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Upside-Down Cardamom-Spiced Plum Cake

Makes one 8½-inch loaf cake

1½ hours 35 minutes active, plus cooling

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Claire Ptak, proprietor of Violet Cakes, taught us a trio of simple but sumptuous loaf cakes during a recent visit to her bakery-café in East London. This one, an upside-down affair, features a caramelly layer of sliced fruit that becomes syrupy and supple with baking, and a sturdy, buttery cake made with almond and rye flours (but no wheat flour). Sweetened with brown sugar and aromatic with cardamom and grated orange zest, the dark, moist crumb is more akin to steamed pudding than a light, delicate cake. Ptak used fresh figs, but since figs are highly seasonal, we used plums instead. For an autumnal dessert, pears work beautifully, too; use two ripe but firm small pears (5 to 6 ounces each), peeled, halved, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick. An 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan is best; if baked in a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, the cake will sink in the center and also is rather squat. If you like, serve slices dolloped with crème fraîche, which complements the fruity, molasses-y notes with cool, creamy, tangy richness. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.

Makes one

8½-inch loaf cake


Don’t skip the step of lining the loaf pan with parchment. The parchment ensures that the cake will invert easily out of the pan and that the fruit layer won’t stick.

1½ hours

35 minutes active, plus cooling

For the caramel-plum layer

  • 42

    grams (3 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into 3 pieces


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Jim M.
November 10, 2023
A neighbor has come for dinner weekly for more than 3 years, and the leftover dessert generally goes home with her. This is the one recipe she reminds me of, commenting on how good it was and how well it kept. High praise indeed! I'm going to try it with pears soon.
Louise P.
September 11, 2023
Loved this cake!
I made three of these cakes and they are amazing! I followed the recipe - no swaps. This cake actually tastes great a day or two later ( if you have any left ). I wouldn't hesitate to bake this cake a day or two in advance when entertaining. My plums were a bit on the green side but after baking, the plums tasted great. I couldn't find creme fraiche in my local grocery store, so I made my own - a delicious compliment to this cake.
Lori O.
September 11, 2023
Another Milk Street Keeper!
I've made this twice now and love it. I tend to like things less sweet so dialed the sugar back to a half cup for the bread part of the recipe the second time around and hardly noticed a difference. Otherwise, followed exactly. Makes the house smell amazing!
Mary M.
August 18, 2023
Easy and delicious!
This was very good; the cardamom and orange combo was perfect. I am looking forward to trying this with peaches!
Leslie L.
November 13, 2023
Lovely, Nuanced Flavors
My friends loved this cake - not too sweet and interesting flavors. I used thinly sliced Granny Smith apples since plums were out of season and substituted whipped cream for the topping.