Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

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The luscious fruit topping on this upside-down cake is the cherry on the cake, literally.

An upside-down cake is an old-fashioned dessert that is baked “upside-down” with a generous layer of butter, sugar, and fruit on the bottom of the pan. When the cake is done baking, it is inverted and served with the caramelized fruit on top. An upside-down cake is a great way to highlight any seasonal fruit, but this version, adapted from Bon Appétit and Yossy Arefi via Bake From Scratchgives the expression “the cherry on the cake” a whole new meaning. As the cake bakes, the cherry juices and brown sugar caramelize into a sauce that soaks into the cake, and the cornmeal imparts a lovely delicate texture reminiscent of sweet, cakey cornbread.

A 10-Inch cast iron skillet is ideal for this cake, as it creates delicious caramelized edges, but if you don’t have one, a 9- or 10-inch springform pan will work nicely too. Fresh cherries are ideal, but frozen cherries may be substituted. Serve the cake alone or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

What You’ll Need To Make Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

ingredients for cherry cakeBefore we get to the recipe, a few notes about the ingredients:

  • Cake flour gives the cake a much lighter, more delicate texture than all-purpose flour. If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own by replacing 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of the all-purpose flour with cornstarch.
  • Balsamic vinegar may seem like an unusual addition (it is!), but it offsets the sweetness of the cherries in the topping. (You can’t taste it in the finished cake.)
  • Almond extract adds wonderful flavor to the cake – cherries and almond are a classic flavor combination – but only a small amount is used. Don’t be tempted to add more; almond extract is very strong and should always be used sparingly.
  • Whole buttermilk is thicker and richer than low-fat or homemade buttermilk. If your store doesn’t carry it (or you don’t want to purchase a whole carton), simply thin plain yogurt with milk to a pourable consistency.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prep the Oven

Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (the purpose of the baking sheet is to catch any caramel drips).

Step 2: Pit the Cherries

Begin by pitting the cherries. I use the Leifheit Cherry Stoner – makes it quick and easy.

Step 3: Make the Topping

In a 10- to 11-inch ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides, combine the butter, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt over medium heat.

Stir until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, a few minutes.

Increase the heat to high; add the cherries and bring to boil for about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Step 4: Make the Cake

In a medium bowl, add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl

Whisk to combine and set aside.

whisked dry ingredients in mixing bowl

Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer.

butter and sugar in mixing bowl

Beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, 3 to 4 minutes.

creamed butter and sugar

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

creamed butter and sugar with egg

Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

adding the vanilla and almond extracts to the batter

With the mixer on low, add one-third of the flour/cornmeal mixture and mix until just combined.

adding the dry ingredients to the batter

Mix in half of the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour/cornmeal mixture, the remaining buttermilk, and finally the remaining flour/cornmeal mixture.

adding the buttermilk to the batter

Scrape the sides of the bowl to be sure the batter is evenly mixed.

finished cherry cake batter

Step 5: Assemble and Bake

Transfer the batter to the skillet over the cherries.

batter on top of cherries in skillet

Spread the batter evenly over the cherries.

cake batter spread over cherries in skillet

Place the skillet on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the top is set and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the skillet on a rack for about 15 minutes.

baked cherry cake in skillet

Step 6: Invert the Cake

Place a platter over the skillet.

platter over skillet

Carefully invert to remove the cake.

inverted skillet over platter

If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have become dislodged (if any cherry “goo” sticks to the pan, you can use a butter knife to spread it back over the cake).

upside-down cherry cake on platter

Cut the cake into wedges and serve warm or room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

The cake is best served fresh on the day it is baked, but leftovers will keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

The luscious fruit topping on this upside-down cake is the cherry on the cake, literally.

