Autumn has arrived! The farmers’ markets here in the Bay Area are going off. Plums are in season, and my boyfriend’s mom introduced me to this amazing rustic plum cake recipe. It’s great served at brunch, dessert or as an anytime snack, and is particularly fantastic served just 30 minutes out of the oven. (But what isn’t fabulous straight out of the oven, really.) Infusing the plums with the brandy and jam makes for a rich flavor, which pairs perfectly with the moist, yet somewhat crumby, sugary cake.
I saw some small plums at the Alemany Farmers Market, and bought them as I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find Italian prune plums. As it turns out, it really is plum season, and as soon as I was on the look-out, I began seeing Italian plums everywhere. I had already bought and prepared the first round of plums, but when I later saw the real deal Italian prune plums at the Glen Park farmers market, I decided I had to make two cakes, so I could try these out. It took serious will-power to resist buying a third variety of Italian plums I then subsequently saw at Canyon Market, which looked remarkably different (much smaller, more like cherries, and more red in color than the prune plums). I convinced myself a third cake was probably unnecessary. (Then again, if they’re still available next week…) I was intrigued by these smaller ones in part because you can also apparently use Bing Cherries in this recipe, and smaller is better because you can fit more on the cake. If you have larger plums, it’s probably a good idea to cut them into slices instead of leaving them whole. (I did not do this with the larger plums I had- they were probably a hair on the large side, and didn’t cook down quite as well.)
You can place the plums right on top of the cake batter, and then the cake puffs up around them. (Above- the cake on the right is actually the larger sized plums. Because there were fewer plums, the cake rose up even more around them.) Also, I reserved the extra juice / syrup from the plum preparation- would probably be tasty served over the cake as a drizzled sauce or possibly on ice cream later on? Mmmm… I’ve got a serious case of Plums-on-the-mind.
This recipe originates from Cooks Illustrated magazine, the July/August 2007 issue. I highly recommend it! In a nutshell- it rocks.
Rustic Plum Cake
Serves 6 to 8
2 Tablespoons red currant or seedless raspberry jam
3 Tablespoons brandy
1 pound (about 10 large or 14 small) Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk, room temperature
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used 2)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional- I did not include)
Confectioners’ sugar for serving, if desired
1. Cook jam and brandy in ~10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until reduced to thick syrup, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and place plums cut-side down in syrup. Return skillet to medium heat and cook until plums shed their juices and thick syrup is again formed, about 5 minutes, shaking pan to prevent plums from sticking. (If using larger sized plums, stir a few times along the way.) Cool plums in pan, about 20 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch springform pan. Process sugar and almonds in food processor until nuts are finely ground, about 1 minute. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract if using) and process until smooth, about 5 seconds, scraping the bowl once if needed (batter will be very thick and heavy).
3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Stir plums to coat with syrup. Arrange plum halves, skin-side down (oops, I did skin side up) evenly over surface of batter. Bake until cake is golden brown and wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Cool in pan on wire rack until just warm or to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve.
PS. I couldn’t help but notice that this cake looks amazingly reminiscent of one of my paintings from a few years back. ;)