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Plum & Peach Upside-down Cake

June 25, 2010

There’s a man in my writing workshop whose longtime endeavor has been writing the story of his grandparents, Caroline and Walter, and their lives in Germany leading up to and through World War 2. In the most recent chapter we read, the scene is set in Frankfurt in 1922, and the two are sitting in a café together, confiding in one another their feelings about the changing social and political climate in the city while devouring a plum cake. It’s a fascinating story, multi-faceted and intriguing in its larger implications—but what really stayed with me after reading it were the little details: like Caroline’s big, broad-rimmed white hat, and that plum cake. Maybe it’s because I’ve always wanted a big, broad-rimmed hat to wear to the beach, or because I hadn’t enjoyed the pleasure of biting into the deep red flesh of a fresh plum since last year sometime, but I couldn’t get those images out of my mind.

On a wildly windy night this week when the queasy green sky threatened tornado, I made one of my wishes come true. I imagined the cake to be savory, and because I love a good upside-down cake, I created this recipe with great inspiration from a recipe I found on The sugary plum topping is mellowly sweet, the peaches are a bright and juicy companion; the cake itself contains the fragrant spiciness of cardamom, for an all-together savory tribute to Dan’s grandparents. Enjoy!

Plum & Peach Upside-down Cake
This cake is easy to make, not very time consuming, and especially fun to prepare because it’s assembled and baked in a cast iron skillet (which could be super cool for camping if you’ve got the ingredients and a way with fire).

For the Topping:

4 fresh plums
2 fresh peaches
1/3 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

For the Batter:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cardamom
2/3 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup pineapple juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the Topping:
Cut the fruit into 3/8-inch-thick pieces, lengthwise. Melt the butter in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, for 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Arrange the fruit on top of sugar mixture however you’d like (be creative!). The pieces should overlap slightly and cover as much of the surface area as possible.

For the Batter:
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. Beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, and then gradually beat in the sugar. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in the orange and pineapple juices, then add the remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (The batter may not look completely uniform.)

Spoon the batter over the fruit and brown sugar topping and spread as evenly as possible (it doesn’t have to be too perfect; the batter will fill in as it bakes). Bake the cake in middle of the oven until golden to medium brown in color and a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cake rest in the skillet for 5 minutes. Invert a plate over the skillet and invert the cake onto the plate (keeping the plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any fruit stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Place the plate on a rack to cool.

The cake can be served while still warm (but cooled slightly so that it doesn’t fall apart) or at room temperature.

Creative Commons License

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan Gilbert permalink
    July 27, 2010 6:15 PM

    Thank you Jen for the homage. The plum cake looks delicious.

    • July 31, 2010 9:03 PM

      Thank you for reading! The cake was delicious~ thanks for the inspiration.

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