Servings: 10
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes, plus 15 minutes to cool the cake

Ingredients

For the Topping

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ lbs cherries (about 4 cups), stemmed and pitted

For the Cake

  • 1⅓ cups cake flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled off (see note)
  • ½ cup cornmeal (medium-grind)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¾ cup whole buttermilk (see note)

For Serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (the purpose of the baking sheet is to catch any caramel drips).
  2. Make the Topping: In a 10- to 11-inch ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides (preferably cast iron), combine the butter, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt over medium heat. Stir until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, a few minutes. Increase the heat to high; add the cherries and bring to boil for about 30 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  3. Make the Cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
  5. With the mixer on low, add one-third of flour/cornmeal mixture and mix until just combined. Mix in half of the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour/cornmeal mixture, the remaining buttermilk, and finally the remaining flour/cornmeal mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Spoon the batter over the cherries in the skillet and spread evenly over top to cover the cherries.
  6. Place the skillet on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the top is set and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the skillet on a rack for about 15 minutes. Place a platter over the skillet and carefully invert to remove the cake. If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have become dislodged (if any cherry "goo" sticks to the pan, you can use a butter knife to spread it back over the cake). Cut the cake into wedges and serve warm or room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. The cake is best served fresh on the day it is baked, but leftovers will keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  7. Note: Cake flour gives the cake a much lighter, more delicate texture than all-purpose flour. If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own by replacing 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of the all-purpose flour with cornstarch.
  8. Note: If your store doesn’t carry whole buttermilk (or you don't want to buy a whole carton), use plain Greek or regular yogurt thinned with milk to a thick but pourable consistency.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (10 servings)
  • Calories: 358
  • Fat: 16 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 51 g
  • Sugar: 28 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 269 mg
  • Cholesterol: 76 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Could fresh peaches be substituted for the cherries? I have some I need to use up.

    • — Mary on August 29, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yep 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 29, 2022
      • Reply
  • A HUGE complement for the cherry cornmeal upside down cake.
    Literally just made this and after waiting the excruciating 15 minutes to cool, woofed down a slice. Such an unique flavor. Perfect. Not overly sweet so ice cream would be a great addition, as you suggested. Definitely a keeper. I learned a couple of new things too which is great.

    PS. I purchased the cherry pitter you suggested, worked like a charm. Thanks

    • — Shelley on August 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn, I made your Cherry Cornbread Cake tonight. It was amazing. I’ve stayed away from anything made with cornbread or buttermilk all these years, but I trusted that this would be another amazing recipe of yours, just as all your recipes are amazing. I’ve easily made 75 or more of your recipes, following them exactly. Each one has come out perfectly. Another winner….Thank You So Much!

    • — Liz Verheyen on August 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’d like to make this using Bob’s Cup for Cup Gluten Free flour. Do you think it will work?

    • — Phyllis on August 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Phyllis, I haven’t made this with gluten-free flour, so I can’t say for sure. (Oftentimes, readers will comment that they’ve adapted my baked goods to be gluten-free, but I don’t see any comments mentioning that here, so you’d be the “guinea pig.”) If you want to give it a try I know a lot of readers have had great luck with Cup4Cup and King Arthur’s all-purpose gluten-free flours. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on August 15, 2022
      • Reply
      • I made this with Bob’s Cup for Cup Gluten Free Baking Flour. It was delicious! Thank you, Jen, for another great recipe.

        • — Phyllis on August 21, 2022
        • Reply
        • Wahoo! Was wondering about gluten free. Thanks so much for posting and now I will give it a try!

          • — Terri on August 25, 2022
          • Reply
  • Delicious! Just made it using thawed dark sweet cherries. Followed the recipe exactly and it was perfect. It came out of the cast iron pan without any sticking at all. Flipping the pan was a little challenging for me because the pan was still quite hot after 15 minutes, but other than that it was a super easy, tasty recipe.

    • — Erika on August 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • Could you substitute fresh raspberries for cherries?

    • — Frankie on August 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Frankie, I do think you could use raspberries, although they won’t be quite as sweet as the cherries. I’d love to know how it turns out if you try it.

      • — Jenn on August 12, 2022
      • Reply
  • Could I use thawed frozen cherries?

    • — Karen on August 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yes definitely 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 11, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, all your recipes are fabulous! I want to bake this cake but I don’t like cornmeal, can I substitute it for something else? Thanks!

    • — Ana on August 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, Ana – you can replace with more cake flour.

      • — Jenn on August 11, 2022
      • Reply
  • I have frozen sour/tart cherries. Would they work here?

    • — Diana on August 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Diana, I think they’ll work but I would omit the balsamic vinegar – and, depending on how sour they are, you might also add a few more tablespoons of brown sugar to the topping.

      • — Jenn on August 11, 2022
      • Reply

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