May 17

upside-down cake messenger

You guys! This past weekend Seattle saw it’s first 80°F day of the year! That is, like, hot for us! I took full advantage of another sunny weekend by putting off working on moving out of my studio, dusting off my favorite pair of spandex shorts, and making it my personal goal to get on my bike and find the Mountains to Sound bike path that goes over the I-90 floating bridge and into Mercer Island and Bellevue.

And then, after my epic ride, I continued procrastinating and made a peach upside-down cake. I know that peach season is still a long ways off but it felt like summer outside, and I had a bag of frozen peaches in my freezer, so I went with it. 

At that point it was clear that I was not going to be making any progress towards packing up my apartment, so I conveniently deserted any plans to be productive and went to a barbecue at my friends Darren and Rick’s house, bringing my cake for dessert. Maybe it was from all the exhaust fumes I inhaled on my ride, or maybe it was the spandex cutting off circulation to certain parts of my brain, or maybe I just didn’t have the heart to exclude my bike from the barbecue after our long and beautiful day together, but whatever the reason, I felt the need to transport my homemade contribution the only way I knew how in the moment: freshly baked and still warm, strapped to the back of my bike.

I became an upside-down cake messenger of sorts. Not a bad gig for a short ride and, well, it was a piece of cake. ZING!

Read more to learn how to make some tasty peach upside-down cake and how to be an upside-down cake messenger!


adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe

makes two 8 or 9 inch cakes—because you will want two, I promise

I remember making my first upside-down cake in kindergarten in Mrs. Greenlaw’s class. We used canned pineapple and I seem to remember the teacher’s assistants doing most of the work but I also recall that I had never tasted anything so good in all my life—all five years of it up to that point anyway. Since then, I have always enjoyed upside-down cakes of all kinds (much more than right side up cakes, believe it or not) and I love their adaptability as a tasty, seasonally inspired dessert option. I used frozen peaches but feel free to use any kind of fruit that sounds good to you. Pineapple is the classic variation, but nectarines, apricots, pears, apples, plums, or even rhubarb would be delightful choices as well. 


for the topping:

2 tablespoons (1 fluid ounce) maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon dark rum

1/2 teaspoon peach schnapps or peach flavored liquer (omit this if you opt to use a different kind of fruit other than peaches)

4 ounces (one stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

for the cake:

1 pound peeled and sliced peaches (I used frozen, but clearly in the right season, fresh would be even better)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) buttermilk, room temperature

1/3 cup (3 fluid ounces) whole milk, room temperature

1 cup white sugar, divided

4 ounces (one stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Begin by macerating your fruit slices by gently tossing them with 2 tablespoons of white sugar. Set this aside while you make the tasty goo the fruit will sit in, referred to as the topping in this recipe.
For the topping, combine the maple syrup, vanilla extract, rum, and peach schnapps and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter and salt and pour in the maple syrup mixture. Using either a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a large rubber spatula, beat all the ingredients together until they are thoroughly combined.

Set the topping mixture aside, line the bottom of two eight or nine inch baking pans with parchment paper, and brush the sides and parchment lightly with vegetable oil. 

Split the topping mixture between the two pans and spread it out as evenly as possible with an offset spatula. 

Starting in the center and working outwards, arrange your fruit slices in a circular fan shape on top of the topping, doing your best to keep the arrangement symmetrical. Remember, your design will eventually be the top of your cake!

Preheat your oven to 350°F and set the cake pans aside while you make the cake batter.

Begin by sifting the all-purpose flour, cake flour, salt, and baking powder together. Set the dry ingredients aside and then combine the milk and buttermilk and set that aside as well.

Cream the butter and the remaining white sugar together in a bowl fitted with a paddle attachment or with an electric hand mixer until it is pale and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract and continue beating until mixture is pale, fluffy, and smooth.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and using a large rubber spatula, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, gently folding it into the batter by hand. 

Follow the dry ingredients with 1/3 of the dairy mixture, gently folding it into the batter as well.

Repeat these steps with the remaining dry and wet ingredients, alternating until all of the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.

Split the batter in half between the two cake pans and spread it out as evenly as possible over the fruit.

Bake the cakes in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, rotating them halfway through, until they are lightly golden brown on the top and the center of the cake springs back when pressed lightly.

Let the cakes cool for thirty minutes at room temperature, or put one in an old shoe box and strap it to your bike with bungee cords…

then, ride off into the sunset—or to your friend’s house for a barbecue.

Upon your arrival and while the cake is still warm—and before you drink too many beers—invert the cake on to a serving plate. To invert the cake, first loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a pairing knife. Place the serving plate directly on top of the cake, and using two hands and one swift motion, flip the cake pan with the plate held firmly on top over, and carefully lift the cake pan off the plate (Confused? Watch this).  Carefully remove the piece of parchment off the cake and behold your magnificent upside-down creation! 

Serve with some fresh whipped cream, fresh berries, and a sigh of relief that your dessert made it to your destination in one piece.