Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}

Quince poached with vermouth or white wine, vanilla and Meyer lemon make a pretty pink topping for a moist cake kissed with fresh ginger. A gluten-free, gum-free recipe.

Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free} on cake plate

I have a hard time letting go of summer produce come Fall, but fun fruits such as quince and persimmons help ease the transition. Quince are a member of the pome family along with apples and pears, and they look like a knobby combination of the two. Their flesh is pithy and must undergo a long, slow cook to be rendered edible. When they do, their flesh turns a delightful shade of pink, and their mysterious flavors get teased out.

top down shot of quince

quince on cake tray

Pomes are part of the rose family, which makes sense given the floral notes inherent in a quince. Smell one raw, and your nose will be rewarded with a musky perfume. I like to accentuate quince’s flowery qualities, so here I paired it with vanilla, meyer lemon, and fresh ginger. Quince can work well with heavier spices, but I kept things light and bright for now, in accordance with our San Francisco Indian summer.

quince slices in pots

quince slices

Since quince can be a bit tough to handle, I like to do as little as possible to them when raw. A T-shaped vegetable peeler makes quick work of their skin. Then I simply lop each one in half, leaving in the seeds which add flavor, and simmer them in a not-too-sweet syrup until they’re tender, which takes the better part of two hours.


dry ingredients in pot

I’ve made the quince both with white wine (sauvignon blanc) and with a dry, white vermouth made locally by Sutton Cellars. Sutton Cellars vermouth is fortified with brandy and flavored with 17 botanicals, including orange, chamomile and rosemary. The quince made with this were nothing short of intoxicating. But the white wine version were nice, too, and they worked just fine in the cake.

ingredients mixed into pot

quince in pot

I had some Meyer lemons given to me by Sarah, and they, along with the vermouth, added beguiling flavor to the quince. In fact, one of my favorite parts was piling the candied peel on a cracker with goat cheese – heaven! (Note to self: make Meyer lemon and quince marmalade.)

cake batter in tin

Here are some other uses for this odd fruit that I’m dreaming of:

-Poached, chopped, and mixed with apples in a pie or crisp
-Cooked down into the Spanish fruit paste called membrillo, and served with manchego cheese
-Poached, chopped, and suspended in a fritter batter, fried, and dredged in cardamom sugar
-Simmered with citrus fruits into a fragrant marmalade
-Cooked into a chunky jam to eat with yogurt, or bake into a jam tart or crumble bars

-Deborah Madison has several recipes in her book Local Flavors that I’ve been meaning to try, including a savory-sweet goat cheese tart with walnuts, and a quince mince pie

pastry brush on cake

This cake is a pretty straightforward way to get a quince fix. Look for these unusual fruits at farmers markets or specialty stores. I found some both at the Berkeley Tuesday market and at our awesome co-op.

side shot of Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}

slice of delicious Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}

What do you like to do with quince? Please let me know in the comments below, with links if you’ve got ’em!

slice of Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}

More Quince Recipes:

*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram,  Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this gluten-free quince upside down cake recipe, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and rating below, and tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet  and  #bojongourmet.*

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Ginger, Vanilla+ Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}

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Quince poached with vermouth or white wine, vanilla and Meyer lemon make a pretty pink topping for a moist cake kissed with fresh ginger.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total: 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10 servings (makes one 8 or 9" round cake)


For the quince:

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 small (or 1/2 a large)lemon (preferably Meyer)
  • 4 cups water, plus more as needed (950 mL)
  • 1 cup dry white vermouth, white wine, or Lillet (235 mL)
  • 1/2 cup organic blonde cane sugar (3.5 ounces / 100 grams)
  • 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 pounds quince (3 large or 6 small) (680-800 grams)

For the cake:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan (4 ounces / 115 grams)
  • 1/2 cup organic blonde cane sugar (3.5 ounces / 100 grams)
  • vanilla bean seeds (from above)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (1 ounce / 30 grams)
  • 1/2 cup sweet white rice flour (2.75 / 80 grams)
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour (2 ounces / 60 grams)
  • 1/2 cup millet flour (or sorghum, or brown rice) (2.5 ounces / 70 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (4 ounces / 115 grams)


Poach the quince:

