Mandarinquat Upside Down Cake

I've been on the fence when it comes to upside down cakes after having difficulties with them several times in a row.

But after those mishaps, I realized that I can't treat an upside down cake like the cake I want to eat.

A fluffy, moist cake, like this chocolate cake, is not going to cut it for a upside down cake. Instead, you want a dense cake that will only soak up that sauce on the top or bottom (depending how you look at it) and keep the rest of the cake sturdy and solid. In a more porous cake, the caramel sauce that the fruit nestles in will soak all the way through making the cake soggy.

 It makes for very sad results.

My go to for upside down cakes is generally stone fruit because I love the stuff but since we are months out from stone fruit, I decided to make one with these mandarinquats that I got from a foodie friend who got them in his box from Nevermore Farm.

I was never into any type of 'quats until I tried them last year but even then, I was still a bit hesitant. There was something about the combination of mandarins and kumquats that intrigued me more than just plain kumquats to accept the offer of trying to make something with them. Maybe it's that I am a sucker for mandarins in the winter or I was just feeling up to the challenge.

And definitely because these are so, so cute.

I have a thing for mini.

These are bigger than your regular garden variety kumquats but with a lot more seeds which you should remove for this cake. But they have the same tart sweetness and were so juicy upon opening. Probably even juicier than some other citrus I have seen as of late. 

I figured that tart, juicy mandarinquats would go perfect with super sweet caramel sauce and buttery vanilla cake. I was pleased with the combination, especially as someone who likes sweet but not too sweet. 

For me, the best part about making upside down cakes is arranging the fruit in the caramel sauce. As a designer, I like patterns and order so this is a super fun exercise in that. 

On top of that goes a simple butter cake batter flecked with vanilla bean seeds because I feel like I always save them but never use them. 

When flipping the cake, it must be done immediately when the cake is out of the oven so that the fruit doesn't stick. And if any pieces do stick, carefully rearrange them back on the top. This is definitely the most nerve-wracking part. I always find myself counting to prepare myself whenever flipping anything like pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches. But surprisingly, I just go for it when doing air falls in hapkido.

The final result is a brilliant orange, mandarinquat-studded cake. The mandarinquats almost become candied after bubbling in the caramel sauce for 30 minutes.

In retrospect, I would have added more or another layer but that is an experiment for another day. 

Excellent with a nice cuppa. 

Mandarinquat Upside Down Cake

Adapted from The Kitchn

Yields: one 9-inch cake 


If you don't have access to mandarinquats or any other kumquat hybrids, regular old kumquats will do. And if no kumquats, any fruit will work!


Caramel Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 8-10 mandarinquats, sliced into ¼-inch thick pieces


  • 12 tablespoons (1½  sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla or 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped


Preheat your oven to 350°F. 

To make the caramel sauce, place your baking pan or skillet on a burner over low heat and add the butter.  Once the butter has melted and browned slightly, add the brown sugar and stir it gently.  When the brown sugar has melted, turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the stove.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Meanwhile, measure the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk gently to combine.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well, followed by the vanilla or vanilla bean.  Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, about one minute.

Arrange the sliced mandarinquats in the baking pan. Be sure to crowd the pan as much as possible as the fruit will shrink a little when cooked. If more fruit is desired, add another layer. Top with the cake batter, making sure it is evenly distributed and smooth on top.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a thin knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You might want to put it on a baking sheet to catch any overflow.

Remove the cake from the baking sheet and place it on a cooling rack.  Let the cake settle for a minute. Do not let the cake cool or you will not get it out of the pan! Run a knife around the edges of the cake.  Place your cake plate over the cake and, using hot pads, carefully flip the cake over. Gently remove the cake pan. Be careful, as the fruit and glaze is still quite hot and will burn!

Re-arrange the fruit and let the cake cool. If any pieces of fruit are stuck to the cake pan, gently scoop them up with a knife and replace them on the cake.  Let the cake cool.  

Serve the cake at room temperature or sightly warm.