Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Plum Cake Redux

Does this look strangely unplummy? The plums are under there. They just sink a little.
Our cat-poop tree has finally decided to bear fruit.

This is a scrubby little diseased tree out front that has, in the 5 years we've lived here, only ever borne masses of turd-like fungus clumps and, occasionally, a single sad plum.

Where are all the cat poops? Oh, don't worry. There are still plenty.
Only this year it is laden. Or was, until we harvested every last plum--over 10 pounds in all. Mostly, I made jam.

But I was asked to save enough to make "at least two" plum cakes, and so I have.

This is a favorite, this recipe: "a dense, buttery cake dotted with sweet-tart plums that have gone silky in the oven." I'm quoting myself from 2008. It's is the first-ever recipe I ran, after I switched from gossiping about the children and their annoying habits of speech and mind, to gossiping about the strange and sometimes delicious ways that I choose to feed them.

I'm running it again because, well, it's not just that I'm trying to get all my old recipes over here, although that's part of it. But also because I've slipped a little wholegrain flour in this time around. You will love it. You will.

Plum Cake Redux
(adapted from the Original Plum Torte recipe published in the New York Times some time in the late 17th century)

The original NYT recipe calls for neither vanilla nor almond extract, but it asks you to sprinkle a teaspoon of cinnamon over the cake before baking, which I did for years, until I discovered that I wasn’t that crazy about the cinnamon. Did you make it in 2008, when I first ran it? Make it again with me, and swap in a little bit of spelt. Just a liiiiitttle of the whole-grain action. It is even better this way, I swear. Note: this is Ben's favorite cake of all the cakes.

1 stick butter (I use salted), softened
¾ cup sugar (plus 1 teaspoon)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup white flour
1/3 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
12 plums (more or less), halved and pitted
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 350.

Use an electric mixer (if you have one) to cream together the butter and sugar—or do this all by hand, which is fine. Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, and add the extracts too. Beat in the flours, which you’ve either sifted or whisked together with the baking powder and salt, and mix until the batter is well combined.

Now scrape the very stiff batter into your pan: I use a spring form pan that seems to be 9 ½ inches across, but you could butter and flour a regular cake pan and use that, need be. Use a rubber spatula to even it out; it will make a very shallow layer, and that’s fine.

Arrange the plum halves skin-side-up in a fancy concentric pattern around the cake. Or else willy-nilly, if you prefer. You will be tempted to put the cut side up because it looks prettier that way—but don’t. You want all that lovely plum flesh to bake its juicy way right into your cake. Now sprinkle the cake with a teaspoon of sugar and pop it in the oven to bake until it looks nice and brown and doesn’t jiggle anywhere when you, uh, jiggle it—the recipe says an hour, but mine is always done after 40 or 45 minutes; if your pan is smaller (and your batter therefore deeper) it may take a bit longer.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. 


  1. Oh, that's so Anne of Green Gables. I must find some plums and try it...although I'm destined for peaches this week. That might be a good twist...with a bit of ginger...

  2. I make this all the time. I love it best with plums but blueberries are pretty good too. If I ever make it for company, I am invariably asked for the recipe.

  3. Anonymous10:37 AM

    This is my favorite recipe! I'm glad you reposted. We also have a plum tree that doesn't bear fruit. Not even turds. --Cathy K

  4. Oh this makes me rue--RUE--that we let a tree guy remove our two similarly-fungusy plum trees when he was here to take down the branches of another tree threatening our roof. Maybe one year they too would have produced delicious, delicious plums! But we never gave them a chance! "Oh, fungus," we said. "Blick. Yes, go ahead." RUE.

  5. THANK YOU for getting your recipes over here. I searched for your Mexican Rice recipe the other day and the recipe over there is not the one from the original column. Very frustrating. And if the original columns that I can almost quote by heart follow along, well so be it. I'll never tell.

    My family loves this cake. We have made it so many times. The almond extract in it is just perfect.

  6. Anonymous2:51 PM

    We love this cake! I often use home grown blueberries since our plum tree only produces leaves. Thank you for slowly bringing your recipes over. I had trouble finding your lentil soup recipe and when I finally tracked it down I may have panicked...thus 5 copies of it in my recipe binder (filed under favorites, soup, veggie, and two tucked in the front, just in case). Sorry for the anonymous post, I couldn't remember my password. I'm mommyneedsanap.

  7. Wow. The long-time readers are *representing*! Love you guys so much. Swistle, it would be even better to have a tree that had no fungal cat poops. So, rest easy. And Nowhey: I know! I looked for the same recipe, and now there's one with my name on it, only with peas and corn, and it's not mine! Sigh. I hope people feel free to email if they can't find what they're looking for. . . xo

  8. Allyson3:08 PM

    Catherine, I remember reading the recipe the day you posted it, and I'd been reading your blog(s) for six years by then. How did so much time go by?? Also, when choosing eggs, I hope you'll consider a trip to Denmark to purchase these:
    I know Birdy will be so pleased. ;-)

  9. dale in denver5:30 PM

    I remember how sad I was that you were no longer going to be writing about your kids. But then you changed the focus to food and my disappointment was short lived. I'm easily pleased when food is involved. We made this recipe many times - leaving out the almond extract, adding in the cinnamon sprinkle - because that suits my tastes better. Sadly, now that we have a celiac dianosis, I haven't had much time to play with converting "my" old recipes to gluten-free. Instead I decided it best to just forge ahead with a new set of tried and tested recipes than to suffer the disappointments of converting our old favorites and the results not being quite right.

