The chai spice upside-down plum cake from My New Roots will overturn every negative impression you may have of upside cakes. It’s true, the majority are a combination of bland white cake and syrupy sweet fruit, but not this one. This cake is the absolute opposite, with an aromatic and complex chai flavor in the moist cake base and perfectly-caramelized plums on top.
In addition to being absolutely delicious, Sarah Britton’s chai spice upside-down plum cake comes together very quickly, about 10-15 minutes is all you need. It’s a great easy dessert for anytime and an ideal dessert for impressing company without requiring advance planning or much time. The most time-consuming part is pitting and thinly slicing the plums (and possibly, arranging them in the pan just so if you’re a little high-strung about positioning).
On top of its rich chai-spiced flavor and low maintenance creation requirements, Sarah’s chai spice upside-down plum cake is also vegan and gluten-free. It tastes fabulously rich and indulgent, so no one eating it should feel deprived, whether they follow a strict diet or not. I’ve made this cake multiple ways, and it’s easy to substitute or swap out ingredients according to your preferences/needs/pantry contents.
Try replacing the spelt flour with a gluten-free flour mix, I’ve had great success with the mix from Namaste and it’s available at my local Costco. No gluten-free flour or not interested in a gluten-free cake? Use regular flour or a mix of 75% all-purpose: 25% whole wheat.
Any milk will work in this cake. I used a brown rice milk, but nonfat, 2%, whole, or a nut milk would all be acceptable. Likewise, either coconut oil or melted butter will succeed as the fat for the cake.
The only tiny modification I made to this recipe was grinding the fennel seeds rather than leaving them whole. I hate biting into fennel seeds (with the exception of the much-lamented focaccine balls from Bistro Ralph’s in Healdsburg).
There are three main things to know when making this cake: 1) The combination of spices in this cake are heady, aromatic, and magical paired with the plums and moist cake batter. It’s worth seeking out spices you might not have at home, like star anise, and grinding your spices fresh where possible. I use an old coffee grinder for grinding my spices – just toss in the whole spices and give it a few 5-second pulses to finely grind them. Wipe out your spice grinder with a paper towel between uses. I also include measurements for the ground spices, in case grinding them fresh isn’t possible. 2) Coconut oil will seize when you add cold liquid to it, so let your other liquids come to room-temperature before adding them to the coconut oil or heat them briefly. 3) My first cake had a few flour pockets in it because I was afraid of overmixing. However, one lovely advantage of gluten-free flour is it has no gluten, so there is no need to fear overmixing and overworking the gluten! It still pays not to mercilessly mix your dough, but try to get all the lumps out.
Sarah’s recipe calls for a 7″ pan, which I do not have. I baked my chai spice upside-down plum cake in an 8″ pan for 47 minutes and it was perfectly done. It will seem rather dense and moist, but it will be baked through. Once baked, let the cake cool in its pan while the caramel sauce solidifies around the plums. I patiently waited about 1.5 hours, you should wait at least 30 minutes. Take heed from my mistakes and invert the cake onto a plate that has sides – I upended mine onto a flat plate and my precious caramel sauce ran everywhere.
Chai spice upside-down plum cake can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. After that, it will start to dry out.
- 6½ tablespoons (98 ml) coconut oil, ghee, or butter, melted
- ¼ cup (30 g) coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 3 medium (0.5 lb total) Santa Rosa plums, pitted and sliced thinly
- 2½ cups (300 g) whole spelt flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 30 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground (1½ teaspoons ground cardamom)
- 3 whole cloves, ground (1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)
- 4 star anise pieces, ground (1/2 teaspoon ground star anise)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea or Kosher salt
- 1 cup (240 ml) pure maple syrup or raw honey
- ¾ cup (190 ml) milk of choice (rice, nut, seed, ...)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Coat the bottom of a 8" cake or springform pan with ½ tablespoons of the melted oil. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the oil to cover the base of the pan. Lay the thin plum slices on the bottom on the pan in overlapping concentric rings.
- Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of coconut oil. Add in the maple syrup, milk, and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl, whisk together to remove lumps. Add the vinegar, and whisk vigorously to incorporate.
- Pour the battered over the prepared cake pan with the plums and caramel sauce. If using a springform pan, place it on a rimmed baking sheet so as to catch any leaks.
- Bake in the center of the oven, until a toothpick comes out clean, about 47 minutes for an 8" pan.
- Cool the cake on a wire rack. Once cool, invert a rimmed plate or serving dish on top of the cake pan, then swiftly invert both such that the caramelized plums are on top of the cake. Serve.
- Store in the fridge for up to two days.