Unmolding an upside-down cake counts as one of the more stressful moments in my sweet kitchen. The cake pan is ungreased and unlined. The only thing that stands between cake and pan is a thin layer of caramel. I have to place complete trust that the melted butter and sugar would indeed spare my cake from being torn apart when I release it from the pan. This is certainly a suspense I would gladly do without. On the other hand, when the unmolding is successful, the reward is a beautiful mosaic of fruit and caramel and cake. The cake is moist and gooey from fruit juice and caramel sauce. The reward far outweighs the risk of disappointment.
Italian plums and blueberries are both in season now in Ontario and I came to a windfall of both for a song. Cooking really intensifies the tartness and sweetness of these two fruits. My original plan was to make a simple fruit crisp but serving it at the office would be a messy affair. Once my mind zeroed in on using Italian plums and blueberries in a dessert, I could think of little else. My eyes light up at the very mention of them. So when one of my regular reads posted a recipe for Plum Blueberry Upside-Down Cake, I knew I had to make it. Here is where things started to get interesting.
The recipe that caught my attention is originally published in Bon Appétit Desserts and posted a few days ago at Leite’s Culinaria. The photo depicting the cake post-feast in jewel tone amethyst was all the convincing I needed to be a risk taker. Further investigation brought me to a very similar recipe by David Lebovitz in his cookbook Ready For Dessert. Lebovitz posted an earlier draft of his recipe on his website back in 2008 if you’re interest in his version. What I find intriguing is the identical list of ingredients in different amounts. So I did a side-by-side comparison of the two recipes.
|Bon Appétit||David Lebovitz|
|butter||8 tbsp||3 tbsp|
|brown sugar||1/2 cup||3/4 cup|
|butter||4 tbsp||8 tbsp|
|sugar||1 cup||3/4 cup|
|flour||1 1/2 cup||1 1/2 cup|
|baking powder||2 tsp||1 1/2 tsp|
|salt||1/4 tsp||1/4 tsp|
|whole milk||1/2 cup + 1 tbsp||1/2 cup|
The most significant difference lies in the balance of butter and sugar in both the fruit layer and cake layer. I am a little wary of Bon Appetit’s ratio in the cake layer especially. 50% less butter and 33% more sugar? Is there even enough butter to be effectively aerate or will I end up with a mass of sandy sugary paste? The caramel in the fruit layer also seems a bit too liquid to me. The tester notes on Leite’s Culinaria are all very positive feedback but in the end, Lebovitz’s recipe makes more sense to me. I follow my gut instinct.
The making of this Plum Blueberry Upside Down Cake is straightforward and I don’t really have much to say. If you have baked any butter cake in the past, there ought to be no surprises. My only word of advice is to line up the plum wedges in the most attractive manner you can manage because it is mostly what meet the eye in the finished cake. Don’t worry about how to scatter the blueberries since they merely fill in the gaps between cake and plum.
The taste of Lebovitz’s cake is phenomenal as unanimously agreed by all my tasters.The tartness of Italian plums is a great match for the toffee sweetness of the caramel sauce. The cake is very moist and the hint of cinnamon that I added to the batter really enhances the fruit topping. You can tell from the photo that my cake unmolded successfully. Not even one single piece of fruit got stuck to the bottom of the pan. With more plums and blueberries on the horizon, I think this is a cake that I’ll make again before the season is over.