September 2, 2009

Super Moist Plum Cake


September means back to school, which for me signifies a return to my grand diplome course. No, I didn’t forget about it, but truth be told, I’ve been hung up on the cake lesson. Who in their right mind, without a birthday to commemorate, wants to bake something like this on a hot summer day?

The September issue of Everyday Food with its recipe for a plum cake, however, got me in the mood. There is just something about plum cake that seems to have a hold on people’s psyche. Just the words sound anachronistic to my ears, like an antique baking tradition in which brunettes with twin braids in long, calico dresses carry hot baked goods to the prarie neighbors after picking the last of the season’s plums. Or something.

Whatever the connotations, there is an undeniable bit of cozy magic at work. Because everyone I mentioned this to got a dreamy, far-off look in their eye, remembering plum cakes of days gone by. Meanwhile, I had never had one in my life. Plum tarts — sure — but not a cake. And even still, there was something so dear about just the idea of it, like a treat Mama Bear would pull out of the oven to serve with a tiny china cup filled with weak, milky tea.

I served it instead to the man I’m going to marry in 52 short days, dusted with powdered sugar, and chased with a small glass of whiskey (it had been a rough day). The reviews were raves, and the wedding’s still on.


Plum Cake
from Everyday Food
Serves 8-10

I’m posting the recipe as it was originally published in the magazine, but here are the modifications I made: I subbed in whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the all-purpose; I forgot to buy a lemon at the store, so I missed out on the whole “lemony” party; I didn’t have sour cream so I used creme fraiche instead. One last point: the cake itself is so delicious, I think it would make an excellent backdrop for the seasonal fruits coming down the bend, like apples and pears.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup sour cream
3 plums, halved, pitted, and cut into eights
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375. Butter an 8-inch cake pan and line bottom with a round of parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter ans sugars until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated; beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Beat in 1/2 the flour mixtures, then sour cream. Add remaining flour mixture; mix until just combined.

Spread batter into pan and smooth top with a knife. In a bowl, toss plums with 2 tablespoons flour and arrange over batter.

Bake until cake is golden, about 30 minutes; loosely tent with foil and bake until cake pulls away from side of pan and a cake tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes more (Note: I found the cake only needed an additional 10-20 minutes). Let cake cool completely in pan. Run knife around cake edge and remove cake from pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

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  • Maria: Glorious.

    I was wondering what to do with my glut of plums from last night’s market. And these ones are so pretty: still dusty from the vine and oblong, with the occasional leaf still attached. Yummy out of hand, but so much better with heat, jammy and sweeter.

    I imagine with a bit of spice – a scant grate of nutmeg and some allspice – this cake would be lovely into the early fall, too.5 years ago

  • Lisa (dinner party): Do you still have a very stale slice of this lying around somewhere for me? If so, I would like to claim it.

    (Also, 52 days!!)5 years ago

  • Sara Rose: OH MY GOODNESS THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! Nolan brought me seriously 80 plums from his parents’ farm this week and I’m not the greatest at making jams. I mean, I can and have but I’m not set up to do canning right now and dont necessarily enjoy it. ANYWAYS, I made plum crisp and sent it to Eva’s teachers at her preschool this week (first week of school!!!), and have put them in salads, etc., but am still faced with 40 plums. SO THANK YOU!!!! This will be my project tomorrow! YAY!5 years ago

  • Karen: My grandma made a delicious plum cake. Seeing this recipe brings back wonderful memories of time spent with my grandma. Thanks for posting the recipe…. I will give it a try!5 years ago

  • Maria, You had me swooning over your plums! And “jammy” is a word I don’t use nearly enough.

    Lisa, The last slice of it went in the garbage last week. But I have to say: it made a very good breakfast. :)

    Sara Rose, You are hilarious, and as usual we have some soul sister cosmic connection. I hope someday I’m the kind of mom who sends plum crisp to school.

    Karen, See, plum cake is magic! So glad to have been able to remind you of happy, cozy times.5 years ago

  • Erin: Oh, how pretty. Thanks for the heads up on this lovely recipe. Instead of whiskey, I think I may try pairing it with an Oktoberfest-style beer — kinda bitter, but dark. Tis the season, ya know!5 years ago

  • Perfect!5 years ago

  • love,gidget: Looks Delish!5 years ago

  • domestikate: Ooh yum, this looks lovely! It is the perfect time of year for plums. Although I’m like you, I’ve never had a plum cake in my life!5 years ago

  • Evon T.: I’ve never had the pleasure of trying plum cake, but the photo accompanying this wonderful, do-able recipe makes my mouth water. Don’t you just love Everyday Food? I’m going to try this for me and the fiance, and already looking forward to a slice of it for breakfast with coffee in my new, sunny kitchen.5 years ago

  • Evon T., Wow. A new sunny kitchen, a fiance, and a plum cake on the way? Sounds like you’ve got it made!5 years ago

  • beth: i love that imagery of the calico and the braids. and you’re right — this does sound like something caddie woodlawn would get impatient over while waiting for it to cool.5 years ago

  • Kristina: I’m about to bring one of these (glorious) confections to my neighbors. I’ve got no calico dresses, but I just might wear my (brunette) hair in twin braids. Thanks for the great recipe; my house smells divine.5 years ago

  • Erika: I made this cake over the weekend, and it was delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe…5 years ago

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A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.
- Elsa Schiaparelli