Aug 9, 2010

Plum and Blueberry Upside-Down Torte

I have loved these last two fruit desserts so much that going back to chocolate next week seems almost like a penance. Despite being called a torte, this cake is not fancy. It belongs to the wholesome club of buckles, crisps, and cobblers, except it's richer and prettier.
Rose recommends making this cake with greengage plums, which may be available in some parts of the country (Manhattan, for example), but Minnesota? Not so much. So I got regular plums.

And regular blueberries.
Instead of a brown sugar mixture on the bottom of the pan, as is typical with shortcake, there's a lovely caramel syrup.

The sugar first turns into a clear liquid,

then back to a thick, sugary mixture (this had me worried)
and finally into the caramel sauce that coats the bottom of the cake pan.

I rearranged the plums several times, cutting them into smaller pieces as I went along. The plums shrink during baking, so I could have squeezed more of them on the top.

I weighed the blueberries carefully--the 350 grams turned out to be one pint plus a handful. You could get away with using just one pint.
After the caramel sauce is made, and the fruit is cut and somewhat decoratively placed on top of the caramel, the cake itself is easy. (There's a reason this cake is on the Quick-and-Easy List).
Dry ingredients are mixed in a food processor. (The recipe calls for bleached all-purpose flour, which I didn't notice.) I can hardly see how it would have been any better if I'd used bleached flour, but I'll try it next time. Then mix in butter, eggs, and vanilla until it's a batter. Did I mention that this entire mixing episode is done in the food processor and takes about 10 seconds?
After about 40 minutes in the oven, it's brown and fragrant. It also has a few air bubbles on top, but I don't care since the top is going to be the bottom.
You must wait for a few anxious minutes until it's time to do the upside-down business. When I turned the pan over, I didn't hear the satisfying thunk that tells me that the cake has emerged more or less intact. But after a few more minutes, I heard a kind of whiffling noise that sounded like the cake was removing itself from the pan. I carefully lifted the pan, holding my breath, and discovered that all was well.
Jim and I each had a slice immediately--for scientific purposes only--so that we could compare the right-out-of-the-oven piece with the 24-hours-later piece. Jim thought it was just slightly better on the second day, and I thought it was just slightly better on the first day. Both of us thought the difference was so small that we wouldn't want to have to try to explain it.
Then I had to get rid of the rest of the cake. I cut what was left into two big hunks, put them on paper plates, wrapped them in plastic, and gave them to Jim, with instructions to give to the first neighbors he found home. He went next door and gave both plates to David and Tracey, who questioned whether he really intended to give them both plates. He explained that his job was to distribute to neighbors, but no one had told him how many neighbors, and it was too hot to wander around the neighborhood, cake in hand.
And that was the end of the blueberry-plum torte. I would like to make this again, maybe with peaches and raspberries. And if I ever spot greengage plums, I'm buying them up, because they too have an appointment with upside-down cake.


Svetlana said...

So nice & Yummy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mendy said...


Your cake looks pretty. You have such self control to give away your cakes. Jim is such a sport to go along with that too.

Monica said...

Seee your cake looked pretty (not like my blue mess!).

And you are right the greengage plums are green plums plums.. but FRENCH green plums, according to wikipidia: "It was developed in France from a green-fruited wild plum (Ganerik) originally found in Asia Minor. It is identified by its small, oval shape, smooth-textured flesh, and ranging in colour from green to yellow, grown in temperate areas. They are known for their rich, confectionery flavour that causes them to be considered one of the finest dessert plums."

Like you, Now I'm curious and will be on the Lookout for them.

Katya said...

greengage plums are amazing. I made jam with them last year. they come late in the season, or did last year.

Your fruits look so lovely all scattered about, Marie.

doughadear said...

I have a insatiable tooth for all things sweet but the buckles, crisps and cobblers are real favourites of mine. I wouldn't be sending this cake out to the neigbours,(well maybe one or two slices), I'd keep the rest for me, served with ice cream this cake would make me happy happy.

Jenn said...

Your cakes looks pretty. I love your scientific "experiment" Marie :).
No tasting panel this time huh?

faithy said...

no tasting panel? I miss your tasting panel! Lovely cake!

