Thursday, March 25, 2010

Plum Almond Upside-Down Cake

It had been a while since I made something cake-y as opposed to a cookie or tart. I was starting to hanker cake, but I lacked the ambition to make a layer cake or something that needed to be frosted.

I had spied this recipe some time back and bookmarked it, thinking it looked so very delectable. The contrast of the rich red of the plums and the gingerbread-y cake itself made me wish I could reach through the computer screen and have a nibble, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-style.

The original calls for molasses, ginger, and cinnamon as the only flavorings. Molasses and ginger are good, but I can find them a touch harsh when they’re the dominant notes. I suspected that my palate would be happier if there were some vanilla and almond notes to balance the cake. And nutmeg: nothing makes me happier than nutmeg. For my palate, these proved to be inspired additions

Plum Almond Upside Down Cake
adapted from Pastry Studio

Plum layer
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
4-5 medium to large ripe plums
about ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted (I used dry toasted from Trader Joe’s)

Cake layer
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (4 oz.)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar (I used dark brown)
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and shredded or minced
1 egg and one egg yolk
1/3 cup molasses (I only had ¼ cup or so left and it came out fine; I didn’t add more sugar, either)
½ a vanilla bean’s seeds or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

1 ½ cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup buttermilk (I used a tablespoon of vinegar in ¾ cup of milk)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9” springform pan and put a large circle (about 10”) of parchment paper at the bottom so that the paper comes up the sides of the pan a little bit.

Cut the plums into 1/2" slices. In a small saucepan, heat the 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until just melted – you don’t want to caramelize it. Pour the mixture into the springform pan, coating the parchment paper as much as possible (but I didn’t have quite enough of it to cover every little bit, and it was still fine – it will spread out when it bakes).

Place the sliced plums on top of the butter-sugar mixture in overlapping circles so that none of the bottom of the pan shows through. Sprinkle the almonds evenly on top of them.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.

Cream the cake batter butter and brown sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and pale. Add the grated/chopped ginger, vanilla seeds, molasses, and almond extract and beat 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg and then the egg yolk. Add half the flour mixture to the bowl; stir in buttermilk; then stir in the rest of the flour. Do not overbeat.

Pour the batter into the plum-lined pan and spread evenly atop.

Bake for 50-65 minutes or until a tester comes out clean – this took even less time in my oven. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around the edges of the cake and unlatch the springform pan. Invert onto a serving plate and peel the parchment paper from the plum layer.

Serves about 8.

This is such a nice cake. I love it; husband loves it; the cats, had they any capacity to perceive sweet, would doubtless love it. It’s moist and soft, with all flavors perceptible but none so dominant as to upset the balance and scale. The almonds are what really tie it together for me – plum and almond are right up there with chocolate and peanut butter in my book of indispensable combinations.

And the pictures are so nice that I’ll give you lots of them.  Printable recipe here.


  1. Great idea with the almonds! I saw the same recipe and made it myself a while back:

  2. Mmmm, love plums and great idea to put them in a cake... I always have great luck with your recipes, Becky!

  3. Thanks to both of you! Mollie, yours looks great ... Lostpast, I'm sure yours *would* be. :)

  4. Stop by my blog... I have an award for you!!!

  5. I happened to have plums, almonds, fresh ginger, molasses and almond coffee syrup on hand (close enough for me!) so I decided to make this cake - except I wasn't sure when to add the molasses? It's baking now and smells great, I can't wait to eat it! Thanks!

  6. Whoops -- the molasses goes into the cake batter with the spices (before the eggs and flour). I hope it came out well!