I'm a big fan of lemon desserts. Anything from pie to ice cream to cake, I just love the combination of sweet and tart when it comes to dessert. This Lemon Upside-Down Cake is packed with lemon flavor with a hint of spice making it a delicious treat served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a big dollop of whipped cream.
Meyer Lemons vs. Regular Lemons
When I was first introduced to Meyer lemons, it was truly love at first bite. Meyer lemons have a slightly smaller and rounder shape than a regular lemon. They also have a very thin skin, making them perfect for recipes that involve lemon slices. The flavor of Meyer lemons is often described as a cross between a lemon and an orange, with a slightly less lip-puckering tart than a regular lemon. They can usually be found in grocery stores between December and May making this Lemon Upside-Down Cake the perfect dessert to brighten up a cold winter day or to welcome in spring!
If you cannot find Meyer lemons, this cake could still be made using regular lemons. If you do this, it's even more important to slice the lemons as thin as you can. With the skins of regular lemons being thicker, you want the lemon slices to still be easy enough to chew though while also avoiding too much bitterness from the lemon rind in one bite.
For this recipe, slice 2 lemons as close to ⅛ inch thick as you can. A sharp knife is crucial for this. Remove any seeds that you find. You want to end up with 18-20 lemon slices.
Preparing the "Top"
In true upside-down cake fashion, the bottom of the cake is going to become the top so you want it to look pretty! In a small saucepan melt butter and add the brown sugar. Remove from heat and add a pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan. This caramel-like sauce is going to bake into the lemons and cake for an out of this world flavor!
Now it's time to arrange the lemon slices. I like to start with one lemon slice in the center, then make a circle around it with more slices. Repeat adding another circle until you reach the edge. The lemon slices should overlap slightly, and I want to cover the bottom of the pan completely. The lemons will shrink slightly when the cake bakes so you will end up with some gaps on the finished cake.
How to Make Lemon Upside-Down Cake
The batter for this Lemon Upside-Down Cake also includes plenty of lemon flavor with the addition of lemon juice & zest. Cinnamon and ginger are added to give the cake a hint of warmth while pairing beautifully with all the lemon flavor.
The ingredients for the cake batter itself are fairly traditional with the exception of one ingredient: sour cream. Sour cream is used in place of milk which you would normally see in most cake recipes. The sour cream makes the cake so deliciously moist and gives it a richness you won't find using just milk. On a more scientific level, adding sour cream to a cake batter adds acidity which helps the cake rise and prevents it from getting too brown before the middle is done.
In a mixing bowl whisk all the dry ingredients together, including the spices. Remember I have an unparalleled hate for sifting, so I whisk everything together and call it good. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the sour cream, lemon juice & zest.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. To avoid a tough cake, be sure not to overmix your batter! Carefully pour the batter over the lemon slices, being sure not to disturb your beautiful lemon design.
Bake the cake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Let the cake rest in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate. To invert the cake, take your cake stand or plate and place it upside down on top of the cake pan. Take a deep breath, say a prayer or two, and carefully flip the cake pan over with the plate on top. Once flipped, I like to give the bottom of the cake pan (which is now the top) a couple little taps to ensure everything is loose. Slowly lift the cake pan up, making sure the cake is now on the cake stand. Then exhale.
This cake is wonderful just a little bit warm or can be served at room temperature. Cover any leftovers with plastic wrap and it will keep 2-3 days, or a couple more if refrigerated.
How to Serve the Lemon Upside-Down Cake
This Lemon Upside-Down Cake can be served on its own, but I love serving it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a big dollop of whipped cream. The color of this cake is like a burst of sunshine and the beautiful design of lemon slices on top makes this cake of those desserts that doubles as a centerpiece! It would be the perfect dessert for an Easter table. Prepare for people to be wowed when they see this cake, but little do they know how easy it actually is to make! This Lemon Upside Down Cake is a prime example that you don't have to be a trained pastry chef to make delicious, beautiful desserts. With a little time, some basic ingredients and some love, you can create an amazing dessert your guests and family will love!
Other popular dessert ideas:
Lemon Upside-Down Cake
- 2 Meyer lemons sliced thin, ⅛"
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. cinnamon ground
- ¼ tsp. ginger ground
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup sour cream
- juice of 1 lemon
- zest of 1 lemon
- In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add in brown sugar and whisk until combined. Remove from heat and add a pinch of salt & vanilla extract. Pour mixture into the bottom of 9 inch cake pan.
- To arrange the lemon slices, place one lemon slice in the center on top of the brown sugar mixture. Continue with the lemon slices slightly overlapping, making a circular pattern, until bottom is completely covered.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
- In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
- Add sour cream, lemon juice & zest and mix well. Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Pour batter over lemon slices and bake 35-40 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cake rest in pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto serving plate or tray.
- Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Cover any leftover cake and store for 2-3 days at room temperature, or 3-4 days refrigerated.
- Meyer lemons are ideal for this recipe. They have a very thin skin that makes them perfectly edible. Meyer lemons are also slightly less tart than a regular lemon, and are often have a slight orange flavor.
- Regular lemons may be used for this recipe, but they must be sliced as thin as possible to ensure the rind isn't too tough to chew through.