Cast Iron Cookery: Strawberry-Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake{13}

tarte tatin

Cast iron pans (and a hungry man) are an upside-down cake’s best friend.

Like movies I could watch over and over again, or books I’m happy to revisit regularly, I rarely tire of certain seasonal recipes; in this case strawberry-rhubarb upside-down cake.

rhubarb strawberries in frying pan

Bathing the fruit in a little brown sugar butter.

Coming off a long winter and a dwindling larder, I’m eager to return to the garden for a few early and promising harvests. Rhubarb never disappoints, though homegrown strawberries are a bit more hit and miss, and may require a trip to the organic produce aisle (at least for a couple more weeks).

upside down cake batter

Before baking: top off the fruit mixture with a blanket of batter

My kitchen ceiling will one day cave in under the weight of hanging cast iron cookware, but it’s what I like to cook with, and the perfect vehicle for a recipe calling to both cook fruit and bake a batter.

Cast iron pans on the ceiling

Cast iron pans relying on brass hooks, and no doubt wondering when I’ll repaint the kitchen.

Give the cake a little time to cool down a bit, after removing it from the oven. When the pan is still warm, top it with a plate that completely covers the pan and then some. Hold the plate firmly to the pan with both hands and flip the pan upside down. The cake eases out of the cast iron pan and onto the serving plate, and the fruit bottom sees daylight as the crowning glory of the cake.


Rich, dense buttery cake crowned with strawberries and rhubarb; what’s not to like?

You can make the cake as thick or as thin as you like based on the size frying pan you use. The upside-down cake pictured above came out of a 12-inch cast iron frying pan. A 10-inch cast iron pan works wonderfully too, just makes a taller cake and thicker fruit top.

ice cream

Waiting for a little whipped cream…

Strawberry-Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Serves 10-12
Meal type Dessert
Garden fresh rhubarb and strawberries combine to make an amazing upside cake, which starts in a frying pan. The juicy, gooey fruit bottom becomes the top when you flip the warm pan. The only that makes it better is a big dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. This recipe was adapted from one seen in The New York Times, 5/20/2011.


  • 1 1/4 cup butter (equals 2.5 sticks of butter)
  • 1lb strawberries (cleaned, destemmed)
  • 1lb rhubarb (sliced into chunky cubes)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 heaped teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lemon (zested, and juiced)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


Dry ingedients
Step 1
Preheat oven to 325 F
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl, set aside.
Pan preparation
Step 2
On low heat, in a cast iron frying pan (10 - 12" works fine), simmer brown sugar and 1/4 Cup of butter for 2 minutes while whisking to incorporate; remove from heat.
Fruit preparation
Step 3
Cut rhubarb into chunks, clean strawberries, leaving small ones whole and large ones sliced in half. Toss fruit with cornstarch and 1/2 cup of sugar, set aside
Batter preparation
Step 4
Whip 2 sticks of room temperature butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add one cup of sugar, and zest of one lemon. Cream until smooth, about 4 minutes.
Step 5
Add vanilla extract, then add eggs, one at a time, mix well. Add sour cream and lemon juice, mix well. On low speed, add all of flour mixture 1/4 Cup at a time.
Step 6
Add fruit mixture to the warm frying pan, coating fruit with brown sugar, butter mixture. Pour batter on top of it, and smooth it out.
Step 7
Place frying pan in oven at 325 F. Bake for approximately one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool for at least 15 minutes, and flip over onto large serving plate.
Now , I'm just showing off.

Here, I’m just showing off… 😉