Plum-Nectarine Upside-Down Skillet Cake

August 18, 2017
6 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 10 to 12
Author Notes

I'd add this cake, adapted from Food & Wine's Plum-Brown Sugar Upside-Down Cake to my list of must-bake summer desserts, which is expanding at a troubling rate. It's the kind that will help you cling to the season for the dear life, the kind you'll spend most of the winter and spring longing for.

It's humble, simple, and good—and you'll have enough time to get out of the kitchen, frolic outside, and eat cake, too.

First, the caramel. Instead of making a true caramel sauce, you make a lazy-bones version: Melt butter in the bottom of an oven-safe skillet, then sprinkle brown sugar and sliced almonds on top. The heat of the oven will do the work of caramelization, no stirring required.

Next, the fruit, which is also treated simply: Slice your favorite stone fruit (nectarines, plums, pluots, apricots, apriplums?) into wedges and arrange them as rustically or fancifully as you'd like (the almonds will cover up any mishaps, anyhow).

The cake has no spices or infusions, relying instead on the ripe sweetness of late-summer fruit, lemon zest, the pleasant tang of buttermilk, and a bit of vanilla and almond extracts. The juices from the fruit run into the sugar and butter below as the cake bakes; and then, when you invert it onto a serving platter, it drips back into the tender cake beneath it, serving double duty.

A few recipe notes:

- If you don't like almond flavor, or you want a nut-free cake, feel free to omit both the nuts and the extract.
- But keep the lemon zest! The cake benefits from the bright acidity it adds.
- It's tempting to let your cake cool completely in the pan, but you do want to turn it out while it's still warm—otherwise, the caramel layer will adhere to your pan as it cools and hardens.
- If you swap in different types of stone fruit, you'll want to make sure you're using around 2 pounds. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 nectarines, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 3 plums, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Use a pastry brush or paper towel to make sure the sides of the pan are also buttered. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top of the butter, then scatter the sliced almonds over top.
  2. Remove the skillet from the heat and arrange the sliced plums and nectarines on top of the almonds.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or working with an electric beater, cream the remaining stick of butter with the granulated sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Then beat in the extracts.
  4. Incorporate the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
  5. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. With a rubber spatula, stir one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining whites, taking care not to deflate them.
  6. Spread the batter over the fruit, then bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • panania
  • Ashley
  • MSL-2302
  • Kate Turner
    Kate Turner
  • Loreal

