Fig Upside Down Cake Please

fig upside down cake

When I was growing up an upside-down cake was made with pineapple from a can– usually with a maraschino cherry adorning the center of each ring. To a kid like me, it was a marvel of a cake– full of magic and mystery. How was it possible to get that glistening yellow and red design embedded into the cake? As an adult I crave something reminiscent of all that magic and mystery, but with a bit more seasonality and sophistication.

This fig upside-down cake is my answer. You may have noticed that it’s been a very good year for figs in my Hollywood Hills neighborhood. So I’m featuring them one more time this summer.

Fig Upside Down Cake

Don’t tell this to the kids in your life. Why burst their young imaginations with cold hard facts? But the magic of a fig upside-down cake is not really so mysterious. Even the French version, which is an upside-down pie they call a tarte tatin, isn’t the marvel of culinary engineering some folks think it is. You see, both start with fruit on the bottom and batter on top; when it’s done, you flip it out of the pan so the fruit sits glued in a sticky, sweet syrup on the top.

I have more news for you, my sophisticated fig upside-down cake is even easier to make than the yellow and red ring topped upside-down cake I remember from my childhood. That’s because both the classic pineapple upside-down cake and the Gallic apple tatin require the rather tedious process of caramelizing the fruit before you put the cake or pastry on top (which is of course the bottom). If you subjected figs to that much heat, you’d have a jam. So in this fig upside-down cake, I skip that step. However, the end result is just as magically tender, sweet, and gooey as I remember. GREG
making fig upside down cake

Fig Upside Down Cake 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Published
Fig Upside Down Cake


  • 12 tablespoon unsalted butter (at room temperature, divided)
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar (divided)
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 large eggs (yolks and whites separated)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (you may also use whole milk)
  • 8–10 ripe figs (or more to taste) halved


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the rum syrup: Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a small sauce pan set over medium heat; stir in ¼ cup sugar. Cook, swirling the pan often, until the sugar dissolves and the liquid turn a medium amber color. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. Set aside.

Butter the insides of a 9‑inch cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment round cut to fit edge to edge. Set aside.

Make the cake: In a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl beat the remaining 8 tablespoons butter with an hand held electric mixer until light in color. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and continue to beat until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix them in until just incorporated. 

Using a rubber spatula add about ⅓ of the buttermilk to the butter and sugar mixture; stir until just combined. Next add about ½ of the flour mixture; stir until just combined. Repeat with another ⅓ buttermilk and the remaining flour mixture; finish with the remaining buttermilk. Set aside.

In a clean bowl use the hand mixer with clean whisk attachments to beat the egg whites until soft peaks occur. Working in 2 additions, fold the egg whites into the prepared batter. It’s fine if the mixture looks streaky, don’t over mix.

Pour the rum syrup into the prepared pan. Lay the figs (cut side down) evenly spaced in an attractive manner over the syrup. Dollop the batter in several additions even on top of the figs. Try to keep them in place as well as possible. Gently spread the batter to cover the figs.

Bake in the heated oven until the cake is golden and puffed and cooked through in the center, about 40 minutes.

Let cool the cake on a rack about 20 minutes. 

To serve: Set a flat serving plate that’s larger than the cake pan upside down on top of the cake pan. Using oven mitts or thick kitchen towels in both hands, hold the plate and cake pan firmly together in front of you. Quickly invert both the plate and the cake pan in one confident motion, letting the cake fall onto the plate. Carefully remove the cake pan allowing the cake to settle in one piece onto the serving plate. Be careful as the syrup may be hot. Gently peel off the parchment. Serve warm or at room temperature.