Plum Upside-Down Cake

I've made cheesecakes, layer cakes, and cupcakes for this blog, more "every day" cakes than I can count, plus (pan)cakes and muffins -- which, lets face it, are essentially just naked cupcakes - but strangely I've never gotten around to making an upside-down cake. I apologize for the delay. Let me explain. 

The upside-down cake, specifically the pineapple upside-down cake, is an American classic, a dessert that can be traced all the way back to the 1920s when canned pineapple in conveniently cut rings started appearing on supermarket shelves and housewives started sticking them on top of cake. Now -- while I am all for retro desserts that have stood the test of time, like the Baked Alaska (an ice cream cake topped with meringue cake that goes in the oven and defies all logic) and the Banana Split (what's not to love?!) the pineapple upside down cake, with its creepy circles of canned pineapple over the top, equally suspicious maraschino cherries, and syrupy topping paired with already sugary fruit has never appealed. It's nothing personal -- its just not my thing, and its staying power is a mystery to me. It's not you, its me, pineapple upside-down cake, I would say, if it ever asked. 

But this is an upside-down cake I do like, one made with fresh sweet plums, at their peak this time of year, tucked in to a honey tinged, butterscotch topping and flipped over on to a tender cinnamon-y cake that takes in all the lovely plum juices. This is the pineapple upside-down cake, updated and made over, the late Summer version of the tart tatin, the upside-down cake's French cousin, and also a perfectly delicious cake in its own right. And while we're all here talking about cake -- a slice of this topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of fresh whipped cream wouldn't be a bad idea, either, not at all.

A couple of notes: You could easily substitute nectarines, peaches, or even apples for the plums here. I baked my cake in a springform pan instead of a round cake pan and that worked fine, though I did have to keep a bit of foil under the cake to catch the bit of caramel/plum juice that leaked out of the sides where the ring of the pan and the bottom meet. I ended up using less than six plums to fill the top of the cake, but let me know how you do -- in hindsight I could've probably fit more fruit on the top. Finally, I accidentally used one teaspoon of baking powder instead of the recommended two, and this worked out just fine in the end -- just keep in mind if you follow the directions your cake will be a little higher than mine looks in the photos.


Ingredients for plums:
1 cup (215 grams) light brown sugar 
6 tablespoons (84 grams) butter
1 tablespoon honey
6 plums

Ingredients for the cake:
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons baking powder (see note above)
6 tablespoons (84 grams) butter  
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
2 eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (112 grams) milk

Powdered sugar, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut up the plums into thin slices -- to do this, I cut a line all around the plum and then twist the two halves, kind of like its an avocado, and then remove the pit and cut each half up.  
Very lightly butter the bottom of the cake pan (this probably isn't even completely necessary, but I do it anyways and my cake never sticks to the pan). In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, and six tablespoons of butter and whisk together over medium-low heat, letting the mixture come to a simmer. Let simmer until the mixture becomes bubbly and syrupy, then pour into the bottom of your cake pan. Carefully arrange the plum wedges in the brown sugar mixture in concentric circles and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.
Next, whisk the dry ingredients in to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk. You should do flour mixture, milk, flour mixture, milk, flour mixture. Pour this batter over the plums and smooth out with a spoon or offset spatula so the plums are completely covered.
Bake the cake in the center of the oven for 55 to 60 minutes, until golden and springy. Use a knife to cut around the cake to try and separate it a bit from the sides of the cake pan. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes, then invert the cake on to a serving plate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then remove the pan and admire how lovely your plum upside-down cake looks.
Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream, or powdered sugar. Serves about 10. 

Recipe barely adapted from

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