Fine Is So Good: Plum Upside-Down Cake

During Italian plum season, I usually just buy plums whenever I see them at the farmers market and  figure out what I'm going to bake with them only after I get home. But after making Joanne Chang's Plum-Frangipane Tart, I immediately made a plan to bake her "Plum Upside-Down Cake," which is in the same cookbook Pastry Love.

The first step is to make a caramel by cooking sugar and water until it's dark amber, and add butter. I poured the caramel into a 9-inch cake pan that I had coated with nonstick spray and lined with parchment, and then I arranged thinly-sliced plums on top. The cake batter is made with the reverse-creaming method. You put all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) into a mixing bowl; add softened butter and beat until the mixture forms crumbs; add eggs and beat until the mixture is light; and incorporate crème fraîche, milk, and vanilla. The batter was well aerated and I poured it on top of the plums in the cake pan. 
After baking, I let the cake cool for a few hours before unmolding it. I didn't have any loose caramel that came out of the pan; it appeared to have all been absorbed by the fruit and cake. I made two cakes at the same time and between them, only one small plum slice was out of place after I turned the cakes out of the pans. I was pleased with how well the plums maintained their neat arrangement on top of the cakes. 
When I took my first bite of cake, I was immediately hit with the very sweet caramel, followed by the juicy and slightly bitter plums. But the star of this cake was the actual cake. It was dense, finely textured, very soft, and exceptional. I do think that the caramel could maybe use a dash of salt to dial back the sweetness a bit, but overall I think this was a terrific cake. The ratio of cake to fruit was just right (one of my pet peeves is having too much cake to not enough fruit), and the texture of the cake was so good that I can still remember the feeling of reverence that came over me upon taking my first bite. Many fruit upside-down cakes are rustic in nature, but this one is refined and quite lovely.
Recipe: "Plum Upside-Down Cake" from Pastry Love by Joanne Chang. The recipe here from Food & Wine is nearly identical. 

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