  • Split the vanilla bean down the center and use the back of a knife to scrape away the seeds. Set the seeds aside to use in the cake, and place the pod in a large saucepan. Use a vegetable peeler (t-shaped works the besto pare away 5 strips of lemon peel and add them to the pot. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pot along with the water, vermouth or wine, and sugar. Bring the liquid to a boil while you prepare the quince.
  • Use a t-shaped vegetable peeler to pare away the skin of a quince. Cut it in half, leaving the seeds in, and add it to the pot. Continue with the remaining quince. Place a small, heat-proof plate over the quince to keep them submerged, cover partially with the lid of the pot, and adjust the flame to keep the liquid at a simmer. Cook until the quince are rosy and tender, about 1 1/2 hours, adding more water as needed to keep the quince submerged. When done, carefully remove the quince and let them drain, reserving the liquid (or let the quince cool in their juices if using later.) Core the quinces and cut them into 1/4" slices.
  • Return the poaching liquid to the saucepan and simmer until reduced by about half and bubbling thickly, about 10-20 minutes. Reserve.

Make the cake:

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º.
  • Shove a piece of parchment paper into an 8 or 9" round pan and trim the edges to rise 1" above the pan. Grease the bottom and sides with the 1 T of softened butter. Lay the quince slices, slightly overlapping, in concentric circles over the buttered parchment and set aside. If you have quince left over, chop them coarsely and set them aside to add to the batter. (I had about 1/2 a cup.)

Make the cake batter:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl fitted with your arm and a wooden spoon), combine the stick of butter, vanilla bean seeds, and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, then beat in the grated ginger.
  • Meanwhile, sift the sweet rice, oat, and millet flours with the baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.
  • With the mixer on low, stir half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Stir in the crème fraîche until just combined, then the rest of the flour, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Stir in the chopped quince, if using, and give the batter a final stir by hand to make sure it is well-combined.
  • Spread the batter over the quinces evenly.
  • Bake the cake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, or a with a few moist crumbs, 40-50 minutes. Let the cake cool completely, then invert onto a serving platter and peel away the parchment. If the reduced poaching liquid has solidified, warm it in a small saucepan until liquid. Brush some of this glaze over the top of the cake. Serve the cake at room temperature. I like it with a flowery tea, such as Darjeeling. Extras will keep at room temperature for a day or two, or in the refrigerator for a few days.


The ginger here adds a subtle, floral warmth that accentuates the quince. For an extra-gingery version, try adding a few tablespoons of finely chopped candied ginger to the batter (decreasing the sugar a bit if you like).
If making this for highly sensitive gluten-intolerant folks, be sure to seek out certified gluten-free ingredients, particularly oat flour (which you can also grind from gluten-free oats). If gluten isn't an issue, feel free to try this with all-purpose wheat flour, or other flours of your liking such as rye or barley. I haven't tried this with gluten-free all-purpose blends, but King Arthur and Cup 4 Cup are probably good bets if you'd prefer that route.
I especially liked the quince that I cooked with Sutton Cellar's dry white vermouth, but the ones made with sauvignon blanc were also excellent; I think Lillet would be lovely, as well. The alcohol all cooks off, but you could also leave it out if you preferred, using extra water or fruit juice instead.
This cake is a little bit fussy, so here are a few tips to ensure success:
-Be sure to grease the parchment paper, otherwise the quince may stick to it, making it difficult to remove and marring the surface of the cake.
-Don't overwork the batter, lest it become gummy from the sweet rice flour.
-Let the cake cool before turning it out. This allows the cake time to gain structure, keeping it fluffy when inverted.
Nutritional values are based on one of eight servings.


Calories: 473kcal | Carbohydrates: 75g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 191mg | Potassium: 578mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 575IU | Vitamin C: 34.9mg | Calcium: 100mg | Iron: 2.3mg
Making this? I'd love to see!Tag your snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet!

More Gluten-Free Cake Recipes:

sliced Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}

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56 thoughts on “Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}”

  1. First! Oh, sorry that's a holdover from the PDub days ;) Beautiful.. and as I am heading out grocery shopping may look for some quince. I owe my neighbors a housewarming gift anyway…

  2. Quinces are common in Middle Eastern and Mizrahi Jewish cooking, and I am a big fan of their floral scent and the texture that they beautifully maintain, no matter what prep you subject them to. I cook them into a thick, chunky jam, as you've mentioned, but I would be happy to try this beautiful, rosey cake as well. Now, I will scour the Montreal farmers' markets in search of quince! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. This cake turned out even prettier than I imagined. It was such a joy to watch the ease with which you made and photographed this cake. Next year when our quince tree actually has fruit, I'll be sure to send you a bag with your meyer lemons.

