A Plum Good Recipe, You Shouldn’t Miss
This post written by our resident Farm Foodie – Debra Dubief
It happened again! Italian plum season nearly came and went while I was greedily sucking down juicy summer peaches and nectarines while I still could. I tend to ignore the late September plums because embracing them means acknowledging fall, a season I truly enjoy, but always deny until my bare feet are freezing. I know I’m not alone, so let me tell you – trading in flip flops for boots is a whole lot more palatable with a warm slice of plum torte in your future. A dessert that won the hearts of so many it was published in the New York Times for somewhere around 13 times before the internet came along.
It wasn’t until last summer when I was reading reviews of the latest New York Times cookbook that I heard about this. And when I read it was the most requested recipe in the history of the Times and possibly the most often published, I was more than a little intrigued. This is a recipe that is so simple in both its ingredients and construction, had I run across it without seeing all the accolades I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But if this was good enough for the New York Times to reprint more than a dozen times, I figured there might just be something to it. Even though I had never made anything with plums except savory sauces, with so many readers gushing over this recipe I had to try it.
Once I made it, it was clear what all the fuss was about. Something pretty magical happened when the thick, not-too-sweet warm batter rose up to envelop tart plums which turned into delicious plum-jammy goodness. Sort of like a right-side-up upside-down cake. I wanted tell you about it immediately, but how could I? You see, shortly after I made this last fall, plum season came abruptly to an end. Even though it can be made with other fruits, I couldn’t bring myself to introduce you to anything but the original recipe. And so I’ve waited, very patiently, for the return of Italian plums so that I could rave about this torte when you could actually still buy them. Though you can use any dark purple plums, I think the oval Italian variety (often referred to as prunes) is truly the best.
This is a dessert you can decide to make if you have a spare 15 minutes and an hour near an oven. No kidding, the most time-consuming part is usually locating that spring form pan I stashed during some rare organizing binge. The batter is only a few ingredients that you’re likely to have on hand and comes together in one bowl then gets spooned into a pan and topped with those lovely plums.
And about those plums…the season is fleeting. Trust me you should pick up some Italian plums and give this a try while you still can. In fact, save yourself some anguish and just get enough plums for two because once the first one disappears, you will need another.
Below is my adaptation of Marian Burros’ now famous recipe. I always make a 10-inch cake so that I can freeze half for another time, but so far there is never anything left for freezing. After trying the original I felt the spices could use a bit more punch, so I added cardamom and ginger.
Adapted from a recipe by Marian Burros
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (freshly ground if possible)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
10-12 dark purple plums, halved and pitted
1-2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar combined with 3/4 teaspoon each ground ginger and cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 10-inch spring form pan. Cream the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl. Use the paddle attachment if using a standing mixer. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom in a separate bowl. Add eggs and flour mixture to mixing bowl and beat well.
Spoon the batter into buttered pan and spread evenly over bottom. Cover the batter with plum halves, skin side up. (Don’t worry if you don’t have quite enough to cover the batter completely.) Sprinkle with one to two teaspoons fresh lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit, then sprinkle with sugar and spice mixture.
Bake approximately one hour, be sure to test for doneness by inserting a toothpick, it should come out clean. Depending on how juicy your fruit is, baking time can range from 50 to 75 minutes. Remove and cool.
Serve with whipped or ice cream.