Marie said...

It is delicious!

It's not self-control--it's self-preservation. We can't be having desserts around all the time!

If you find some of the greengages, let me know. If I ever buy a little cottage in England, I think I'm going to call it Greengages. I suppose then I'd have to plant some trees.

Well, you're in Brooklyn, so I'm not surprised you could find them. But maybe I've just never looked for them.

I'll admit I wished I would have had a piece for breakfast this morning. Cream--ice or whipped--is perfect with it.

I wrote the blog before I gave the cake away, so no official tasters this time. My later tasters definitely approved.

Marie said...

I just can't get away with anything! I thought I'd do away with the tasting panel section just this once--I figured no one would even notice.

PAM said...

I love upside down cakes and this one looks really good. Love the colors of the natural fruit. Once again I was too busy this week with cakes and private classes to make the cake but will put it on my to do list. I love your idea to make it with peaches and raspberries too.

Rose Beranbaum said...

Marie, this could well be the most beautiful of your postings. I actually got the chills at the end. And it looks beautiful too--ALL the photos.

what a lovely idea: greengage cottage, aliteration and all. i'll be coming for a visit!

and that jim giving both halves to the same person. what a sense of humor and how convenient it is to have one!

Rachelino said...

That is beautiful Marie! Fruit desserts are indeed the kings and queens of the kitchen this time of year. Going back to chocolate does seem a penance, but I will do it for the cause, and to learn how to make the feather bed....

Hanaâ said...

What a beautiful looking cake. I’m all excited about making mine tonight, especially after reading your post on how tasty it was. So tasty that you had to kick it out of the house :o) I could only find regular plums so that’s what I bought. At 10c each, I think I went a LITTLE overboard. I could easily make 4 cakes. I wonder if this cake freezes well given the sticky caramel and fruit on top… Any ideas anyone?

Shirley said...

Yum, what a seasonal selection. And the fruit is so beautiful arranged on the bottom of the pan.

evil cake lady said...

I have also loved the last two fruity cakes, especially this one which is so seasonal. However, chocolate is just so darn good that I think I will mamge to cope with the feather bed! Your cake looks so pretty all turned out and glistening.

evil cake lady said...

manage! not mamge :)

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Oh Marie - it's lovely. I'm really impressed with your artistic flair. Each week you cakes get better.

As for the matter of bleached flour - Rose has explained that it holds the butter in suspension after baking, whereas unbleached flour tends to not hold it in suspension, creating a greasy like crumb.


Marie said...

Sugar Chef,
Really, you are going to have to start saying no to paying customers if it means you can't make the weekly cake! I love it when you bake.

I'll have to get Melinda and Kate on the lookout for a little fixer-upper cottage that I can name Greengage. You can definitely be the first guest!

I'll admit that the chocolate feather bed cake is not too bad as penance.

I think you could freeze it, but I also think it would lose some of the incredible freshness that makes it so good.
I dare you to make 4 cakes!

I also had some hard, crispy pieces of caramelized sugar on the bottom of my cake pan. I forgot to mention that. I was going to put them back on the cake, but I just ate them like candy instead.
See, this is why I need to get rid of the cakes.

No, you're mixing things up--you have artistic flair! I just follow directions. I did like the way this turned out, though.
Thanks for the info about the flours. I sure don't think the crumb was greasy, but that's why I'll have to bake another cake as a test.

Jenn said...

Marie, I use unbleached AP too, but substitute 10% of it with cornstarch (advice from Rose's forum post a while back). I don't think the cake was greasy. Usually for butter/oil cakes this substitution works great (taste fine, looks fine). Only when it's genoise or sponge cake I stick to what the recipe calls for (bleached/cake flour).

Alpha Baker Joan said...

Marie - your cake really looked inviting. Apparently it really was.

Jen said...

Hi Marie,

I've just got my book, is it possible for me to sign up as a Heavenly Baker? My blog is Jen's Homekitchen @
My email is
Looking forward to hear from you

Marie said...

I sent more info about joining to your email address.