This Easy Peach Upside Down Cake Is Pure Summer

Caramelized edges and juicy, golden peaches atop a tender cake make this a very good reason to turn on the oven—even at the peak of summer.

Overhead view of finished peach upside down cake with a slice removed
Serious Eats / Morgan Glaze Hunt

Even on the hottest days of summer, you’ll find me in my kitchen with the oven on, dreaming up ways to turn my weekly farmers market hall into baked delights. One of my favorite ways to celebrate that haul is turning my favorite stone fruit—peaches—into this sumptuous upside down cake. This topsy-turvy cake may look fancy, but it’s simple enough that even an inexperienced baker can nail its perfect flipped presentation.

The process of making any upside down cake, including this one, is fairly simple: The fruit goes in the bottom of the cake pan along with melted butter and sugar, then cake batter is poured on top. After baking, you turn the pan over to reveal a gorgeous cake with golden-brown caramelized edges and juicy peaches above a sturdy but tender cake. It’s peach perfection.

But to ensure that the cake is flavorful and releases from the pan easily in one-fell swoop, there are a few techniques to get right. We asked recipe developer Marianne Williams to methodically flip cake after cake until she perfected the process. Here’s what we learned about how to bake a perfect peach upside down cake that's sure to be a-peach-iated by everyone who eats it.

Tips for Perfecting a Peach Upside Down Cake

Start with fresh or frozen peaches. Yes, the old adage rings true here, “fresh is best.” But fresh isn’t always possible. Where I live in New England our peach season is brief—maybe six weeks, tops. When fresh peaches are available, they are my go-to with this cake. The best fresh peaches for baking are ripe but still a little firm—the fruit should have a little give but shouldn't bruise when gently pressed. If the peaches are too ripe they will turn mushy and fall apart once baked and flipped out of the pan. Also avoid underripe peaches, which tend to lack the flavor development and sweetness of ripe ones, which can lead to a bland cake. (For more information on peach storage and ripening, you can read our guide on how to ripen peaches.)

When you don't have fresh, in-season peaches on hand but still want a sublime peach cake, we recommend using frozen peach slices. We can confirm through rounds of testing that this cake is still incredibly delicious and will have the same impressive presentation when made with frozen peaches. Remember that frozen peaches are frozen at their peak of ripeness, which helps almost guarantee consistent quality. If using frozen peaches, make sure to look for slices that are about 3/4-inch thick and avoid chopped peaches, which may overcook and turn mushy when baked. To avoid excess moisture that can make the cake soggy, be sure to thaw, drain, and pat the peaches dry with paper towels thoroughly before adding them to the pan.

Skip the stand mixer and keep it simple with a hand-whisked batter. No need to pull out a stand mixer or food processor. In our testing, we found that hand-whisking was not only more practical, but it also minimized the risk of over-aerating the batter, which would lighten and tenderize the cake too much. When a cake batter is made in a stand mixer, the process involves creaming and lightening butter with sugar before vigorously whipping the batter. The goal of this is to incorporate as much air as possible to help lighten and tenderize the cake. This is great if your goal is a delicate, fluffy cake, but here we needed a sturdier cake that can support the peach topping and hold together once flipped. So, put your arm muscles to work and get whisking.

Build flavor with brown butter and cardamom. Whisking simple melted butter into our cake batter worked perfectly well in our tests, but we found that taking just a few minutes to brown the butter first produced a richer, nuttier flavor that complemented the sweet peaches. A hint of cardamom brought a subtle warmth to the cake, which added depth of flavor. When browning the butter, make sure to swirl the pan constantly to avoid burning the milk solids as they cook. Once browned, quickly transfer the butter to a bowl. If left in the skillet too long, the browned milk solids may overcook and turn bitter.

Cool the cake briefly before flipping it. Cooling the cake for about 15 minutes and then inverting it while it's still warm guarantees an easy release. If you’re not 100% confident with your cake-flipping skills, you can place a parchment round in the bottom of the cake pan to further insure an easy release before layering ingredients in. Just note that using a parchment round will minimize the caramelization around the bottom edges of the peaches. Our final advice for making sure the peaches all release from the pan once flipped is to just be confident with your flip. Flip the cake in one swift, steady motion. If a few peaches remain stuck to the pan that is totally fine—just use a fork to gently lift and rearrange them on top of the cake and no one will even know.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F (175℃). Spray inside of a 9-inch round metal cake pan or cast-iron skillet with cooking spray; set aside. In a small saucepan, melt 10 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Continue to cook, stirring and swirling skillet constantly with rubber spatula, until butter is golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 3 to 8 minutes. Pour the brown butter into a large heatproof bowl; set aside. In the now empty saucepan, add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and melt over medium heat. Once melted, add brown sugar and cook, stirring often, until sugar is melted and starts to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan or skillet, and spread into an even layer to cover the bottom of the pan. 

Two image collage of browning sugar and putting in bottom of pan
Serious Eats / Morgan Glaze Hunt

Pat peach slices dry with paper towels. Starting around the outside edges of the cake pan, arrange peach slices flat side down, over brown sugar mixture in tight concentric circles, with concave sides of peach slices facing in. Fill in any gaps with remaining small peach slices; set aside. 

Overhead view of peaches in a pan
Serious Eats / Morgan Glaze Hunt

Whisk the granulated sugar into the reserved brown butter in bowl until smooth. Add eggs and whisk until incorporated. 

Overhead view of mixing batter
Serious Eats / Morgan Glaze Hunt

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. Add half of the flour mixture to the egg mixture, and fold until just combined. Add buttermilk, and stir until combined. Add remaining flour mixture, and fold until just combined. Pour batter over peaches in the prepared cake pan, and spread into an even layer to completely cover peaches. 

