Sunday, August 4, 2013

Plum Upside Down Cake

Piece of Cake on Plate with Whipped Cream
Plum Upside Down Cake: Top with Cream, or Not

Recipe by Bruce’s Mom

Collecting and preserving family recipes was one of my motivations in creating Seasonal Eating. Rarely are these recipes written down in step-by-step format. Often they are written as quick reminders to a cook who has made the recipe many times and doesn’t need details. And when this cook passes away, we inherit the notes, make the recipe, and it doesn’t taste quite the same. Yet with each experiment we fine-tune the process and sometimes the ingredients, until our results match our memories. My husband Bruce says that this cake is very close to his Mom’s Satsuma Plum Upside-down Cake, even with the substitution of yellow plums.

Square Cake on Platter
Use Round or Square Pan
Unfortunately, we don’t have a Satsuma plum tree (yet). However, we do have a very overloaded tree in full production mode with extremely flavorful yellow plums. Our plums are considerably juicier than Satsumas, so my thought is that you can use just about any plum. It’s a particularly productive plum year here in California, and the harvest will continue throughout the month, so you might want to try this recipe a few times, with different types of plums, and see which you like best.

Pan of Sugared Fruit and Bowl of Cake Batter
Anatomy of an Upside Down Cake
This recipe is unusual among the upside down cake clan. It calls for white sugar in the topping and brown sugar in the cake itself, the opposite of most recipes. This enhances the subtle flavors of the plum and imparts a unique and more substantial flavor to the cake. Be aware that the batter will be thick, and you’ll need to spread it over the plums rather than just pouring it on. Leave us a comment if you try this with Satsumas, or other types of plums.

Piece of Cake on Plate
My 2013 Version, with Yellow Plums
Satsuma Plum Upside Down Cake
serves about 10

½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
10 medium plums, pitted and quartered
1¼ cup unbleached flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
½ cup soft butter
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8-inch square baking pan or 9-inch round cake pan. Stir together granulated sugar and ½ tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle a little more than half of this mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan. Arrange quartered plums over the sugar layer, skin side up. Sprinkle evenly with remaining sugar mixture.

Combine the dry ingredients: whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Set aside.

Cream the butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. I use an electric mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla.

Beat flour mixture into butter mixture by hand a little at a time until well blended. Spoon over plums and spread in pan with rubber spatula. Batter should be slightly thicker on the edges than in the middle.

Bake cake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes, until it springs back when touched. While still hot, run knife around edges, then invert onto serving platter. Serve warm or cool.

Illustration of Spreading Batter onto Prepared Fruit in Pan
Batter is Thick


  1. Thank you so much for preserving our family recipes and memories Robin.
    That means an awful lot to me. It often seems such a daunting task to preserve family memories, I am happy that you are doing this, happy that the family foods are being carried on, and that those who loved them get to partake, and others as well.

    Mucho love, have a fab day, thanks dh, love Lisa

    1. Thanks, Lisa. It has been my dream to preserve family recipes since my mom passed, over 10 years now. Happy that I married into a family with cooking heritage as well! :)