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From the L.A.Times recipe archive: Plum upside-down cake

August 31, 2011 |  6:00 am

Plum upside-down cake

Ken recently sent me the following Culinary SOS request from our recipe archive:

Dear Noelle, Some years ago the LA Times published a recipe for upside down plum cake with cardamon and baked in a black frying pan. Is it possible to get a copy since I have lost mine. Thank you.

There's something inherently fun about upside-down cakes. Cover the bottom of a pan with sliced fruit, top with cake batter, bake, then invert before serving. Late last summer, we featured a story on upside-down cakes that moved beyond the traditional pineapple, variations including apricot and cornmeal, spiced cherry and blueberry, peach and rum, even a mango-coconut cake. Definitely fun, but no plum.

I searched a little further into the archive and turned up a number of plum-based upside-down cakes, each one a little different. I found a recipe from 2004 (pictured above), incorporating fresh vanilla seeds and browned butter. There's a recipe from 1997 that folds in buttermilk with a hint of rum. Try a "rosy red" upside-down cake, jam-packed with large, tart plum slices, or a "lemon-black plum" version, the summer fruit complemented with the bright notes of fresh lemon zest.

It took a little while (who knew there were so many plum upside-down cakes?), but I think I found the version Kevin was requesting. We ran a recipe in 1992 incorporating ground cardamom and baked in a nice, heavy skillet. The recipe suggests serving the cake warm or at room temperature, with a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt. Sounds perfect.

Enjoy, Kevin! You can find all those recipes after the jump below.

Check here for more Culinary SOS recipes. If you have a favorite restaurant recipe you'd like to request, feel free to email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com. I'll do my best to track it down!


134 recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes

What's hot: Recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

Browse hundreds of recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

-- Noelle Carter

Photo credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

PLUM UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE (recipe from 2004)

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Servings: 8 to 10

1/4cup ( 1/2 stick) plus 3 tablespoons butter, divided

1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

6 to 8 ripe plums or 6 nectarines or peaches

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/4 cups cake flour

1/4teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut one-fourth cup butter into pieces and add it to a small saucepan or skillet. Heat over medium heat until the butter browns but does not burn. Pour the browned butter into a small bowl and refrigerate until the butter solidifies.

3. With the tip of a knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean halves into the milk and then add the pods. Heat the milk until it's warm. Remove it from the heat and set aside to steep and cool.

4. Melt the remaining butter in a small, nonstick skillet. Remove it from the heat and add the brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Pour the mixture into an 8-by-2-inch buttered cake pan, evenly coating the bottom of the pan.

5. Cut the plums in half, then cut each half into three or four slices. Arrange the slices in a single layer of concentric circles, beginning at the outside edge of the pan, so they are touching but not overlapping. Cover the bottom of the pan, then arrange a second layer of fruit on top. Set aside while preparing the cake batter.

6. Beat the cooled browned butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg until blended.

7. In another bowl, stir together the cake flour, salt and baking powder. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk.

8. Fold the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture alternately with the vanilla-bean milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture.

9. Gently spoon the batter over the top of the sliced plums in the cake pan. Spread the batter over the fruit so all the fruit is covered and the batter is distributed to the sides of the pan.

10. Bake until the cake tests done in the center and is golden brown, about 50 to 55 minutes.

11. Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for a few minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen the edges. Put a serving plate on top of the cake and invert. Carefully remove the baking pan from the cake. Cool. Serve warm.

Each of 10 servings: 255 calories; 3 grams protein; 41 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 9 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 44 mg. cholesterol; 134 mg. sodium.

UPSIDE-DOWN PLUM CAKE (recipe from 1997)

Use firm plums, more for their contrasting tartness than their texture.


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, plus extra for greasing pan

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

6 plums, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices


2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons rum

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

Vanilla ice cream or yogurt, optional


Heat butter, cinnamon and brown sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until flowing. Pour into greased 9-inch springform pan that has been wrapped outside with foil to prevent leakage. Tip pan to spread topping evenly in bottom of pan. Arrange plum slices in concentric circles, starting with outer edge. Plums should fill single layer in pan. Set aside.


Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto waxed paper. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, rum and vanilla. Mix until smooth, about two minutes. Add buttermilk and mix well. Add flour mixture and mix until smooth.

Carefully spoon batter on top of plums. Spread evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees until browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.

Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes on rack. Invert pan on cake platter and carefully remove collar, then round. Cool at least two hours before serving. Serve warm with ice cream or yogurt, if desired. (Note: Cake be made a day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature. Reheat at 300 degrees until warmed through, about 12 minutes.)

Eight to 10 servings. Each of 10 servings:

374 calories; 372 mg sodium; 80 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 54 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.28 gram fiber.


1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided

7 to 8 large tart plums, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1/3 cup low-fat yogurt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon currant jelly melted with 1 teaspoon water for glaze

Vanilla ice cream, optional

In small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Spread mixture over bottom of greased 9-inch springform pan. Wrap foil around outside base of springform to prevent leakage.

Scatter 2 tablespoons butter, divided into little bits, over sugar. Arrange plum slices over sugar mixture in spiral pattern, first overlapping around outer edge of pan. Fill in center with another overlapping circle of plums. Arrange remaining slices evenly over this base, covering any spaces between slices. Set aside.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another medium bowl cream sugar and remaining butter. Add egg and beat until fluffy. Add yogurt and vanilla. Mix well (don't worry if mixture appears curdled). Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. Spread batter carefully over plums to edge of pan. Place springform pan on baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees until well browned and a wood pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 20 minutes. Remove outer ring from springform. Invert cake onto serving plate and leave bottom of pan on cake 10 minutes. Lift bottom off carefully. Replace any plum slices that may have slipped out of place. Let cool an hour before serving. Cake can be baked day ahead and kept at room temperature, well covered.

Serve warm. To reheat, place in 200-degree oven until warm, about 15 minutes. Brush entire surface with melted currant jelly. Serve with small scoop of ice cream. Makes six to eight servings.

Each of six servings contains about:

364 calories; 190 mg sodium; 67 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 59 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.52 gram fiber.


6 to 8 large black plums

1 medium lemon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup milk

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

Whipped cream or sour cream

Rinse plums, then pat dry, cut in halves and remove pits. Set plum halves aside.

Insert metal blade in dry processor. Strip off lemon peel with vegetable peeler, allowing strips to fall into processor. Add granulated sugar and process until peel is minced, about one minute. Add six tablespoons butter and process until mixed, then add eggs and vanilla. Process 20 seconds.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Mix half of flour mixture and half of milk into batter with half-second pulses. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in 9-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy oven-proof skillet. Add brown sugar and stir over medium heat until sugar melts. Remove from heat, then add plums, cut-sides up, working carefully since sugar mixture is very hot.

Using finger to hold processor blade in place underneath container, pour batter evenly over plums. Use rubber spatula to spread and gently press batter evenly over plums. Place skillet on baking sheet to catch any spillover of plum juices as cake cooks.

Bake on lowest oven rack at 375 degrees 30 to 35 minutes or until wood pick inserted into the center of the cake is withdrawn clean. Transfer skillet to cake rack and cool 10 minutes. Unmold cake over a platter by carefully inverting skillet. Serve with whipped cream or sour cream. Makes six to eight servings.

PLUM UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE (recipe from 1992)

1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed

5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds plums (preferably red Santa Rosa plums), washed and dried

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Dash salt

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 pint frozen low-fat or nonfat vanilla yogurt, optional

Generously spray non-stick spray onto bottom and sides of 8- to 10-inch heavy skillet with oven-proof handle. Place brown sugar in bottom of pan and pour in melted butter. Use fork to blend butter and brown sugar well. Pat mixture with hands evenly over bottom of pan.

Halve plums lengthwise, remove pits and slice into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Starting around outside edge of pan, arrange plum slices in neat circle rows over sugar layer. Sprinkle plums with cardamom.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Beat eggs in bowl of electric mixer at high speed about one minute. Gradually add granulated sugar in thin stream. Continue to beat until mixture is thick and pale yellow, about five minutes. On slow speed, gradually add flour mixture. If necessary, turn off machine and scrape down sides of bowl. Stir in lemon juice. Pour batter over plums.

Bake on center shelf at 350 degrees until top is golden brown, cake starts to pull away from sides of pan and a wood pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove skillet from oven. Immediately run knife around inside edge. Invert skillet onto large, round plate or serving tray. Let skillet stand upside down one minute so all fruit is released, then remove skillet.

Serve cake warm or at room temperature. It is best eaten same day but can be baked, covered and refrigerated a day ahead. Serve each slice with scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt. Makes eight to 10 servings.