42 Reviews

panania August 10, 2021
This was excellent and really easy, which is always a plus. Two items I should have heeded 'light brown sugar' and 'do not let it cool in the pan'. I used standard issue brown sugar and I definitely picked up some 'charcoal like' flavor notes. I also waited until the cake pulled away from the sides of the pan before flipped it and that cost me some of the topping.
Nina P. June 28, 2020
Perfection! I had a bunch of overripe stone fruit and had no idea I could turn them into something so beautiful. I used 3-4 small plums and 3 nectarines. Took other commenters’ advice and cut the sugar by a little less than half, added the eggs whole and skipped the almonds and almond extract to accommodate kids. It looks and tastes like a dream and was totally unfussy and easy to make. 10/10!
Nina P. June 28, 2020
This was perfection! I had a bunch of overripe stone fruit and had no idea I could turn them into something so beautiful. I used 3-4 small plums and 3 nectarines. Took other commenters’ advice and cut the sugar by a little less than half, added the eggs whole and skipped the almonds and almond extract to accommodate kids. It looks and tastes like a dream and was totally unfussy and easy to make. 10/10!
Ashley June 23, 2019
I made this last night, with apricots, and while the end result tastes good, I ran into some problems. I followed the directions to a T, and there was no caramelization of the brown sugar, despite baking for 50 minutes. When I went to turn out the cake, the sugar sludge mostly stayed on the skillet, keeping most of the almonds with it. I scraped it out and kind of glopped it on the cake - not too pretty! It was also a very low cake, and the extra step of beating the egg whites seemed pointless. I do a lot of home baking, and have read the recipe over and over, and I'm not sure why I didn't achieve the results everyone raves about!
MSL-2302 September 3, 2018
Just made this with a bunch of too-soft plums I had... divine! I did reduce the sugar as suggested by others here (thank you, commenters!). I used 1/2 c. Brown sugar in the first step and 3/4 c. granulated for the batter. Turned out great, w the tartness of the plums coming through really nicely as well as the lemon. The whole thing is still sweet enough to be a dessert, though. I also omitted the almonds and almond extract, and I think this also reduced some of the sweetness.
Kate T. August 18, 2018
I just made this, and am about to make a second one to take to a gathering. I loved it but also found it to be too sweet for my taste. I'm a bit nervous about reducing the amount of sugar because I don't want to ruin it - is there a good way to do this?
Loreal August 15, 2018
Great cake. The only modifications I recommend are beating in the whole eggs one at a time and reducing the sugar overall--it's quite sweet.
Hannah December 22, 2017
this was one of the best desserts i have ever made. my husband and i had friends over for dinner andmy husband cooked (he's a chef), and i made dessert and this cake was the winner of the evening. left my husband feeling a bit jealous! ;) incredible tasting...i will definitely be making this many times in the future!
JoAnn N. November 10, 2017
Not for the new baker but worth it. showy and delicious. A keeper and must bake before the end of summer. Sadly now need to wait to eat again. Made it just as the recipe says. Fabulous. And the picture here doesn't do it justice.
Brought to a get together and the oohs and ahhs led to mmmmm.
Heather G. October 5, 2017
I really really wanted to like it but after making it exactly as written (other than adding a little extra fruit) and using local plums and nectarines, it was just too sweet for my taste. The flavors of the fruit just didn't come through for me.
Farmgirl September 24, 2017
afarmgirl-Connie Just made this, family loved it, going in my keep forever recipe file. Thank you for sharing!
Rachel W. September 17, 2017
I just made this! I only needed three nectarines and the batter wouldn't have covered more in my pan- did everything else exactly according to the recipe. This was awesome! The texture is great and the almond/fruit combo is perfect. I will definitely make this again.
Sarah J. September 17, 2017
So glad you made it and liked it, Rachel!!
KansasGardener September 8, 2017
Made this today with 1 nectarine and 3 large peaches in a heavy 10-inch cake pan. It's delicious! I made a couple small changes. I shorted the butter by 2 tablespoons, one less for the bottom of the pan and one less for the batter. I also shorted the white sugar by about 2 tbs. (Trying to make baking a little healthier.) One last change was just beating the whole eggs to the batter, without separating. The resulting cake is light. It came easily out of the pan. All the foodies here in my house say to make it again soon. Thanks for a great recipe!
Sarah J. September 17, 2017
Hooray! So happy to hear it.
Daryl G. September 7, 2017
I made this last night and it was a real hit with my company. I used a cast iron pan and it came out great. LOVED IT!
Laurie G. September 6, 2017
I don't have any ovenproof skillets, so I used a rectangular Pyrex dish. I didn't butter the sides. I melted the butter in the dish, while the oven was preheating, then took it out to do the rest. It did take more time and more counter space! than I expected, but finally it was ready to go in. I used nectarines and prune plums (a small tart plum). I did have to leave it in for longer than it said... probably 65-75 minutes.
It came out PERFECT! Well worth all the effort... although now I need to see if I can cut the calories a bit.
Christine September 5, 2017
Just made this today and the results were great! It is so delicious! I made it exactly as written. 10 in calphalon pan is oven-proof to 450 degrees. The only consideration to those about to make it is that it is a little more time-consuming than I expected (but, duh, why didn't I read through the recipe in its entirety before starting!?) It's delicious and I give it 2 thumbs up!
Sarah J. September 5, 2017
Hooray! Glad you liked it!
Ellen September 5, 2017
I made this yesterday with great results. My cast iron skillet is 12" and it was okay, but I would use a 10" if you have it so that the fruit is tighter together and the cake rises higher and looks prettier on the platter. The lemon zest is VERY prominent. I love lemon, but I would use a little less next time. I used peaches from the farm market and they played well with the little bit of almond flavor. A hit!
Sarah J. September 5, 2017
So happy to hear it!
PG September 4, 2017
Many thanks for this recipe. Is it possible to use Earth Balance or other substitute for the butter? Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
Sarah J. September 4, 2017
I don't have much experience with Earth Butter—but if it can melt and cream like regular butter, I'd think it would work! Sorry I can't be more helpful, PG! Good luck.
PG September 9, 2017
Thanks for your response!
PG September 9, 2017
Thanks for your response!
Deleslynn B. September 4, 2017
I used a 10 inch regular iron skillet and I used exactly 2 lbs of fruit but the batter overflowed the pan and went all over the bottom of the oven. Did your skillet have high sides? Other than that it came out nicely and was delicious. Should I cut back on fruit or batter?
Sarah J. September 4, 2017
I use a standard 10-inch skillet, too! The fruit should cover the whole bottom of the pan (for me, this was 2 pounds! If you have extra fruit, consider it a snack! Or plan on slicing everything into slimmer pieces). The cake batter should come close to the top, but you'll want about 1/2- or 1/4-inch of room between the pan's rim and the top of the batter. Hope that helps and sorry yours overflowed!!
Molly F. September 3, 2017
Absolute total disaster....with friend, tho' so we scooped it up and it was delicious! Skillet was an inch too small, so the cake part overflowed, and totally fell apart when turned out...''twas wonderful, tho'...I shall try again, probably without the cake!