When I was growing up, upside down cake was made with pineapple from a can– usually with a maraschino cherry adorning the center of each ring. To a kid it was a marvel of a cake. As an adult I crave something reminiscent of that, but with a bit more seasonality and sophistication. This fig upside-down cake is my answer.
- 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.