This clementine upside down cake recipe is a light, citrusy dessert that is sure to impress. Crowned in paper-thin slices of glazed clementine, it is stunning yet deceptively easy to make. Make this clementine cake while these jewels are in season and enjoy this cake all week.
Upside down cakes are a favorite of mine. There is something so satisfying about turning it over and watching the reveal of the beautiful top. One of my favorite fall versions is a cranberry upside down cake. Both of these are great to have around for snacking during the holidays.
You can also find a gluten free clementine cake using almond flour.
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Upside down clementine cake recipe
This is a cake that I make almost every Christmas. It looks like it took all day, when in fact, it did not.
Made with buttermilk to give it a little tang, this cake is just barely sweet. It goes really well with a cup of coffee or tea as a breakfast treat or a dessert.
Clementine Upside Down Cake
A version of a clementine cake made an appearance in the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” a few years back and apparently, it became all the rage. I’ve been making this cake since 2001, who knew that versions of this cake would pop up everywhere?
Because it is so delicious, I guess it shouldn’t be a big surprise.
What kind of pan do I need to bake this clementine cake?
You’ll need to use your deepest cake pan. Meaning, the one with the tallest sides. I like to bake this cake in a 9 x 3 cake pan. It will work in a standard 9 x 2 cake pan, but I suggest placing the pan on a baking sheet, just in case it bubbles over.
If you have a 9 x 3 cake pan, this is the time to use it. Those high sides will give your cake nice, straight sides and you won’t have to obsessively look through the oven glass to make sure it isn’t spilling over.
First, we’ll boil the thin slices of clementine for a few minutes to soften them. Then the butter and clementine juice go into the pan and the clementine slices are arranged in a circular pattern.
Mix up the simple buttermilk batter and gently scoop on top, then bake. You can see the top of the cake flecked with vanilla – the combination of orange and vanilla is so good.
Cool the cake slightly before inverting, cool completely before cutting and serving.
Helpful tools and equipment
- Small offset spatula – When you scoop the cake batter on top of the clementines, you’ll need to smooth the top before putting the cake in the oven. This offset spatula is small enough to allow you to get in the pan easily without hitting the side of the cake pan.
- Rubber spatulas – I love this set because it includes a scraping spatula! You need that for getting the bottom of the bowl. Love it.
- Possibly one of the greatest things ever invented – 9 inch parchment paper rounds. These pre cut pieces of parchment paper go directly on the bottom of your pan creating a layer between the pan and your cake making it easy to remove with no sticking.
You’ll also need the basics like mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons and a hand mixer.
More holiday recipes
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- 5 clementines, thinly sliced and seeds removed
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste, vanilla or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tbsp. clementine zest
- 1/4 cup fresh clementine juice from 2 -3 clementines
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C / Gas mark 4.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add clementine slices. Boil 3 minutes, then drain and arrange slices on a single layer of paper towel.
- Place 1/2 cup of butter in a 9x2 or 9x3 inch round cake pan (springform pan will NOT work). Mix half of the vanilla paste, and half of the sugar and add to butter.
- Place pan in oven and when butter has melted, whisk to combine and add 2 tbsp. clementine juice. Leave in oven for a few minutes longer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat zest, butter, 1 cup sugar and remaining vanilla on medium high speed with electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- With mixer on low speed, add eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated, then add flour mixture in 2 batches alternating with the buttermilk and remaining clementine juice.
- Arrange clementine slices in pan on top of sugar mixture, starting in the center and working out from middle. Make sure to overlap slices to secure them in place.
- Gently scoop batter on top of clementine slices and smooth top with an offset spatula.
- Bake until cake is golden and puffed and a cake tester (knife) comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake, then invert onto cooling rack to cool completely. Let cool before slicing.
- If you are not serving the same day, wrap cake very well in plastic wrap while still warm and place in freezer. Thaw at room temp (not in refrigerator) for a few hours before serving.
**Please note - you'll need 7 - 8 clementines TOTAL for the recipe.
I used a recipe from Martha Stewart as my jumping off point and fiddled with it just a touch. The next time I make this, I would let the sugar caramelize a bit more in the oven.
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Serving Size:1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 489Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 297mgCarbohydrates: 68gFiber: 2gSugar: 49gProtein: 5g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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Originally published 1/3/14, most recent update 9/20/21.