    Beans in brownies are going over great in our house these days, so why try to make happy children happier?

  10. I DID make this recipe the first time around and it was delicious. (I also skipped the cinnamon). Thanks for the reminder to make it again!

  11. Man, you guys are all like "Cake! We're baking awesome cake from our awesome trees" and I'm like, have you noticed that fall is here and kids are doing school, and sports, and all of those other annoying things they love, and we're commuting, and bedtime has gone to hell, and I only see my husband to high five while we swap kids, and along with bedtime-never-ending the little ones decide it's time to get up at buttcrack early every freaking morning... am I the only one here? I NEED cake, but I can't fathom MAKING one right now. SIGH. I'll chuck this in the bin for when-they-are-older and continue on my coffee addiction I suppose.

  12. I am disappointed you didn't post pictures of the cat-poops. I can't believe you have a plum tree! It doesn't get cold enough here for most fruit trees. Also, I've never seen those long purple plums in our stores. We have black ones that are rounded and then reddish-yellow ones, also round. I've made this cake numerous times before, and it's the only reason I begged for a spring form pan. Thanks for reposting and bringing your recipes here. I tried to start pdf-ing all of them a while back but got bogged down with other stuff. Your lentil soup? With the balsamic drizzle to finish it off? It's a favorite here.

  13. Anonymous12:47 AM

    1. I just made this last week, with the cardamom sprinkle you recommended last time. But I can never remember to sprinkle things at the last minute, so I just added the cardamom with the flour, and it was fine.

    2. Older fruit trees come in male/female pairs. If there isn't a male in your vicinity, that might be why you weren't getting fruit. My in-laws had this problem with an apricot tree in their yard. Once they figured it out, they used to have "a guy" come over once a year with a male branch and pollinate their tree instead of hoping for a happy accident. Tons of fruit after that.

  14. I have few cooking skills but I make this cake all the time! Strangely enough, I have never made it with plums which is weird because I live in Sarajevo where plum trees are plentiful. But I do make it with frozen cherries or a bag of mixed "forest berries" and it is delicious. (An experiment with peaches didn't go so well, however.) Everyone loves it and it has done much to help hide my lack of cooking skills from my in-laws! Plus, it is a great starter recipe for children. (My 8 year old son can pretty much make it by himself now.) Seeing it here again is like seeing an old friend!

  15. Anonymous4:08 PM

    Having a slice of this (made for the first time!)and glass of wine for supper. TGIF!
    Sarah in NS

  16. Smooches11:47 PM

    I just made your lovely lentil soup this week! My husband was wowed, he said This tastes 100 times better than it looks. :-) Thanks for being so awesome.

  17. adore you Catherine, but my weird aversion to strange holes makes this recipe a no go for me.

  18. My family loves this cake!! I have the plums to make it in my fridge right now. I can't wait to eat it after soccer practice tomorrow.

  19. This cake looks wonderful! Up until a week ago, I hadn't seen plums like that (the egg shaped purple ones) since I lived in Austria years ago. I came upon some at the grocery store last week though and bought a ton. Sadly, I ate them all before I saw this recipe. Hopefully the store will still have some (possibly unlikely since I'd never seen them carried in 8 years of shopping there) because I really want to make this cake. Yum yum yum!

  20. Anonymous2:12 AM

    Thanks for the reminder! I made it and it survived... erm... 2 hours! (with the old recipe). Delicious! Actually I only had one egg, because it turned out that the other one in the fridge was of dubious age - it floated with the egg-in-water-test - but you know what? This is such a great recipe that it even works with one egg ;) I just added a bit of milk to make up for the lost liquid.

  21. Anonymous2:20 AM

    Sorry - I'm not Anonymous at all, I'm Angela, but I have trouble with the captchca system! And SeeTryFly I hear you, I actually baked the cake in between fetching one child and fetching the other, whipping it out of the oven whilst wearing coat and shoes and running out of the door... and the bathroom? When did I last clean it?!? I just shut the door and hope nobody visits until I get round to it!

  22. Mary G.1:01 PM

    I'm so glad you reposted this recipe! I've been meaning to make it since you first posted it (2008??? Really?????) and I finally made it this morning. We're all drooling over the cake pan waiting for it to cool.

  23. Heather7:57 PM

    this is one of my favorite recipes. your delicious mexican rice would make a great repost-

  24. woow...cakes look so delicious.thanks for getting your recipes over here. i like to read your post about plum cake.Your cake appearance gorgeous!

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