Blackberry-Plum Tiara Pound Cake

by Tané Tachyon on September 16, 2013


blackberry-plum tiara pound cakeA lot of people here in Santa Cruz have plum trees, and although it varies from tree to tree which particular week during the summer suddenly their hundreds if not thousands of plums all become ripe at once, once it happens then there is a race against time to make huge batches of jam or otherwise put them to good use before your yard starts to smell like wine from all the plums that have fallen off the tree and fermented in the sun. (There’s a group “The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project” you can enlist to harvest and share your surplus fruit instead of letting it go to waste, and Fairytale Farm even offers classes in “what to do with the 100s of plums that just became ripe”.)

I haven’t tried making plum jam yet, but I’ve definitely been a member of the “plum baked goods of the day club”, cranking out the plum muffins, cakes, pies, cobblers, crisps, and clafouti in an attempt to keep up with all the plums. This summer’s plum crop lasted pretty much until the end of August, when I picked most of the remaining not-too-far-gone plums for the cake shown above.

And blackberries grow wild all over coastal California and the Pacific Northwest — it really is yet another wonderful part of summers here that I can just walk out the door and pick a bunch of nice, fresh berries, without ever having planted any in the first place or even having done anything to care for them.

olallieberry-mascarpone cakeTo explain the “Tiara” part, well, back in the ’70’s Duncan Hines put out a “Tiara Desserts” line of cake mixes, to be baked in co-branded Baker’s Secret torte/tart/ flan- style “Tiara Pans” for making cakes that — when you flip them over, and as shown in these photos — have a flat top with a lip around it for loading up with your filling or topping of choice. With the cake mixes, this would be a can of pie filling or some mousse/ pudding, but this form factor of cake also makes a great base for fresh fruit, as with this olallieberry-mascarpone cake I made a while back.

I got my tiara pan at a garage sale, but you can also find plenty of tiara pans on eBay, or for that matter you could just get a torte, tart, or flan pan (as long as you make sure it’s one that has the lip — not all of them do — rather than just a completely-flat bottom).

I like to use a pound cake recipe as the tiara cake base:

  • Pound cake is a sturdy cake that holds up well to being heaped up with fruit, and being cut and served in slices that keep their shape rather than falling over or crumbling into pieces.
  • Pound cake is a very fool/fail-proof cake, that rises well and comes out perfectly in pretty much any type of pan.
  • Pound cake is very amenable to having all sorts of extras added to the batter, for example extracts, grated citrus peel, chocolate chips, and/or chopped nuts.

However, when looking at the tiara pan and how shallow it was, I couldn’t remember whether I had used a whole pound cake recipe (“whole” here referring to loaf-pan pound cake size, as opposed to a tube pan or other larger pan) or divided the recipe in half the last time I had baked with the tiara pan. (Yes, that is a reason to write these kinds of things up on your food blog.) I started to set out the ingredients, and realized that I only had enough flour in the house for half a recipe anyway, so the die was cast, as it were.

If you look at the two cake photos above, even though I didn’t take them at the same angle, you can see that the cake part of the second cake is quite a bit taller than it is on the first cake, and therefore I had previously been using the whole recipe, and that’s what I’m going to feature in the recipe below. If you do want less cake with your fruit, you can go ahead and divide the cake part of the recipe back in half, but only if you’re using an actual tiara pan or one very close in size — 9 inches at the narrow end of the flare and 10 inches at the wide end. If you’re using, for example, an 11-inch flan pan, then you should use the whole cake recipe so as to have a sufficient amount of batter for the larger pan.

I could have just sliced the plums directly onto the cake, but I wanted to cook them a little first so that they would be a bit softer, plus have their own glaze for a pretty presentation where they would hold together instead of just falling off when you’re slicing the cake.

Blackberry-Plum Tiara Pound Cake

A great summer cake, with plums and blackberries from the garden.

