Abra Berens’ Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake with Whipped Cream and Salty Nuts

It’s amazing what fruit can do! No one knows that better than author Abra Berens and her new book Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking with Fruit. She shares both sweet and savory recipes and we’re lucky to have on here. Note: The salty nut recipe makes one cup, but you only need ½ cup. The rest would make an excellent snack! Here’s what the author has to say about this recipe:

Like most of the best things in my life, I’m pretty sure I got this off of my friend Tim Mazurek’s blog, Lottie + Doof, from his pineapple upside-down cake recipe. It has now become my go-to buttery, tender cake batter that does well baked over the top of just about any fruit topping, including jam when fresh fruit isn’t available. Of course, if you happen to have a lot of pineapple on your hands, go find the original recipe and go that route instead.

Salty Nuts

  • 1 cup (140 grams) pecans, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt

Rhubarb Filling

  • 1 pound (455 grams) rhubarb, cut into ½ in (12 mm) pieces
  • ¼ cup (35 grams) cornstarch
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons (2 ounces (60 grams)) butter, melted
  •  ½ cup (100 grams) brown sugar

Upside-Down Cake

  • ¼ cup (60 milliliters) buttermilk
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) sour cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup (130 grams) sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • 2 cups (480 milliliters) whipped cream
  • ½ cup (60 grams) salty pecans


Make the Nuts

  1. Toss the toasted nuts with the olive oil and a big pinch of salt and then top away. Store covered at room temperature for upwards of 2 weeks or really until the nuts go rancid.

Make the Filling and Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a greased 9-inch (23-centimeter) cake pan with a parchment circle.
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, buttermilk, sour cream, egg yolks, and vanilla.
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  1. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry. Beat for 2 minutes to develop the cake’s structure.
  1. In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, cornstarch, and granulated sugar.
  1. In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, stirring until the brown sugar dissolves.
  1. Pour the butter–brown sugar mixture into the prepared cake pan. Spoon the rhubarb mixture evenly into the pan. Top with the cake batter, ensuring that the rhubarb is entirely covered. Bake until the cake is golden brown and the knife test comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 30 minutes.
  1. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes and then loosen the edges and invert onto a serving platter. If any of the rhubarb mixture stays behind in the pan, simply spoon it back into place.
  1. To serve, cut into wedges and top with a hefty dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of salty pecans.

Excerpted with permission from Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking with Fruit(Chronicle Books 2023) by Abra Berens.


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