Kumquat upside-down cake

Kumquat upside-down cake

The cake I really wanted to make was a starfruit upside-down cake, but the fruit on my tree isn’t ripe yet. Instead, I made this kumquat upside-down cake, which is just as fun, and may be even tastier. I grew up with a kumquat tree in my south Florida backyard. It was just a little thing, and I don’t remember doing much with the fruit. We would pluck the little orange gems from the tree and nibble at the sweet kumquat skin. Sometimes we just tossed the sour insides away.

Kumquat Upside-Down Cake

Now I know what to do with kumquats. They make a delicious marmalade. They are beautiful sliced into thin rings and cooked in a citrus sauce for chicken or duck. They are perfect in a cranberry sauce, and as this recipe proves, they make an excellent upside-down cake. The sweetness of the cake and caramel are perfect with the sourness of the fruit. It’s just the right amount to make this one of those cakes you can eat all day.

Kumquat Upside-Down Cake

My Aunt who lives in Tennessee says she gets kumquats in her supermarket every winter. I hope she is right and everyone has access to these little fruits. Eating the skin takes a little getting used to. It’s the opposite with all the other citrus, but this is a kumquat’s best feature.

Kumquat Upside-Down Cake

Or it could be their name. It’s fun to say. Go ahead…say it.

Kumquat Upside-Down Cake

This kumquat upside-down cake showcases the little fruit beautifully. When my statfruit does finally ripen, I’ll be posting a follow-up to compare the two cakes. I have a feeling they will both be equally delicious. How could you not love a kumquat upside-down cake?

Kumquat Upside-Down Cake

Kumquat Upside-Down Cake

Only slightly adapted from David Lebovitz’s upside down cake.


Kumquat upside-down cake

Kumquat upside-down cake


    For the fruit layer:
  • 3 tablespoons butter (45g), salted or unsalted
  • 3/4 cup packed (135g) light brown sugar
  • 1 pint of kumquats (about 2 cups whole fruit), sliced into thirds, and seeds removed.
  • For the cake layer:
  • 8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, at room temperature


Preheat oven to 350°F/190°C

In a 10” cast iron skillet or cake pan (not a springform pan), melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Cook, while stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts and bubbles. Set aside and allow to cool while you make the cake batter.

Beat together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix.

Arrange the fruit in the bottom of the skillet or pan, cut side down. If you have two cut sides on a piece, place the largest end facing down. Work from the outside of the pan, creating a tight ring of fruit. Continue until you have covered the bottom of the pan.

Pour the batter on top of the fruit and spread it towards the sides. Place in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until a wooden pick comes out clean. Allow the pan to cool for 20 minutes.

To flip the cake, place a plate on top of the skillet or pan. Put on your oven mitts just in case some hot juices escape. Flip the cake over and it should pop right out.



  • loren

    Hi Marni! This recipe looks great and I’m hoping to make it this week. If I used a glass pyrex pan would it turn out? Thanks a bunch!

  • S

    Hi, noticed that you never mention what happens to the caramel that you make in step 1. I assumed it was to be poured on the fruit before the batter but still, if one were to follow this recipe step to step they’d end up with a fairly dry cake and a lump of hardened sugar. Also i hope you’d specify how liquidy the sugar in step 1 is supposed to be, accidentally made a thick caramel at first 😅

  • Kim Ha

    I’ve made this cake a few times now, and it is delicious! I love the caramel top and the way it plays off the bitter citrus sophistication of kumquats. The crumb on the cake is nice and moist too. The whole thing is light and citrus bright and I love the restrained use of butter and sugar. Thank you!

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