How to make plum upside-down cake with cardamom, vanilla and pistachios

Melanie Johnson shares a beautiful late summer recipe which makes the most of the plum harvest.

‘Juicy plums bring a delightful burst of sweet and tart perfection,’ says our kitchen garden cook Melanie Johnson.

Team them up with gorgonzola and they’ll light up a simple pizza, or for something You can make a quick plum compote by simply cooking sliced plums with sugar and vanilla — something Melanie suggests serving up with French toast.

‘Take a slice of brioche and dip it in beaten egg,’ she says. ‘Add a dollop of mascarpone to the centre, together with some plum compote, then take a second beaten-egg-soaked slice of brioche and sandwich it on top, lightly pressing down the sides to seal. Fry in butter and toss in cinnamon sugar for a decadent weekend brunch.’

For a real afternoon tea treat, though, the cake recipe that follows is a delight — and while the pistachios are technically optional, it’d be a shame to go to all this trouble and not add them as the finishing touch.

Recipe: Plum and cardamom upside-down cake


For the plums

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  • 50g butter, melted
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 6 ripe plums, stoned and sliced

For the cake

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 1tspn vanilla-bean paste (or similar)
  • 1tspn ground cardamom
  • 1tspn ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of salt
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 75ml milk

For the topping

  • Pistachios (optional)


Preheat your oven to 160˚C fan/180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 and grease and line a 20cm (8in) loose-bottomed cake tin.

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of the prepared tin and spread evenly. Scatter over the sugar and then arrange the plum slices in a single layer in a circle. Set aside while you make the batter.

Cream the softened butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at time, beating between each addition. Add the vanilla, spices and salt, then mix again. Add half the flour, mix, the milk, mix and, finally, the remaining flour. Mix until smooth, being careful not to over mix. Gently spoon the batter over the plums and spread it evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 35–40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for about 15 minutes (otherwise, the plums will move around) and then invert onto a serving plate.

Scatter over chopped pistachios (if you’re using them) and serve warm with vanilla or pistachio ice cream — or, equally delicious, at room temperature with a good dollop of freshly whipped cream.