Mother Earth Living

Southwestern-Style Recipes: Skillet Cake with Plums

Using an iron skillet gives this old-fashioned cake a golden-brown, succulent crust.
By Susan Belsinger
September/October 2003
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Fresh plum develops a deep, rich character in this old-fashioned upside-down cake.
Photo By Joe Coca

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Skillet Cake with Plums
Makes a 10-inch cake, 8 to 12 slices 

Although you can bake this cake in a conventional cake pan, using an iron skillet gives it a golden-brown, succulent crust. The tang of the buttermilk offers a nice counterpoint to the sweet, juicy fruit. End-of-the-season peaches, nectarines, apricots or fresh figs are delicious in this recipe.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
6 firm, ripe plums such as Santa Rosa or Red Ace, pitted and sliced into eighths (or 12 prune, greengage, or Damson plums, sliced into quarters or halves)
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 generous teaspoon grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

2. Heat 6 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch iron skillet over medium-low heat until melted. Add the brown sugar and stir until it turns to thick syrup. Continue to cook until the mixture just starts to bubble, then promptly remove from heat.

3. Arrange plum slices close together in a single layer on the butter and sugar. If you have extra slices, place them around the edge of the skillet or reserve for another use.

4. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat softened butter and sugar until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon zest, and mix until blended.

5. Add dry ingredients into the bowl, and beat until the batter is mixed together and smooth. Pour the batter over the plums in the skillet.

6. Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350°°° degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 25 minutes more. The cake is done when it is golden brown, the edges pull slightly from the sides, and a tester comes out clean.

7. Remove cake from oven and carefully run a metal spatula around the edges. Place a cake plate over the skillet and gently turn the cake out onto the plate. It should come out easily. Rearrange plum slices as necessary. If there is excess topping in the skillet, scrape it onto the cake. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or frozen vanilla yogurt. 

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