Clementine Upside Down Cake for Mother’s Day


Upside down cakes seem touched by magic.  I love the way the tender caramelized fruit  appears on the top when you turn the cake out of the pan, forming a glossy topping on the buttery cake which soaks up their juices. It looks wonderful and it is delicious to eat.

Italian cooks also are fond of upside down cake, known as a torta rovesciata.  The classic pineapple upside down is a perennial favorite, and I have had upside down cakes made with apples and with peaches.  This one is my version of a cake I ate at the home of a friend’s mother in Umbria.  It was winter and she made her cake with sweet, thin skinned clementines, though she told me sometimes used oranges or lemons instead.  We ate it while it was still warm for our merenda, or mid-afternoon snack.

Here is the recipe which you can also find in my new book, The Italian Vegetable Cookbook.  No vegetables in this cake, of course, but the book has lots of recipes made with fresh fruit and nuts as well.  For the sake of brevity, I reluctantly left them out of the title.  Both the book and the cake are perfect for Mother’s Day.  Serve (just the cake) with whipped cream or ice cream.  Mom will be delighted, and so will you.



Serves 8


5 or 6 medium clementines

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


1-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

Place a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.

Grate the zest from one clementine and set it aside for the cake batter.  Save the fruit for another use.  Trim off a thin slice from the ends of each of the remaining clementines.  With a serrated bread knife, cut them into very thin slices.  You should have enough to cover the surface of the pan.  Remove the seeds.

Stir together the brown sugar and melted butter until the sugar is moistened.  Spread the brown sugar and butter in the prepared cake pan.  Arrange the mandarin slices overlapping slightly on top.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large electric mixer bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the granulated sugar, vanilla and reserved zest until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  On low speed, stir in half of the dry ingredients.  Blend in the milk.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and carefully spread it evenly over the fruit.  Bake the cake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cake cool 10 minutes on a rack.

Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake.  Invert the cake onto a serving platter and carefully remove the pan.  Let the cake cool to warm or room temperature .


May not be used without permission of the author

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    • Michele Scicolone