Italian Plum & Brown Butter Skillet Cake

Skillet Plum Cake |
Skillet Plum Cake |

Breathe deeply and inhale the scent of nutty browned butter paired with ginger, cinnamon, and caramelized fruit. Take a bite and taste the sweet flesh of fresh Italian plums studded throughout the cake like edible purple gemstones. Now imagine how quickly you can get to a market and home again with a handful of purple plums.

Baked in a buttered skillet, the cake itself becomes sweetly caramelized and crisp along the edges. The cast-iron skillet will serve double duty to first brown the butter and simultaneously grease the skillet which then bakes the cake. Not a single speck of browned butter is lost, every bit is absorbed by the cake from inside and out.  

Perfectly wonderful to enjoy while hot or cold, this cake is one of the rare desserts which holds up well over the course of several days - if you can keep it around that long! To store the cake, wrap loosely with foil rather than plastic wrap, as plastic wrap may trap moisture and cause the cake to become soggy. 

I suggest pairing this cake with a cup of hot milk tea, ideally Earl Grey or English breakfast with a touch of honey and cream. Enjoy!

Skillet Plum Cake |
Skillet Plum Cake |
Skillet Plum Cake |
Skillet Plum Cake |

Notes: If you do not have a cast-iron skillet, melt the butter in a small sauce pan and bake the cake in any 8" to 10" baking dish.  

If Italian plums are unavailable substitute with any stone fruit. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, or other varieties of plums would all be lovely paired with this brown-butter skillet cake. The key is to choose any ripe fruit you would happily eat whole, and then introduce it to these tasty baking companions. 


Ingredients for Cake Batter:

  • 1 1/2 cup AP Flour
  • 3 /4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger 
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 10 Tbl Unsalted Butter, browned
  • 2/3 cup Milk
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste (or 1/2 vanilla bean, or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract

Fruit & Spice toppings:

  • 3 to 4 Large Italian Purple Plums (or other fruit, see notes)
  • 1 Tbl Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger 

In a large bowl, whisk to combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt. Set aside. 

In a 9" cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant. Remove from heat, pour browned butter into a small bowl. Use remaining butter to coat the edges of the cast-iron skillet, brushing the sides with a pastry brush if needed. 

Whisking constantly, slowly add milk to butter. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Add vanilla and almond extracts. 

Combine wet with dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Pour cake batter into greased skillet. 

Prep the fruit. Cut each plum in half length-wise, carefully remove the pit using a sharp paring knife. Slice fruit into thin segments, about 1/4" to 1/2". Be gentle when handling the fruit as it is delicate. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and spices, toss gently to coat. 

Layer sliced plums over the cake batter. Working inwards from outermost edges, layer fruit as tightly as possible in concentric circles to create fan-pattern. The cake pictured above uses 3 large plums, 4 plums would have been preferable. 

Bake at 350 F for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at center of cake is clean when removed. 

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats & Smitten Kitchen