  4. i don't even think i've ever seen a quince in person! you've got me so curious. i love meyer lemon and the pairing of lemon + vanilla is one of my favorites. this quincey cake is so lovely.

    ohh and that membrillo sounds incredible!

  5. I love fruity cakes. I need that moistness. The top reminds me of fish scales. It looks so beautiful. I'm not sure where I'm going to get hold of the quinces but I definitely want to give this a go.

  6. I still have 3 quinces waiting for their destiny in a bowl on my living room table. Originally, I planned to make a small batch of membrillo but now I'm debating with myself whether I should make this cake instead… What a lovely post, Alanna! Very helpful notes on quinces and great ideas on how to use them. I'm new to this odd fruit as they're not very often sold here in Scandinavia (the quinces I have are from my recent trip to Munich) but would love to get to know them better!

  7. I love the winner of the giveaway's story about butternut! So memory evoking. Very cool. This upside down cake sounds amazing, every part of it. We aren't able to get our hands on quince very often in Minnesota, but if I do, I will be trying this. xo

  8. What a lovely cake! It looks like it has such a great texture, I'm so impressed :) I've never tried quince but noticed some at the shop the other day – I may need to pop back in to pick some up because your description makes them sound irresistible!

  9. What a beautiful cake, love the pink color of the poached quince, and the pictures of the raw quince – amazing, as usual! I just started experimenting with them and ended up with a savoury tart – luckily the quince were much easier to work with than I thought…

  10. I have to agree with many of the previous comments, I don't only adore the recipes you post but the photography and food styling is simply great. Congrats


  11. Love all your beautiful shots as always, Alanna and even more so for your cake. My father-in-law loves pineapple version, but I think he will like yours even more if only I could do it as pretty as yours. Oh well :P

    Miss you & SF.

    1. That's so funny because this quince variety is called pineapple quince! They have a very tropical scent. So he'd probably like this version, too. When are you coming back?!

  12. What a beauty of a cake and I love your enthusiasm for quince; it's such a sadly underused fruit I find. I normally just have it poached or roasted with yoghurt but this is such an inspiration to find new ways to cook and bake with it. The flavours in this are just spot on.

    1. Thanks so much Kathryn – I'm glad you understand. I made some compote with my leftover quince and I'll have to try adding it to yogurt – brilliant.

  13. Hello ♡
    What a beautiful cake !
    I love quince, even if there aren't well known in France.
    One of my favorite recipe to eat them is in a crumble (here is the recipe I made 3 years ago : )
    The crumble is vegan (coconut oil, coconut sugar & rice flour), and the quince are cooked just as you did in this recipe (I just added some vanilla pod ♥).
    Have a beautiful week-end Alanna

  14. Hi Alanna, hope you are doing great! I cant wait to try awesome and drooling deliciously looking from your book, I had a question, which millet flour should i take! Pearl millet or finger millet? Thanks!
    With love,

      1. Oh! Okey, Actually I got a bitter aftertaste when I used finger millet flour, so I realized I might be experimenting with a wrong one! will try out with other options, as u suggested! 😘 Thank you for this, Alanna! ❤

        1. Interesting! Bob’s millet flour does have a bit of a bitter aftertaste, too, which is why I always blend it with sweeter flours. Let me know what you end up trying!

  15. Hi Alanna, hope you are doing great! I cant wait to try awesome and drooling deliciously looking desserts from your book, I had a question, which millet flour should i take! Pearl millet or finger millet? Thanks!
    With love,

  16. I found a recipe for Dulce de Membrillo. And then it goes into Pasta frola crust with raspberry jam and bits of pineapple to become “Pasta Frola de Dulce de Membrillo Quince Tart Recipe.” It’s on a site called ‘the spruce.’ The only recipe I can find for quince with no sugar is a mix into apple sauce. The tart would be fantastic for a party.