like buying them, so I’ll experiment with a single larger pan.

    I always associate Santa Rosa plums with my own father, who died just a few months ago. When my brothers and I were growing up, Dad planted three Santa Rosa plum trees in the mostly concrete backyard of our 100% urban L.A. house (so urban we actually took the bus everywhere–yep, in L.A.!). Those trees bore the sweetest fruit. I wish I’d inherited my dad’s green thumb!

  9. Pieg!rl

    Now, this cake looks yummy, but I’m more curious to see what your [6'2", 200 lb, works out 3 times a week at the gym, mows the lawn, splits the wood, 78-year-old father] looks like :)

  10. Annie

    I love plum cakes, this one seems very similar to the one I make which is basically a slight adjustment to a plum cake recipe on allrecipes.com.

    The only thing I do differently is to mix into the cake batter some chopped plums and blueberries. The carmelizing of the black plums makes it so pretty and the sauce so yummy.

  11. Marjorienyc

    I bought a frog hollow farm “subscription” and santa rosa plums arrived today! I will definitely be making this this weekend. Thanks!

  12. Elle

    I just made this cake today. I used a regular cake pan, since I don’t have ramekins, and I didn’t change the measurements of the ingredients as I’m a baking novice. It came out beautifully and tasted absolutely delicious! A deep ruby red with a lovely brown cake crust. I love tart desserts and this was perfect. It was about as sweet as your strawberry rhubarb cobbler, give or take a bit.

    The first time I made the brown sugar butter sauce I made the mistake of over-whisking while the saucepan was on the heat, causing the sugar to caramelize and separate. I also simply buttered the cake pan, when I probably should have done something else (grease + flour?) as I had a bit of a struggle getting the cake to release onto the serving platter once it was cool. All in all though, I was immensely pleased.

    Your father reminds me of my father! He was very much the same way. He made the meanest apple strudel you’ve ever tasted, while being a vibrant, endearing, classically masculine sort of man. He was 55 when I was born so I was always proud of and impressed by his energy and vigor.

    I really love your blog, Elise. Every recipe I’ve used has been delicious; not a one has failed me yet. Preparing the recipes you share reminds me so much of growing up. I dearly miss California and family dinners around the table. Thank you for everything you do. :)

  13. Pat

    Thanks Elise! Someone brought us a basket of Santa Rosa plums this week and I was looking for a way to bake them.

    I doubled the recipe (did I mention the basket was huge?) and baked in two 9″ cake pans since I only had small ramekins. They took about 25 minutes at 350 and came out looking nicely. I’m saving them for a picnic this afternoon so I haven’t tried the cake yet!

    I did make one substitution – I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of cake flour. I suspect the cake will be dense but it seemed to work fine.

  14. Aimee Cowles, Berkeley, CA

    A large pluot tree branch fell in our backyard. Now we have almost three full garbage bags of pluots begging for cooking creativity before they spoil! Most of them are on the tart side– they did not fully ripen.

    I used the apple corer/peeler/slicer to produce lovely rings for this recipe, which I doubled and cooked in two 9″ cake pans. It turned out great! Our tart fruits tasted wonderful and refreshing in this dessert (we served it hot with ice cream), which was quite beautiful, too.

    Thanks again, Elise!
    p.s. – I am also using those pluots for your “Fruit Leather” recipe!

    Now that’s a gift from the heavens if there ever was one! You might also want to try out the plum conserve recipe and the plum galette recipe. Both are great with pluots. ~Elise

  15. S'Mo

    I made this as one large cake last night, and it came out great!

    My boyfriend is not really into sweets, but he loves plums. He tried the cake last night and said it’s the “best cake ever.” He also moaned, “Oh my god” after each bite, because it was just so delicious.

    This cake is buttery, but not too heavy. It’s really perfect.

    Thanks for the amazing recipe!!!!

  16. Debi Roybal

    I’ve made this quite a few times. My in-laws love it. I substituted allspice for the cinnamon, though, because my SIL is allergic to cinnamon. Have some wonderful freestone peaches from my MIL’s tree. Want to try it with those. Thank you very much for the recipe Elise!

  17. sairuh

    What a delicious recipe, Elise! This worked well with the end-of-season Santa Rosa plums from the farmers’ market. I loved how the cake portion turned out moist and tender –and it’s pleasantly surprising how much character there is with the orange zest.

    I almost always have plain yogurt around, so I used that instead of buttermilk. For grins I added the cinnamon to the sugar-butter sauce…which with my prolonged whisking and extended time on the heat turned into caramel, but ended up quite tasty.

  18. Christa aka BabbyMama

    Any chance I could do this on a small scale in a muffin pan?

    Why not? If you try it, please let us know how it turns out. Note that the cooking time will be greatly reduced. ~Elise

  19. bkakosy

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I had no vanilla at home so I substituted it with a bit of rum and the result was delicious!

  20. Marcia

    Everyone wanted seconds of this yummy dessert. I’m gluten free so used rice flour with a little xanthan gum. Instead of the cinnamon, I used cardamom and I used 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp almond extract. I baked in a 9 inch cake pan for 30 minutes and it came out perfect! All the dinner guests asked for the recipe.

  21. aga

    Hi Elise!
    I love the image of your father you’ve painted here in the intro to the recipe! I’ll try making the cake, although I always fail at baking!
    ;-)
    aga

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