Upside Down Cake

Spring turns winter upside down and inside out

By Chef Manda Hudak

Spring turns winter upside down and inside out. We break out of our hibernation and crave fresh, crisp flavors. This recipe for Upside Down Cake captures the color and tang we seek as the days start to get longer and warmer.   

When I have an idea of what I would like to cook, I often search for recipes with the flavors, ingredients or cooking methods I am considering. Every solid recipe can be adapted or personalized with preferred flavor or ingredient variations. The bones of this cake recipe come from Melissa Clarke via “The New York Times.” I adjusted the recipe to include strawberries, whole milk yogurt rather than sour cream to lighten the cake texture, and I layered some fresh spring tarragon over the sweet lemon sugar. Mint, basil, tarragon and rosemary when infused in sugar or macerated in cream add that “something special” that is difficult to identify.


• 1 cup sugar

• Lemon zest from 1 lemon

• 1 sprig of fresh tarragon

• 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

• 3 cups rhubarb, 3” dice

• 1 cup strawberries, 1/2” dice 

• 2 tsp. cornstarch

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 2 cups cake flour

• 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

• 1/2 tsp. finely ground sea salt

• 2 cups unsalted butter, room temp.

• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 4 eggs

•1/3 cup whole milk yogurt

• 2 tsp. lemon juice

• 1/2 stick unsalted butter

• 1/2 cup light brown sugar


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix sugar, zest and tarragon to infuse scent and flavor. Look for uniform light yellow tint. Set aside.

Line spring form pan with parchment. Butter the paper and sides of pan.

Mix fruit, cornstarch and sugar. Set aside.

Sift dry flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Whip butter with paddle attachment for 2 minutes. Remove tarragon from sugar. Cream sugar and butter at medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl halfway through. Add vanilla and then eggs, one at a time. Add yogurt and lemon juice. It’s ok if the mixture looks curdled.

Add flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time, scraping down sides of bowl.

Melt 1/2 stick butter over medium-low heat, add light brown sugar, and whisk until smooth and light bubbles. Pour into cake pan. Place fruit over butter/sugar mixture.

Top with cake batter. Smooth evenly on top. Place on lined sheet pan, and bake in center of 325F for 60-75 minutes until top of cake is firm and toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool on rack for 15 minutes.

Loosen cake from edges with cake spatula. Place your presentation plate over the cake form and invert the cake onto the plate. Release the spring form pan and remove bottom and parchment.

Serve warm with fresh lemon tarragon ice cream or good old-fashioned vanilla bean ice cream. The cake is also delicious at room temp with a lemon whipped cream.

Manda Hudak is the Savory Chef Instructor at The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. For more information about the program, visit www.culinaryinstituteofmt.com.