I’m plum crazy about this cake. It’s plum delicious. Plum pretty, too. The recipe is a riff on one that my sister-in-law, pastry chef, Alison Sullivan, developed for a story I wrote for the San Jose Mercury News. I’ve made it half a dozen times since. The original is nothing short of plum perfect.
I pulled out the recipe a few weeks ago when a bundle of juicy plums showed up in my CSA box. When I started gathering ingredients, I found myself looking at the cake with a different set of eyes. It had more sugar and butter than I remembered and none of the whole grain flours which I’ve grown accustomed to using. So I tinkerered, scaling back the sugar and butter, using whole grain flour, swapping almond meal for some of the wheat flour, and simplifying the method. All of this adds up to an upside down plum cake that may not be as rich and buttery as the original, yet it remains undeniably delicious and lovely to look at.
Brown sugar-sweetened plums crown a tender moist cake that can stand on its own, but is excellent served with a spoonful of vanilla frozen yogurt, ice cream, or whipped cream. Even better, in my opinion, is to eat it Day Two for breakfast along with a side of plain Greek yogurt (and perhaps a side of your morning coffee).
If you’ve never attempted an upside down cake, no need for intimidation. Here are a few tips:
Halve the plums with a paring knife and pop out the pits. If they’re a little stubborn, use the tip of your knife to cut them out.
Warm the butter and brown sugar right in the cake pan set directly on the stove top until they melt together and look something like this.
Nestle the plum halves cut-side-down right into the brown sugar/butter, covering the surface of the pan. The number of plums will vary based on their size.
Cool the cake completely in the pan. Then, set a plate on top and quickly flip it over. Lift the cake pan to reveal your pretty confection. Do your best to wait for dessert.
Or follow my fine example and don’t wait. Not one single second. You have my permission.
(P.S. if you have leftover plums, check this line-up of inspired recipe ideas from Cooking Light. Plum Bellini anyone?)
(P.P.S. Special thanks to my friend Pam Rupright, an excellent baker who tested this recipe and helped make it a better one).
Upside Down Buttermilk Plum Cake
6 to 8 plums, depending on size
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), divided
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a paring knife to cut the plums in half through the center, twist and separate. Remove the pits. If the pits don’t come out with ease, use your paring knife to cut them out. Set aside.
Sprinkle the brown sugar to cover the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan. Dot 2 tablespoons of the butter over the brown sugar. Set the pan directly on a burner of your stove over low heat. Allow the butter and sugar to melt together, swirling occasionally so nothing burns. You want the butter/sugar mixture distributed evenly over the bottom of the pan. Use a spatula to help spread the mixture, if needed.
Place the plums cut-side-down into the cake pan so the fruits are touching. Start with the outside perimeter of that pan and work your way to the center. Set aside.
Put the whole-wheat pastry flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a fork and set aside.
Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth. Add the eggs and mix until thoroughly blended. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and mix again. If the batter is a little curdled looking, don’t worry.
Add the flour mixture and to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix together into a creamy, smooth batter.
Pour the batter over the plums. Set in the oven with a baking sheet beneath to catch any plum juices that may spill over.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan, at least an hour.
To remove cake, set a plate large enough to cover the pan on top. Flip the plate over so the cake inverts onto it. Lift off the cake pan.
Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or Greek yogurt.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Much gratitude to Alison Sullivan on whose Upside Down Pluot Cake this one is adapted.