Unfussy Fare

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake


Our son started kindergarten today. If you knew what a mama’s boy he is, you might expect me to do a little victory dance in the living room.  Don’t get me wrong. It’s mighty flattering to be his earth, moon, and stars. But it’s a lot of pressure, too. It leads me to say unkind things like “For the love of God, must you be touching me, or talking to me (or both) EVERY waking minute of your day?” To which he replies in his guileless way: “I just like to be near you.”

Behind his back, I’ve been known to refer to my child as a barnacle. I know. That’s not nice. And he is nice. Incredibly, almost unbelievably nice.  It’s quite a dance we do. He wants me closer all the time, and he’s so damn sweet about it. He lights up every time he sees me. I covet some breathing room. But still, I”d do anything to fill the needy spaces in that sensitive little heart.

So anyway, off he went, like kids do. And in my mind”s eye, I started fast-forwarding through the long string of inevitable goodbyes. Trust me when I tell you this is not a good idea. I caught a little weak-kneed glimpse of the loss he seems to wrestle every time I walk out the door. I didn’t wail and grab his legs and howl through a river of snot, like he did when he was one or two. I didn”t bravely blink back the tears, like he did at three or four. I gave a little wave and a resigned smile. Like a kindergartner. But I must admit, goodbye took my breath away today. It was a visceral longing. I take back all that barnacle talk. I do. All I wanted today was to take him home, so he could follow me in and out of every room, talking and touching incessantly, like he does. I just like to be near him.

As luck would have it, his adoration of me didn’t wane on his first day of kindergarten. But someday it will. That day, you may just find me howling through a river of snot. I”ll be the one with the gale force wind blowing through the needy spaces in my sensitive little heart. So there you have it. I’m a big old walking, talking, sniffling cliché of motherhood on this, my child’s first day of school.

It seemed like a good idea to cook something sweet. Very sweet. Like this nectarine upside-down cake. For the cake, I borrowed Molly Wizenberg’s French Style Yogurt Cake recipe. You can buy her wonderful cookbook here. I’m sure she never intended this cake to be turned upside-down, but it worked like a charm. The cake is moist and light. The texture is perfection. Better yet, it requires nothing but a measuring cup, a big bowl, and a wooden spoon. Her recipe is for a lovely lemon cake with lemon glazes. I made mine vanilla. Oh, and I added the brown sugar and butter and nectarines and that whole upside-down business. That part was just a shameless ploy to score points with my son before he grows up and leaves me.

This cake is FAST! It”s not exaggerating to say that when I got home from work at 1:30, cake was the farthest thing from my mind. And when I left home at 2:30 to pick up my son from school, the cake was cooling on the counter. In between I had to dream up the upside-down part, and raid the fruit bowl, and rustle through cookbooks for a simple, delicious cake recipe. A more balanced person than I could have this cake in the oven in under fifteen minutes. It”s pretty, with that fruit design. Even better, it”s sinfully tasty. The brown sugar and fruit form a sticky, decadent layer that gives way to the old-fashioned white cake beneath, soft and not-too-sweet. With a cold glass of milk, it makes for a memorable after-school snack. At least I won”t forget it anytime soon.



4 tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
3 nectarines, sliced into 1/4 inch slices.
½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not lowfat)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a nonstick, oven-proof 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat.

Add brown sugar and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes. Remove pan from heat. (If you don”t have an oven-proof skillet, pour the melted butter and brown sugar mixture into a cake pan and follow the recipe from here…)

Arrange nectarine slices on top of the brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the skillet (or cake pan).

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir until well blended.

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing to just combine.

Add the oil and stir until you have a smooth, consistent batter.

Pour batter slowly on top of the nectarines, taking care not to move the fruit. I couldn”t quite fit all the batter into the skillet, but I got all but about a half cup in there.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan for about 15 minutes. Place a plate upside down over the pan, then flip them simultaneously, while holding the plate onto the pan, so that you invert the cake onto the plate. Lift pan off cake. Replace any fruit that moved around during the flipping process.


