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
- Serves 10 to 12
stick unsalted butter, softened
light brown sugar
nectarines, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
plums, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
1 1/2 cups
Zest of 1 lemon
large eggs, separated
- 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.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and arrange the sliced plums and nectarines on top of the almonds.
- 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.
- Incorporate the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
- 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.
- 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.