Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake (+ a Gluten-Free Version)

Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free Version included) | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Recently I stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some stinky cheese and taste-test all their gluten-free crackers, for research. On the way to the cheese counter these velvety little apricots shouted across the room at me and I was powerless over their beauty.

I am a little embarrassed to say that I wasn’t familiar with Black Velvet Apricots, which have the deep color of plums, the lusciously soft skin of a peach and the glorious flavor of an apricot. What will nature think of next? I have seen them in other stores recently, but none are as deep in color or as juicy as the ones Whole Foods is sourcing. These came from California, because nothing this gorgeous, ripe and flavorful is being grown locally, yet. The growing season here in Minnesota is just in its first days. Maybe come August we’ll be plucking fruit from trees.

I am not gluten-free, as you may have guessed from the content of this blog, but I am doing more and more gluten free baking. I have several friends who are celiac or have gluten sensitivities, so I’ve been experimenting with making tasty treats for them. I dove into the mysterious world of gluten free baking when we decided to add gluten-free breads to our books. As a baker it was like being blind folded and set into a pantry of products I’d never used before. Just the kind of challenge I love.

Once the terror subsided I realized this stuff can be just as easy and tasty as baking with wheat. I have been passing off breads, cakes, cookies and more to my family, none of whom need to eat a gluten-free diet. If they can’t tell the difference, then I know I’ve got this down, because they are super critical of everything I make. I’ve spoiled them.

The cake is inspired by one of my favorite pastry chefs, Karen DeMasco. The upside-down cake is a classic for good reason, but she has made it even richer with almond flour and lots of brown sugar. I’ve made some changes to her recipe, but the essence is still hers. This is one of the few recipes I’ve made, so far, that is an easy switch from gluten full to gluten-free, in fact it is exactly the same recipe. I used the Thomas Keller product Cup 4 Cup All-purpose Flour for this cake. I really like this product for this cake, but find it doesn’t work so well in many of my bread recipes. The only problem with this flour is the price, but it is worth it for something so delicious and you could never buy this cake for so little money. This is how I justify it to myself.

Black Velvet Apricots | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake

inspired by a cake from Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking.

The caramel for the pan:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed tight

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup heavy cream

Pinch salt

10 Black Velvet Apricots – if you can find the Black Velvet variety you will have this rich colored cake. If you find the more traditional apricots, the cake will still be delicious, but lighter in color. You can also use peaches, plums or other stone fruit. Actually, I’ve made this cake with pineapple, cherries, mixed berries and anything else I have a craving for.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (for Gluten-Free version, substitute Cup 4 Cup gluten free all-purpose flour)

1 cup almond flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 yolk

To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F

Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan and line with a buttered piece of parchment. I lined the pan with a big sheet of parchment, because it prevents all the tasty bits at the bottom from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Black Velvet Apricots in a square pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To make the caramel for the bottom of the pan, heat the sugar, butter, heavy cream and salt over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Pour the caramel in the parchment lined pan. Halve and pit the apricots and place them in the caramel, cut side up.

Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free Version included) | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To make the cake:

In a bowl, sift together the flour, almond, baking powder, and salt.

In a mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until they are completely combined, repeat with each egg. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and mix on slow just until it is evenly combined. Spread the batter in the pan over the apricots. Put the pan on a baking sheet, just in case the caramel bubble over the top of the pan.

Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free Version included) | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Bake for about 45 to 55 minutes. This is one place I noticed a slight difference between the gluten full and gluten-free cakes,  the one with g-f flour seemed to take a bit longer to bake. Let the cake cool for about 5 minutes.

Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free Version included) | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Invert onto a serving platter.

Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free Version included) | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream or nothing at all.

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15 thoughts to “Black Velvet Apricot Upside Down Cake (+ a Gluten-Free Version)”

  1. I’ve never heard of a black velvet apricot! But now I totally want to go to Whole foods and pick some up. I’m always so hesitant to buy stone fruit in general because it’s so hard to know if it’s going to be good. But i suppose if it’s not as juicy as can be, it can always be baked into something delicious like this cake!

  2. I am so excited to see this recipe. I can’t wait to try it. My husband is celiac and I have been having a hard time with baking. I have also been using c4c flour which works well for me in some things, but not so well in bread products. What flour do you use when making bread and rolls? Are you doing a gluten free cookbook? Please, please.

  3. Oh, how I dearly love apricots which are in season here in northern CA. Last weekend it was a 6″ tarte tatin, tomorrow will definitely be this cake. The family felt the tarte was too foreign, lol, probably due to my French/English roots, and they’d love a cake, If there are leftovers it might refrigerate well unless the midnight snacker gets to it.

  4. You might want to check out the Trade Joe’s GF flour. Considering over all price of GF flour substitutes, this one is fairly inexpensive and LA Times recently did a baking comparison and it pretty much was comparable in results to the Cup 4 Cup. I am going to give this recipe a try using it this weekend.

    1. Thanks Linda,

      This is great to know, I will check it out. If you give it a try with the TJ flour, I’d love to know what you think.

      Cheers, Zoë

  5. I did not know black velvet apricots even existed! I’ve never seen any and I now wish I could come across some just so I can make this cake. I wonder if it would work as well with plums or would they be too juicy/wet?

    1. Hi Needful Things,

      I must admit that it is comforting to know I wasn’t the only one who’d never heard of them. 😉 If you don’t find them, it should work just as well with plums. These apricots are pretty juicy!

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. Yum, what a fun take on upside down cakes. I make a vegan, gluten free strawberry pineapple upside down cake recipe but this on we will have to try:) Thanks for sharing!

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