August 12, 2012

From torte to upside-down cake

A good while back I revived the German influences in our Romanian cuisine with one of my favorite sweet treats – Vanilla Pudding Apple Torte.  This bold and buttery cake that gets a regal touch from the warm and smooth vanilla pudding topping is so reminiscent of my childhood and the rugged sights of my old Transylvania.  One bite and all those vivid memories are back.  I was daydreaming about it this past week; but strangely enough, I’m still meandering amid ripe stone fruits and luscious berries.  And this time I wanted something along those lines.  So, I took out my Bon Appétit Desserts tome and I found the perfect candidate – Plum-Berry Upside-Down Cake.  And just like that, I was in for a party; a party of flavors and a colorful visual; all in an upside-down cake. 

In my previous entry, I told you how desperate I was for some glossy red currants and how scarce they were around here.  But… wait for it, wait for… miracles do happen and today, these currants have made it into my kitchen… at least in a picture format.  Yes, I know, still pretty disappointing.  These are the exact currants that I pick every summer in my 92 year-old great-grandmother’s backyard.  Unfortunately, this year I missed our currant picking ritual and especially the currant picking contest against my great-grandmother.  I didn’t get the chance to be faster at currant picking and finally defeat her.  Truth be told, I’m never faster than my great-grandmother; maybe next year…   

Although some currants would have worked beautifully in this upside-down cake, they’re not mandatory.  This cake is just drop dead gorgeous without them and one hundred percent delectable!  It was the first time I had made this cake, and to be quite frank I wasn’t sure what to expect; but somehow I knew that if you add crimson plums, scarlet raspberries, and dark blackberries, you will create something great.  And I was right.  As it turns out, stone fruits and berries complement each other really well; and not just in color but also in taste!    

After a ride in the oven, the transformation is evident: the fruits become soft; the plums go from piquant and slippery to sweet and slipperier; the berries release their deep colors; they all blend in with each other, eat up the buttery brown sugar syrup that a moment ago they were comfortably lounging in, and sink into the dense and fragrant dough.  The lustrous top is still thriving, though.      

The taste?  Definitely tasty.  It sort of goes from sweet to tart and back to sweet, emphasizing a distinct undertone of warm and spicy cinnamon, which also gives a discrete darker hue to the springy dough. 

The most exciting part?  Presenting the cake on a beautiful platter.  Ironically, this is not an apple tart (obviously), but that doesn’t make it less entitled to be displayed on this pretty French tart platter.  After all, I was thinking of an apple torte before I baked this cake. 

Plum-Berry Upside-Down Cake
Adapted slightly from Bon Appétit Desserts by Barbara Fairchild

Serves: 8 servings

Ingredients Topping:

·         ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
·         ½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
·         3-4 medium plums, pitted, cut into ½-inch wedges
·          ½-pint (in total) raspberries and blackberries

Ingredients Cake:

·         1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         ¼ teaspoon salt
·         ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
·         1 cup sugar
·         2 large eggs, at room temperature
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon whole milk


Topping: Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat.  Add brown sugar; whisk until well blended.  Pour syrup into 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides, spreading to cover bottom evenly.  Lightly press plums into syrup in circle around edge of pan.  Spread berries in center. 

Do ahead: Can be made 3 hours ahead.  Let stand at room temperature.

Cake: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.  Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.  Beat butter in another medium bowl until smooth.  Gradually add sugar to butter and beat until well combined.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla extract.  Stir dry ingredients and milk alternatively into butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Spoon batter over topping in pan. 

Bake cake until top is golden and firm and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 60 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Run small sharp knife around pan sides to loosen cake.  Place platter over pan.  Using oven mitts or pot holders as aid, firmly grasp pan and platter together, then turn over.  Let stand 3 minutes, then gently lift pan off cake.  Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.  

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)


  1. Greeting from NYC! I love the story and the pictures. The plum berry upside down cake looks absolutely amazing! And so does your grandma’s vanilla pudding apple torte!

    1. Hi NY Girl! Thank you so much for your kind words! They make me so happy and inspired. I've also passed along your compliments to my grandma in Romania. You've made her week :)

  2. This looks delicious, Dana, and it was great meeting you last night! Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. Hi Ashley! Thank you for stopping by and for the wonderful comment! It was great meeting you and your husband last night!

  3. I made your plum-berry upside down cake in the morning and it was absolutely amazing. This upside down cake is so moist and flavorful. My family also loves it!

    1. Yaaay!!! I’m so happy that you tried the upside-down cake and that your family loved it, too! You are right – this cake is so flavorful, moist and absolutely delicious :)

  4. After seeing your peach cake on Ellen B's blog, I had to pop over. This cake looks incredible too!! Wow!

    1. Hi Sam! Thank you so much for stopping by. I am so happy that you like my peach cake recipe featured on Ellen B's blog. It's one of my favorite cakes! :)

  5. This torte looks incredible my friend, I love the fruit choices :D

    Choc Chip Uru

    1. Hi Uru! Thank you so much for the nice comment :)

  6. Dana, this cake looks dreamy! I love upside down cakes and you've layered the fruits so beautifully.

    1. Hi Jaime! Thank you for the lovely comment :)

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