13 Responses to “Nectarine Upside-Down Cake”

  1. Kate Carroll says:

    Help! Slow down, I have not yet even made the clafouti and I cannot pass up anything with bacon in it. This is getting stressful…

  2. Gillian says:

    I looked at the rule book, and it says right here in subsection 12-A.2323: “Readers shall not be obligated to make every recipe in unfussy fare, although a cash donation in the amount of $4562 dollars must be submitted to unfussy fare for each recipe not attempted within a five-year period from the date of post.” So it looks like you’re off the hook for the next five years or so. It’s important to read the fine print before you subscribe to a blog. Didn’t your attorney tell you that? Please tell me you didn’t subscribe without consulting your attorney.

  3. kellypea says:

    Really wanting some of this right now — instead of dinner. I’m thinking the guys in the house won’t protest. Mmmm….

  4. Aww what a sweet story of your little boy off to school!! Reminds me of a couple of my nephews! This cake sounds amazing!!! I love upside down cakes of all sorts but havent done with nectarines. MmMMMMM this would be fabulous with a scoop of homemade vanilla icecream!

  5. Kate Carroll says:

    All of this legal talk made me sooo hungry that I decided to make the cake. In all of the first-day-of-school drama you forgot to mention that this cake is friggin’ delicious. Not kidding. It is hands down the best desert I have ever had. In the spirit of you, I changed the recipe slightly. I used regular sugar instead of brown sugar simply because I didn’t have any brown sugar. I fretted that I would have a layer of crusty sugar, but it dissolved fine. Taking a WILD diversion from the recipe, I used peaches instead of nectarines, but I peeled the peaches. Last, I used vanilla yogurt and cut the sugar in the cake by about 1/4 cup. It was sublime. I initially thought that vanilla ice cream would be good too, but the cake is fairly sweet, like you said, and I would put in a vote for heavy cream instead of ice cream.

    What is happening to me? I am completely hooked on this whole process. I cook for a living and the LAST thing I want to do at night is tackle a new recipe. However, when I have free time I check in, hoping for a new posting. You have got me. I’m yours. Forever and hopelessly yours.

  6. Gillian says:

    So glad it turned out! I like the vanilla yogurt idea. I got facebook message that another friend is trying it with blackberries. I suspect that cake might not win any beauty contests, but I bet it tastes great.

  7. sarah says:

    Can’t wait to try it myself. Thanks for sharing a wonderful sentiment and yet another delicious recipe.

  8. Tara says:

    Gillian, your post brought me to tears. I don’t want my little barnacle to ever un-barnacle.
    Did he like his first day? Let’s get together soon so you can tell me all about it. But not this week, as we are currently contagious with a very nasty virus that I shall not name in this public forum.

    xo to you and william.

    oh, and yeah, I do want to make that yummy cake, too.

  9. Pam says:

    Oh Gil, your story reminds me of the day your mother and I took you and Lisa to school for the first day of first grade. For us that was more traumatic than the first day of kindergarten because it was for ALL DAY. She and I were the last moms standing outside the classroom door, reluctant to walk back home leaving the two of you behind. Another apron string cut. sigh.

  10. sari says:

    HI Gillian,
    I am sitting at my desk with streams of tears down my face. You hit it right on with the feelings of first day of kindergarden- I felt the same way sending Dyllon off last week. This cake sounds awesome, and easy enough even for me to try- but I don’t understand the skillet/pan thing. After you pour the cake batter onto the fruit do you move it all into a cake pan and put in the oven? Or do you just cook it on the stove in a skillet? You have to excuse my ineptness at cooking, but I am a beginner, as you know.

  11. Gillian says:

    Sari, I would consider it a monumental victory if inspired you to cook. I realize it’s not exactly your favorite pasttime. You bake it in the skillet. If you don’t have the right size oven-proof skillet, just melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan, then pour it into a cake pan. Then arrange the fruit in the bottom of your cake pan, and follow the recipe from there. Good luck!

  12. sari says:

    Thanks Gillian- I will have to give it a try- and you will deserve an award of some kind, for inspiring me to cook, or at least bake- I might start there.

  13. Cath Potter says:

    This is a great recipe. I made one last week after your encouragement. You were right: it was easy, and oh so tasty. In fact, it was so popular I have been forced to make another one, only days later. Let them eat cake!

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