August 23, 2021

Plum Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Plum Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake is a delicious late summer dessert, both casual and elegant at the same time. Take advantage of the lovely plums in season right now, which are the end of summer stone fruits. Make this simple cake to enjoy outside on a late summer evening. 

I’ve been working on a cornmeal cake recipe all summer long, to be honest. My concept started with nectarines, then transitioned to apricots, but none of the cakes were quite right. Several weeks ago, a neighbor gifted me a bag of incredible plums from her yard. They were so juicy and flavorful! I wanted to try one more time to get my cornmeal cake perfected. Those gorgeous plums did the trick! 

There’s a little cinnamon in the butter and sugar mixture that creates the caramelized topping for this upside-down cake, because I think plums pair beautifully with warm spices. The cake itself is livened up with lemon zest and juice, which complements the tartness of the plums and helps this cake avoid being overly sweet. The cornmeal gives the cake unexpected texture, and feels rustic, yet sophisticated all at the same time. Serve this Plum Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, and it’s the perfect ending to a late summer meal.

Ingredients assembled for Plum Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
Assemble your ingredients.

Plums cut in half on a cutting board
Slice your plums in half, and remove the pits. If your plums are especially juicy, let them drain a paper towel while you prepare the next step.

Butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt melting in a skillet
Melt butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt in a skillet until the sugar is dissolved.

Stages of making the plum cornmeal cake - plums arranged in the skillet, then the batter is poured over, then the cake is baked
Arrange the plums cut-side up in the butter and sugar mixture in the skillet. I like to place them this way to hide any plums where the pit didn't come out easily. Pour the prepared batter over the plums, and bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Bits of cake remaining in the skillet after inverting the cake onto a plate
Let the cake cool slightly, then invert it onto a plate to cool completely before serving. If some of the cake sticks and is left behind in the pan, as pictured above, you can scoop it out and spread it carefully over exposed areas of the cake. Or, you can just grab a spoon and eat it out of the pan!

One slice of Plum Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake on a purple plate with a fork
After the cake is cooled completely, slice and serve!

Close up side view of a slice of Plum Cornmeal Upside-Down Cakel
This cake is so tender and delicious. The plums become soft and jammy, and it's just the right balance of tart and sweet.

Plum Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

Plum Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake is a delicious late summer dessert, both casual and elegant at the same time.


Kira Freed - The Joyful Plateful











8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 pound plums, halved, pitted

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Pinch of sea salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/8 tsp. baking soda

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup coconut milk (or whole milk)

2 eggs 

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp. lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. In an 8-inch non-stick (or cast iron) skillet over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter with 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and a pinch of sea salt. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved. 
  3. Remove skillet from heat and arrange the halved, pitted plums cut-side up in the butter-sugar mixture. Set aside. 
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients: all purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sea salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine, and set aside. 
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients: granulated sugar, milk, eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Whisk until well combined. 
  6. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until combined and no dry bits remain. 
  7. Pour batter evenly over the plums in the skillet. 
  8. Bake the cake in the skillet at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  9. Remove the skillet from the oven, and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Then, carefully run a dinner knife around the edge of the skillet to loosen the cake from the pan. Place a large plate over the skillet, and carefully invert the skillet to release the cake onto the plate. If some sticky bits remain in the pan, you can scrape them out and spread them back on the top of the cake. 
  10. Allow the cake to cool completely, then slice and serve!
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