1 Fruity Cake, 3 Ways

August 11, 2021
1 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 1 (9-inch) upside-down cake / 1 (12-inch) skillet cake / 1 (9x5-inch) loaf cake
Author Notes

This versatile, useful cake batter pairs beautifully with fresh or frozen fruit, making it perfect for dreaming up sweet treats all year long. But that’s not the only way this cake is flexible—it can also be made in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Try it as an upside-down cake, with the fruit acting as the gooey top layer. Or go for a super-easy skillet cake, with fruit studding the whole surface. Or try it as an easy loaf cake, hiding a layer of fruit in the center when you cut into it. Any way you slice it, this is a cake to turn to again and again.
Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and pointing out all the mistakes to avoid along the way. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
1 Fruity Cake, 3 Ways
  • 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup (140 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) vegetable oil or other neutral oil
  • 4 large (226 grams) eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (330 grams) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 2/3 cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, using a spatula or wooden spoon (or using a hand mixer), mix the butter, brown sugar, and oil for 5 to 6 minutes (or 3 to 4 minutes with a mixer), until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking to incorporate and scraping the bowl well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Whisk in the condensed milk.
  3. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and mix with a silicone spatula (or with the hand mixer) just until incorporated. Scrape the bowl well; the batter should be smooth.
  4. Use the batter in one of the below preparations (all bake at 350°F).
  5. For a 12-inch fruit-topped skillet cake: Generously butter a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter. In a small pot, melt 2 tablespoons (28 grams) more unsalted butter.
  6. In a medium bowl, toss the melted butter with the prepared fruit (peeled, if desired, pitted/seeded if necessary). You can choose 2 cups (340 grams) of small fruit, like berries or cherries (stemmed and sliced if large), or about 2 cups chopped larger fruit (like apricots, peaches, plums, apples, etc.).
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared skillet and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the fruit evenly over the surface. Sprinkle ⅓ cup (66 grams) granulated sugar evenly over the cake and fruit.
  8. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.
  9. For a 9x5-inch loaf cake: Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line with 2 pieces of parchment paper, covering the pan in both directions, leaving about 1½ inches of overhang on all sides. Lightly grease the parchment with cooking spray.
  10. In a small bowl, toss 1½ cups (255 grams) small fruit, like berries or cherries (stemmed and sliced if large), or about 1½ cups chopped larger fruit (like apricots, peaches, plums, apples, etc.) with 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon (8 grams) all-purpose flour to combine.
  11. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Arrange the fruit in an even layer over the batter, then spoon the remaining batter on top. Generously sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  12. Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached (don’t be fooled by the soft fruit in the center).
  13. Let cool for about 15 minutes in the pan. Run an offset spatula around the outside edge of the cake and invert onto a wire rack. Let cool completely before slicing.
  14. For a 9-inch upside-down cake: Wrap the base of a 9-inch springform pan with foil. Generously grease the pan with 3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, being extra generous with the base. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (You can also use a 9-inch cake pan with sides at least 3 inches tall.)
  15. Sprinkle ½ cup (106 grams) light or dark brown sugar evenly over the base of the pan.
  16. This will require about 4 cups (680 grams) small fruit, like berries or cherries (stemmed and sliced if large), or 7 to 10 larger fruits (600 to 900 grams; like apricots, peaches, plums, apples, etc., halved, quartered, or sliced as desired). Arrange the fruit in an even layer on top of the brown sugar, tightly packing in an even layer and covering the whole base of the pan.
  17. Spoon the prepared batter all over the fruit and gently spread in an even layer, being careful not to disturb the fruit.
  18. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.
  19. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes in the pan. Run a small offset spatula around the outside edge of the cake and carefully invert onto a platter. Let cool for at least 20 minutes more before slicing and serving, or let cool completely.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • corawiec52
  • Monica
  • Joshua
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

3 Reviews

corawiec52 January 29, 2022
I had the exact same issue as the other two reviews. The cake took 30-40 minutes longer to set in the middle than what was recommended in the recipe. I too had to tent the cake to keep it from burning on the top and sides before the center was set. I haven't cut into yet, but I am a little concerned that it will have some unevenly baked pockets and it seems oily to me as well.
Monica September 30, 2021
The batter makes a delicious cake but I had the same issue with the cake being super soggy in the middle. I ended up baking it for almost 2 hours and tried to tent the edges to prevent further browning as they were cooked way before the middle was. I used halved plums in a single layer. The plums weighed approx 600g raw (pits removed).
Joshua August 31, 2021
Made this cake this weekend as an upside down cake with fresh peaches.
The good news is that the batter is very easy to make and absolutely delicious. The parts of it that baked properly were also very moist with a great texture.
The bad news is that it did not bake through evenly - I think the root of the problem is the amount of butter and fruit called for in the bottom of the pan. I should have gone with my gut that 3tbsp was a lot of butter, and that I should have only used enough fruit to cover one even layer, which is far less than the amount of fruit called for in the recipe. Between the butter and fruit, I think there was too much extra liquid, so the middle of the cake that was in contact with the fruit came out relatively unbaked (though still very tasty). After 50 minutes the top (bottom?) of the cake was thoroughly baked, as were the sides, so I don't think leaving it in any longer would have been a solution as it was just too uneven.
I will definitely make this again, but go with my instincts rather than following the recipe so closely.