Harvest Plum Cake

red plums become plum cake

My friend, Jane, invited me to pick as many plums from her tree as we could use.  I headed up to her garden yesterday intending to pick just a teeny bag of plums and that’s all. But the incredible scent of sun-ripened red plums derailed my good intentions and I ended up with a HUGE bag — way more than we can eat fresh. Ummm … I guess I’ll be making chutney and jam. Anybody have other good ideas to use these beautiful fruits? I’m open to suggestions.

As I walked up to Jane’s plum tree, I could smell it a half block away — heavy and redolent. Now, the plums are in a big box on our front porch and the fragrance is wafting in through an open window. How do I describe it? Tree-ripened red plums smell like a cross between heaven and a flower. Intoxicating. Between whatever makes an old-fashioned rose smell romantic and freshly laundered angel-wings. Oh. Plus a hint of pineapple. Something tropical anyway.

Red Plums

Maybe I will make plum wine. Or plum liqueur. Yes. Cognac infused with red plum essence.

In the meantime, I decided to bake a plum skillet cake. In my world, this is also called an upside-down-cake. From a recipe I used to make when I was a kid.

Small Sidetrack: We occasionally had dessert-emergencies growing up. My dad would ask after dinner if we had made dessert and if we hadn’t, there were a few go-to recipes to satisfy his sweet tooth. Pineapple upside-down-cake was one of those. So was fudge. And saltine-macaroon pie. Or brownies. All of these were company-worthy desserts that could be whipped up in less than an hour.

Harvest Plum Cake

So I punted. We had blueberries and plums. I used brown butter because Joy Wilson — Joy the (awesome) Baker — inspired me by waxing poetic about it’s virtues in this post.

If you have alot of plums to use up, this will barely make a dent. Still, it’s worth the small effort. Quick. Easy. And the finished cake makes you look like you worked on it for hours.

Harvest Plum Cake

Harvest Plum Cake

makes about 12 slices



  • 1/2 cup (about) blueberries
  • 9 plums, halved and pitted
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecan halves
  • 1/3 cup browned butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Cake Batter:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk


Make the topping (which actually goes on the bottom of the skillet)

  1. Brown the butter in a 10″ heavy skillet (I use my cast iron skillet.) Watch carefully so you don’t burn the butter. Remove the skillet from the heat as soon as the butter starts to turn brown. It will continue to brown because the skillet retains the heat.
  2. Add brown sugar and spread it out as evenly as you can on the bottom of the skillet.
  3. Arrange the plums, blueberries and toasted pecans in a lovely pattern. Set aside.

Make the cake batter:

  1. Stir together the dry ingredients. Set aside
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and beat til fluffy. Add vanilla.
  3. Add the sour cream (or yogurt) and milk. Beat for 1 minute.
  4. Add the dry ingredients. Beat for 1 minute.
  5. Spoon cake batter over the fruit in the skillet and spread evenly.
  6. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cool for 4 or 5 minutes before unmolding the cake.
  8. Run a knife around the inside edge of the skillet to loosen the cake. Place a flat tray, cookie sheet or platter over the skillet and flip the whole thing upside down. (use a towel or oven mitts)
  9. Lift off the skillet and your cake should look awesome with your fruit design on top. If any fruit is stuck on the skillet, use a fork to place it on top of the cake.
  10. Serve with vanilla ice cream while the cake is still warm. (or cold, but I think it’s better warm)
  11. If you have any leftover cake, it’s better if you heat it slightly before serving.

Harvest Plum Cake

2 Replies to “Harvest Plum Cake”

  1. You could also cut the plums in half, remove the pit and freeze them on a tray. Put them in zip lock bags and take out only what you need for another cake. That would be great during the winter.

  2. Good idea, Mom. I think I’ll do that because I’m not in the mood to make anything more with the plums right now, but they are rapidly getting too ripe!

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