Cakes, stone fruit

A Storied Plum Cake


A good orchardist knows the plum varieties in their orchard, but somewhere between the orchardist and the shop the name of the plum simply becomes ‘Plums $6.99’. I love any sort of plum and I love their names too but because I rely on the shop for identification I can never be sure I know what I’m talking about. What is a Mariposa at the shop up the hill is often a Satsuma at the shop down the hill.

The plums I used for this cake have a red, sweet flesh and could have been Mariposa, Elephant Heart, Dorrigo Blood or something else, but they were definitely blood plums. I’m sure you could use sweet yellow fleshed plums too but a splash of bloody red on a cake is always a good look.

I found the recipe to this cake on the Smitten Kitchen blog where you can read about the cake’s pedigree.  Smitten Kitchen recommends Italian Prune Plums which are also known as Empress Plums but I’ve never seen them here, unless they are cunningly disguised as a Damson or Sugarplum.

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder

Large pinch of salt

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 to 2 tablespoon (depending on sweetness of plums)

1/2 cup (115 grams or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon or tablespoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350°F, (or 180C). Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in colour. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl, then the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan, but if you’re worried, you can always lightly coat it first with butter or a nonstick spray, and smooth the top. (I also put a circle of baking paper on the base … just to head off disappointing breakages) 

Arrange the plums, (I squashed mine down into the batter a bit), skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then remaining sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a centre part of the cake comes out free of batter (but of course not plum juice), about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack.

(Really good as a next-day breakfast Italian style)