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  • Writer's pictureSibel

Clementine & Thyme Upside Down Cake (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

This clementine and thyme upside down cake is soaked in a thyme and orange blossom flavoured syrup, giving it a luscious taste and moist texture. This gluten-free citrusy dessert is surprisingly easy to make, so give this recipe a try while these delicious fruits are still in season.

fig, cardamom and semolina cake

I love making upside down cakes! There is something incredibly satisfying about turning the cake over and revealing the beautifully caramelised fruits on top. I was inspired by middle eastern style desserts while baking this cake, so I soaked the cake in a delicately flavoured syrup, which gave it a deliciously moist texture. If you like syrup-soaked desserts, then you’ll love this cake!

fig, cardamom and semolina cake

Why Make this Clementine & Thyme Upside Down Cake

  • This cake is quick and easy to make

  • Perfectly moist texture

  • Bursting with citrusy flavours

  • It’s completely vegan

  • It’s gluten-free

  • You won’t need any fancy baking equipment

fig, cardamom and semolina cake

Do I Need to Peel the Clementines?

As you can see from the photos, I left the peel on the clementines. The clementine peel is completely edible, albeit a little bitter tasting if eaten raw. I’ve thoroughly washed the clementine, thinly sliced them and first cooked them in the syrup then baked them, which basically caramelizes and candies the peel. If you’re going to leave the peel on, I’d recommend cooking them for long enough to make sure that the bitterness has completely gone. It’s a good idea to cook a few extra slices of clementine so you can taste them before adding the cake batter on top. If you prefer, you can peel the clementines first, and then slice them before you layer them onto the cake. The cake will taste the same, but it may not look as aesthetically pleasing.

Gluten-Free Flour

I’ve used a combination of blanched almond flour (ground almonds) and coconut flour to make the cake mix. Both flours are gluten-free, and they create a unique texture once baked. This cake will not be as spongy and fluffy as a cake made with all-purpose flour, instead it will have a deliciously moist and velvety texture, like Revani, which is a Turkish syrup-soaked cake. Another thing that is worth mentioning is that the coconut flour is very absorbent, so the batter will look more like a thick paste, so you will have to pat it down into the baking dish to make sure there aren’t any gaps.

fig, cardamom and semolina cake

How to Serve

This cake is delicious on its own, but why not try serving with a dollop of Greek-style vegan yoghurt or vegan ice cream. I usually serve mine with Greek-style vegan yogurt and it find the slight acidity and creaminess of the yogurt balances out the sweetness of the cake.

Ingredients for Clementine & Thyme Upside Down Cake

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this cake:

Clementine: You'll need 6-7 medium clementines. I've used the clementines with the skin on, but if you like, you can peel the skin.

Demerara Sugar: The Demerara sugar adds a delicious caramel taste to the syrup. If you don't have demerara sugar, you can use coconut sugar or soft dark brown sugar instead.

Thyme: A bit of thyme adds a delicious depth of flavour to the syrup, but if you're not a fan of thyme you can omit this ingredient.

Orange Blossom water: A bit of orange blossom water will add a delicate floral aroma and taste to the cake. If you don't have orange blossom water, you can use vanilla extract instead.

Coconut Flour: Coconut flour is naturally gluten-free and gives the cake a moist texture once baked. Coconut flour tends be be really absorbent, so the batter will be thicker than a regular cake batter.

Ground Almonds: The ground almonds are what gives the cake a moist and light texture.

Tapioca starch: The tapioca starch gives the cake more structure and helps to bind the ingredients.

Baking Powder: Additional raising agents will lighten the texture of the cake.

Oil: I've used sunflower oil for this recipe, but any neutral tasting oil will do.

Sugar: Used to sweeten the cake. I wouldn’t recommend substituting the caster sugar with dark sugars or fruit syrups as they'll darken the colour of the cake.

Lemon Juice: A bit of lemon juice will help to activate the yeast.

Vegan yoghurt: I'd recommend using plain vegan yoghurt. The creaminess of the yoghurt helps to keep the cake moist, and the acidity helps to activate the baking powder, which gives the cake a lighter texture. If you don't have any vegan yoghurt at hand, you can substitute it with coconut cream.

fig, cardamom and semolina cake

Step-by-Step Instructions


Preheat the oven to 180ºC, 350ºF. Grease a 20cm (8 inch) round cake tin or baking dish and then line with baking paper.


Add the demerara sugar, thyme sprigs, 125ml water and the orange blossom water into a medium saucepan. Heat the syrup over a low heat, for 1-2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Finely slice the clementines and add the clementine slices to the syrup. Let the syrup simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it thickens slightly and the clementine slices have candied.


Use a slotted spoon to remove the clementine slices and arrange them in the prepared baking dish. Fish out the thyme spring and reserve the syrup in a jug.


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the caster sugar, coconut flour, almond flour, tapioca starch, baking powder and salt. Then add the oil, vegan yogurt, lemon juice, orange blossom water and vanilla extract, and beat until they form a smooth paste. Pat the cake mixture into the prepared dish and level the surface using a spatula.


Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes in the baking dish, then turn out, remove the baking paper, and generously brush the top with half the reserved clementine and thyme syrup. Enjoy warm or cold, with a big dollop of vegan yogurt and an extra drizzle of the remaining syrup.

Expert Tips

  • I’d recommend using the gram measurements, rather than the cup conversions. When it comes to baking, accuracy is key, and cups conversions are never as accurate as grams.

  • Make sure to cook the clementine slices until they’ve candied, or they’ll have a tough skin and bitter taste.

  • If the consistency syrup is too thick (this may happen if it’s left to cook for too long), then add a few tablespoons of hot water until you get the right consistency.

  • Make sure to let the cake cool down completely before pouring the syrup on top.

  • Make sure not to cover the cake after you’ve poured the warm syrup over it as it will create steam, which can make the cake soggy.

  • Let the cake cool down completely before slicing.

How to Store this Cake

Syrup-soaked desserts should not be stored in the refrigerator as they can become too firm and lose their texture. I would suggest storing this cake at room temperature, in an airtight container and away from direct sunlight. This cake keeps well for 4-5 , but it is best served fresh.

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