Plum upside-down cake.

You see that pretty red pan? In the hierarchy of Things That I Love, it’s between The Cat and Butter. Nick bought it for me for my birthday in July, even though my birthday is in April, and since then every time I open its cupboard and it beams up at me, so Crayola-coloured and perfectly suited to meals for two, I feel a rush of joy and an urge to cook something at once.

It’s a pan that insists on upside-down cake. You could make it with pineapple, I guess, but pineapple upside-down cake (you know, with the maraschino cherries?) reminds me of elementary school bake sales and this cookbook my mom had from the 80s where all the pictures were really orange and all the food looked just terrible, and there that cake was, illuminating the page like a fussy yellow and red-nippled monster. My mom says that in the 80s, no one cared as much as we do now about food, and that dinner parties were about party games. Which sort of explains food photography; maybe all the photographers were so exhausted from too many rounds of beer pong that by the time they got to taking pictures of the food, they all decided, “Enh, good enough. Whatever.”

That’s not to say I have anything against pineapple upside-down cake; it has it’s place, to be sure, and whenever I’m visiting octogenarians, there it is.

As nippletastic as the typical upside-down cake is, sometimes it’s fun to deviate from tradition just a touch. And some ingredients lend themselves to caramelization and baked goods. Plums, for example, which are glorious right now, and the farm market is bursting with them in every shade. I have red and purple ones right now. You could use any fruit you like, at any time of year – how lovely this would be with cherries, or peaches. Or oranges – oranges in caramel are almost as seductive as a shiny new cast iron pan, and we’ve almost reached mandarin season. Improvise. Have fun. Giggle inappropriately at every opportunity to do so.

Plum upside-down cake


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar


  • 5 or 6 plums, enough to fill the bottom of your pan
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup full-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Halve and pit your plums.

In your nine-inch cast-iron pan, heat butter and sugar until bubbling. If you don’t have a nine-inch cast-iron pan, you can use a nine-inch pie plate or cake pan, but your steps will be different; if you’re using a pie plate, heat butter and sugar until bubbling and then pour them into the pie plate.

Meanwhile, beat together sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir together wet ingredients and dry ingredients.

Place plum halves cut-side down in caramel. Pour the cake batter over top, and then place in the oven.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool five minutes in the pan before turning out onto a plate. Serve warm, or reheat later on as needed. There should most certainly be whipped cream or ice cream.

5 thoughts on “Plum upside-down cake.

  1. Glorious. I love plums. I love upside-down cake. How can the combo not be amazing?

    While I make locally famous pineapple upside-down cake (nipply cherries and all, although frozen Bings make nicer cake than maraschinos in my humble opinion), I am always open for new spins. Which brings me to… have you tried Alton Brown’s pineapple upside down cornbread cake thing? It’s omgnomnomnom and I bet you’d like it and it’s really NOT very ’70s:


    1. Oooh! I will have to try that. We’re not big on pineapple here because of Nick’s allergies, but I could give it a try for a Nick-free event. And we’re getting a deep freeze (whee!) so we’ll have bings in there next summer for me to enjoy! Thanks for the tip šŸ™‚


  2. I just can’t do maraschinos. Like all sulfured or heavily food-colored fruits, they taste vaguely garlicky to me… and yuck. Just yuck. (I seem to be a supertaster for dyes and sulfur, weirdly.)


  3. Ew, I’d never thought of them as sulfured! I still like maraschino cherries (the cocktail’s sweetest garnish!), but now suspect I’ll be picking out garlic notes in my next vodka soda.


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