Upside-down plum cake

Upside down plum cake served with creme fraiche
This was a bit of an experimental recipe, which turned out to be absolutely gorgeous (forgive me if I blow my own trumpet on this one, but it really was a scrumptious cake: light, moist, rich, sweet and spicy). Obviously the idea comes from a pineapple upside-down cake, which has become to be regarded as somewhat of a retro cake that would fit in at a 70s themed dinner party along with prawn cocktail, cheese fondue and duck a l’orange. Now I don’t mind telling you: that sounds like a great menu to me, “retro” or not. With plums still in season they seemed like the obvious fruit choice, and they work well with festive spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. A simple vanilla sponge cake recipe made using the all-in-one method was all that was needed to top (or bottom, depending on which way round you look at it…) the fruit.

I do have a confession to make about the execution of this recipe, which will demonstrate how things in my kitchen don’t always go so smoothly (as if you needed that after mayonnaise-gate). The oven was at temperature, the cake was layered in the tin and I popped it into the oven with great anticipation. Less than five minutes later acrid black smoke was billowing from the oven as a little of the sugar and butter mixture (and presumably some juice from the plums) oozed out the bottom of the cake tin and hit the hot oven floor. At the speed of lightning I whipped the tin out, onto a baking tray and back into the oven, to prevent it getting worse. Luckily, neither the opening of the oven door at the start of baking or the smoke seemed to affect the quality of the cake in the end. SO, if anyone has any bright ideas about how to prevent this from happening do leave a comment below! For now, my advice would be to put the cake tin on a baking tray from the start or perhaps to use a cake tin that doesn’t have a loose bottom (though in this case I would grease the tin extremely well as it may be more difficult to turn out).
Ingredients for upside down plum cake
Ingredients
50g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
50g light soft brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ fresh nutmeg, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
6-8 ripe plums

200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
200g pain flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 21-23cm cake tin generously with butter.
2. Cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla until smooth and well combined.
Butter and sugar for creaming
Creamed butter and sugar
3. Cut the plums in half and remove the stones.
Halved plums
4. Spread the creamed butter and sugar onto the bottom of the cake tin and push the plums into the mixture, cut side down. Pack the plums tightly together – you may need to cut the final one into more than halves in order to fill all the gaps.
Top layer of the upside down plum cake
Plums pushed into the creamed butter and sugar
5. Place the ingredients for the sponge (butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla and eggs) into a large bowl. Using an electric whisk beat together the ingredients until everything is incorporated and you have an incredibly light, fluffy mix.
Ingredients for the all-in-one method
All in one method sponge mix
6. Spoon the sponge mixture on top of the plums and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean and the sponge springs back to the touch. Leave the cake to cool slightly before turning out.
Pouring the sponge mix into the cake tin
Upside down plum cake ready to be baked
When you are ready to serve, gently release the cake from the tin. Place your serving plate on top of the sponge and flip the cake in one brave move.
Upside down spiced plum cake with vanilla sponge
Cut at the table so everything can admire the beautiful pattern and colour of the plums on top.
Upside down spiced plum cake with vanilla sponge
As this is a very sweet and spiced cake, I would recommend serving it with a dollop of crème fraîche or natural yogurt. Enjoy!
Slice of upside down plum cake with creme fraiche

Winter spiced pumpkin soup and toasted pumpkin seeds

Lightly spiced pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds
I love Halloween. Nostalgic memories of getting dressed up and perfecting a doorstep-routine in order to go trick-or-treating and collect a haul of sweets. Ridiculously messy games like ducking for apples and treacle scones or doughnuts on string. Dark nights inside with blankets, candles lit and a scary movie (which I actually hate, but it always makes it better if there’s someone else who hates them more than you…naming no names ahem). And, of course, Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without pumpkin carving.

However, pumpkins aren’t just for carving. At the moment, during autumn, the squash family are in their prime and they have a delicious sweet flavour that works equally well in savoury dishes and puddings alike. I have a classic pumpkin pie recipe for you later in the week, but today’s post is all savoury with a lightly spiced pumpkin soup and some toasted pumpkin seeds. Even if you are carving your pumpkin, don’t throw away the seeds inside – frying these off with a bit of spice is super easy and they’re so tasty. But the flesh of the pumpkin is the real prize, so pick up an extra pumpkin while you’re getting some for carving, and try this gorgeous soup, flavoured with warming spices like chilli, paprika and nutmeg and made into a hearty meal with some red lentils. A perfect autumn lunch.
Ingredients for spiced pumpkin soup
Ingredients
Large pumpkin (about 3.5kg)
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
3 onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
100g lentils
1 tsp chilli flakes
3 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cinnamon
Grating of whole nutmeg
3 litres chicken stock
Salt and pepper

For the pumpkin seeds:
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Prepare the pumpkin. The easiest way to handle a large pumpkin is to cut it into manageable chunks using a large, very sharp knife. Cut one side away and scoop out the seeds inside with your hands – put these in a bowl of cold water for later. You can scrape away even more of the stringy innards that are stuck to the flesh using a spoon. Cut the rest of the pumpkin into big chunks, throwing away the stalk. Using a smaller, but equally sharp, knife cut away the tough skin and chop into small cubes.
Rinsing the pumpkin seeds
Chopped pumpkin for winter soup
2. Heat the oil and butter in a large pan. Once the butter starts to bubble, throw in the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes.
Browning onions for pumpkin soup
3. Toss the pumpkin pieces in the onion and continue to cook for about five minutes until the pumpkin begins to brown and soften. Tip in the lentils, chilli flakes, paprika, cinnamon and about 1/3 of a whole nutmeg grated. Mix well and continue to fry for a couple of minutes.
Adding the pumpkin, spices and lentils
4. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Season, pop a lid on the pan and lower the heat a bit so that the soup is just simmering. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin and lentils are tender.
Adding the stock to the soup
5. Leave the soup to cool and then blend until smooth – you can do this in a counter-top blender, but a hand blender is even quicker and easier. Of course, you can just use a masher if you prefer a chunkier texture.
Spiced pumpkin soup to be blended
Pumpkin soup blitzed with a hand blender
6. After immersing the pumpkin seeds in cold water, the gunk around the seeds should sink to the bottom and come away easily. Lay the seeds out on paper towels to dry while you heat a frying pan. Dry fry the pumpkin seeds, moving them around in the pan until they start to brown. Sprinkle over the ground cumin and coriander and some salt and pepper and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Keep an eye on the seeds as they can burn quickly. Turn the heat off and set aside to cool.
Toasting the pumpkin seeds
Dry frying the pumpkin seeds with spices
To serve, heat the soup and sprinkle over a few pumpkin seeds for extra texture. Some warmed crusty bread with butter, or even garlic bread, is a perfect accompaniment. The soup will keep in the fridge for a week, and of course can be frozen for longer. The seeds should store well in an airtight container and are great for snacking on if you’re in need of a nibble.