Upside Down Plum Spiced Cake

End of summer: say good-bye to fresh juicy sweet fat peaches until next year. Welcome Italian plums, those tasty versatile little morsels. Because they are cling-free, they lend themselves easily to all kinds of preparations: jam & preserves, liqueurs, chutney, sautéing and grilling, compote and of course baking. Having just acquired 4 gallons of Italian plums at a local orchard, I have enough materials to try a few things. I might even see about drying some.

Freshly picked Italain plums

However, they were picked less ripe than I really care about (something about picking them before the skies open and dump several inches of water on us as storm/hurricane Hannah moves North). So I will let them ripen for a few days before processing a lot of them.

But I had to make something right away. I normally don’t bake too much sweets at home, but once in a while, I will bake a dessert with fruit. My husband was actually astonished when he realized that the cake was for us. He thought I was donating it to the Taste of Rappahannock, a fund raiser from the Headwaters Foundation, or some other worthwhile cause, as seem to have been the case several times recently as he gently reminded me. But, no, the lovely scented Upside Down Plum Spiced Cake was for us, and less than 24 hours after it was made, more than half is gone (hint: try it for breakfast, too, not just dessert.) I better go and make something else – maybe a tart?

Upside Down Plum Spiced Cake

A Slice of Upside Down Plum Spiced Cake

Note: I think the spiciness of a “ginger” or “spiced” cake works nicely with Italian plums, resulting in not too sweet a dessert. I was fairly moderate with the spices: increase the quantities to suit your taste. I also love cardamom – not everybody does, especially the whole pod. You may take out the seeds and grind them into a powder, or simply omit the cardamom if you want.

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds of Italian Plums (enough to pack your skillet one layer deep with halved plums)
  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, soften to room temperature, divided into 3 Tsp + 4 Tsp
  • ¾ cup sugar (divided into ½ cup + ¼ cup) + 1 Tablespoon
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup unsulfured molasses
  • ½ cup buttermilk (I did not have any on hand, so I used kefir – either works)

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground if possible)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean powder (use extract if not available)

1. Wash, half and pit the plums.

2. In an oven-proof skillet or cast iron skillet (make sure the skillet is deep enough to hold the batter as it rises in the oven), melt 3 Tsp of butter. Tightly pack the plums, cut side down, in an attractive pattern. Sprinkle ½ cup of the sugar on top, lower the heat and cook over low heat without disturbing the plums about 20 minutes.

3. While the plums are cooking,

· Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl

· Beat the remaining 4 Tsp butter with the remaining sugar until well combined and pale yellow in color. Add the egg, and the molasses and keep beating until mixed well.

· Add ½ the dry ingredients to the egg mixture while continuing to beat, then the buttermilk, then the remainder of the dry ingredients, until smooth.

· Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C)

4. Pour the batter over the plums, trying not to disturb the plums. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the batter comes out clean.

5. Serve warm or at room temperature, by itself or with a dollop of thick (clotted) cream or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

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