Two image collage of pouring batter over peaches
Serious Eats / Morgan Glaze Hunt

Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out mostly clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Place a serving plate over the cake, and carefully invert cake onto the plate. (If any peaches stick to pan, remove and position on top of the cake). Let cake cool for at least 30 minutes. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cardamom, if desired. 

Overhead view of finished cake
Serious Eats / Morgan Glaze Hunt

Special Equipment

9-inch round metal cake pan or cast-iron skillet

Make-Ahead and Storage

Cover and store at room temperature for up to three days.

For Perfect Green Beans in 10 Minutes, Grab Your Air Fryer

Make crisp, lightly blistered green beans in your air fryer in under 10 minutes. They’re great as-is or dressed up with one of our our four easy flavor variations.

A plate of air-fried green beans with gruyère and shallots
Serious Eats / Photographer: Morgan Hunt Glaze, Food Stylist: Julian Hensarling, Prop Stylist: Claire Spollen

Here's a simple, hearty vegetable side dish that you can toss together in minutes—as long as you have fresh green beans and your air fryer on hand. The result is crisp, lightly browned and blistered green beans with a texture that's loosely inspired by Sichuan-style dry-fried green beans.

Real dry-frying is a two-stage wok technique that involves frying something first in a generous amount of oil, and then stir-frying a second time with seasonings. It’s an amazing technique that delivers delicious results, but as Kenji points out in his recipe for Sichuan-style dry-fried green beans, it isn't always practical for the home cook. In his recipe he found the broiler to be an acceptable substitute for producing charred and blistered beans, with a minimum amount of oil and effort required.

We love this recipe, and Daniel’s green beans with Romesco sauce also uses this technique, but we found that the air fryer is an even easier and faster way to mimic dry-fried green beans. The air-fryer “dry-fried” green beans we're sharing the recipe for here are great just tossed with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, or you can add our suggested flavor combinations described below, including red curry–cashew and the gruyère–fried shallot pictured above. It works equally well with regular green beans and thinner haricot verts.

There’s a reason why this powerhouse appliance cooks great green beans so quickly: It’s basically a tiny convection oven that circulates air extremely efficiently, which is why it can quickly and perfectly “dry-fry” green beans. Seasoned recipe developer Marianne Williams tested and found that in just 10 minutes, the air fryer’s even air flow and dry, high heat makes bright, crisp-tender green beans that retained all of their grassy, sweet flavor. Read on for the full recipe and for Williams’ tips for making crisp, lightly blistered green beans in your air fryer at home.

3 Tips for Crisp, Lightly Browned Air-Fryer Green Beans

When green beans are cooked properly in an air fryer, they should be tender while still retaining a bit of crisp texture and browning on the outside. This browning and Maillard reaction delivers a great roasted/caramelized effect, similar to the results of dry-fried green beans.

  1. Preheat the air-fryer basket and roast at a high temperature. Since green beans cook very quickly, you want the exterior to start cooking immediately in the air fryer. Toss the green beans with oil before transferring to the preheated cooking basket. The beans should sizzle slightly on contact with the air fryer, so take the extra five minutes to preheat the appliance. Cooking at a high heat of 400°F allows the outside of the green beans to develop a roasted flavor and become slightly charred before the inside overcooks.
  2. Don’t overcrowd the air-fryer basket: Overcrowding the air fryer basket can prevent proper air circulation and result in uneven cooking of the green beans. It can also cause the beans to steam rather than roast, which prevents the browning we want in this recipe. Avoid this by cooking the green beans in an even layer or in batches if necessary. For a six-quart or larger capacity air fryer, one pound of green beans will fit in one batch, but for a smaller capacity air fryer, you may need to cook in two batches. Before cooking, check to see if the beans will lay flat into your air fryer—if needed, they can be halved crosswise.
  3. Serve it simply, or dress it up. While lightly charred air-fryer green beans are fantastic with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and the olive oil it’s cooked in, there are many great ways to incorporate more flavor. The green beans can be tossed with lemon zest right after cooking and topped with some shaved Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or tossed with red curry-infused ghee. See the Variations section below the recipe for more ideas on dressing up your air-fryer green beans.

Preheat a 6-quart air fryer to 400°F (205ºC) for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss green beans with oil, salt, and pepper to evenly coat. Pour green beans into preheated air-fryer basket and cook until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Tossing green beans with oil and placing in an air fryer
Serious Eats / Morgan Hunt Glaze
  1. Remove basket from air fryer and shake to toss green beans. Return basket to air fryer and continue to cook until crisp-tender and charred in spots, about 2 more minutes. Transfer green beans to a serving platter or individual plates and serve.
An air fryer with green beans (raw and cooked)
Serious Eats / Morgan Hunt Glaze

Variations

  • Lemon-Parmesan: Tos air fried green beans with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest and top with 1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve with lemon wedges.
  • Red Curry-Cashew: In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave 1 tablespoon ghee and 1 teaspoon Thai red curry powder on medium-high heat (70% power) until melted, hot, and fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Toss the raw green beans with the curry-ghee mixture before transferring to the preheated air fryer basket. Air fry as directed. Top with 2 tablespoons (10 g) chopped roasted, salted cashews.
  • Gruyère-Fried Shallot: In a small nonstick skillet, sprinkle 1 ounce (28g) shredded cave-aged gruyère evenly and cook over low heat, undisturbed, until golden brown and starting to crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let sit for 1 minute. Chop and sprinkle over air fried green beans. Top with 2 teaspoons fried shallots.
  • Kewpie-Furikake: Toss cooked green beans with 1 tablespoon Kewpie or other store-bought or homemade Japanese-style mayonnaise and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon furikake before serving. 

Special Equipment

6-quart air fryer

Make Ahead and Storage

Cooked green beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.