Cake ingredients

  • 1 cup of butter (also known as two sticks or a half pound)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • any other flavorings that you would enjoy with the fruit, for example a teaspoon of cinnamon, lemon extract, or grated orange peel — personally for this recipe I just cooked such things with the plums, but you could certainly add them to the cake as well if you like
  • 4 eggs (I always use extra-large eggs for baking)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder

Topping ingredients

  • sliced plums (don’t bother peeling them) sufficient to fill the top of the cake — our tree’s plums are small enough that I used thirty, and cut them into quarters while removing the pits, but forty would probably have been even better
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons of cornstarch or arrowroot flour
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • again, any more spices or grated citrus peel that you would enjoy with the fruit
  • a bowl or basket of blackberries


  1. Cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and any other desired flavoring ingredients, such as cinnamon or grated lemon peel, in a large mixer bowl or other large bowl. I use a Kitchenaid mixer to, um, whip it, whip it good, in its big mixing bowl, but I certainly made a lot of cakes just using arm power before I got it.
  2. Cream in the four eggs, adding them one at a time.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl, and thoroughly mix everything together.
  4. Spoon and spread the pound cake batter evenly around into your greased tiara or torte/tart/flan pan, and bake it in a preheated 350° oven, setting the timer for 25 minutes and then checking it every few minutes until it tests done.
  5. Put the sliced plums, sugar, cornstarch or arrowroot flour, cinnamon, and any other desired spices or grated citrus peel into a saucepan, and stir over medium heat until the plums are a little tender and the resulting liquid has thickened into a nice glaze.
  6. Place a platter upside down on top of the cake in its pan, flip them both over while holding them tightly together, and lift the pan off the cake so that the “lip” side is on top waiting to be filled.
  7. Spoon and spread the plum filling/topping evenly around inside the “lip” of the cake.
  8. Artistically place the blackberries one at a time all over the top of the plums (they will stick to the glaze nicely).
  9. Slice the cake as desired (if you were me you would cut it into eight slices), and serve with or without scoops of ice cream.

updated November 29, 2013


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Christopher February 27, 2015 at 8:02 am

I love this! Thank you for posting a terrific Tiara desserts pan recipe. I’ve been struggling with figuring the right proportions of a batter. I made your recipe and it was delicious.

One minor thing of note… the Tiara dessert pans came out in the 80s, not the 70s. I remember because I think I was one of the first to get them. I ran across one at a thrift store a year or so ago and making one has been on my to-do list since! :)


Tané Tachyon March 3, 2015 at 9:58 pm

You’re welcome, I’m really glad you enjoyed it!

I was thinking 1970’s, because I think my mother had one that I used prior to my moving to California in early 1981, but certainly that could still be true if she had gotten it in 1980.


Sandye November 16, 2018 at 4:37 am

How do you prepare tiara pan for baking chocolate cake. I have the original type tiara pan.
Originally Tiara pan was attached to a Duncan Hines Choc cake with recipe for a Black Forest cake using cherry pie filling.
Incidently I use pan to bake 2# meatloaf
Any fat from meatloaf flows into the “moat”


Jon July 7, 2019 at 8:25 am

The pans definitely came out in 1987. I know this for a fact as my Sister worked for Proctor and Gamble who owned the Duncan Hines product division and she invented the whole “Tiara Desserts” line they had which included several mixes. The reason it was not as successful as it could have been was because the supplier of the pans did not get them to the stores in time for the product launch and so no one knew what to do with the mix because they couldn’t find the pan in stores which was supposed to come free with the purchase of the mix. It eventually was available but not until after significant damage having been done to the product’s potential success and the whole line was soon dropped by Duncan Hines due to poor sales. Hence, we enjoy many scrapped ideas for the pan that Duncan Hines considered and invented but never marketed.


Jon July 7, 2019 at 8:32 am

The Tiara style pan may have been in existence prior to 1987 and other manufacturers made similar pans, but the ones with the Duncan Hines and Bakers Secret (manufacturer of the pans) logos on them were the official pans that were coordinated with the “Tiara Desserts” product launch. Coincidentally, I have two of the pans, One with the embossed writing and another with no markings at all.

If one is interested in using the pans, any standard cake mix can be used, however it is too much for one pan so if you are making the cake, use two pans and divide the batter between them for less waste!


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