Years ago, we made a plum cake using one of the zillion recipes we have on hand. Or maybe from one I found on online. Of course it was divine. Of course, I have no idea where the recipe is.
I tried various others, but they were never quite as good. This time I set out to make a plum cake and to simply forget about finding that recipe and just make one that I might like and that, by writing down the recipe, maybe I’d be able to recreate the next time. Given my iffy track record with cakes, this was either a worthy stretch or a really stupid idea.
Fortunately, I really do like this cake. And now I can make it again. ‘Cuz it’s written down right here. To give credit, it’s a bit of a mashup of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe with an Epicurious recipe, with my own modifications (less sugar, cardamom) thrown in for good measure. Best of all, it’s pretty fault tolerant. I know that because it initially went into the oven without my having added the milk. Which meant pulling it back out of the oven, hastily pulling off all the pretty plums, stirring in the milk, slopping only some of it all over the counter and floor, then putting the plums back on top and the whole mess back into the oven before the cake decided to go completely flat, gummy and/or revolting.
For me, a cake that can survive that and still come out well and showcase the yummy plums that are in the market right now, that’s a cake to remember and to make again.
1 pound sugarplums or fresh Italian prunes
2 Tbsp red currant or black currant jelly
2 Tbsp brandy
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
- Cut the prunes in half and remove the pits. Of course, you can use regular plums too – i just like the way the prunes look and fit in the pan.
- In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt the jam with brandy, then add the prunes and gently stir to coat. Cook until the jam is just thickening, maybe 4 minutes, then set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9” cake pan or springform pan.
- Cream the butter and sugar in a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and cardamom (don’t mix it in yet, just dump it on top of the sugar/butter).
- Beat the eggs in a small bowl, then whisk in the milk and vanilla and milk.
- Add the liquids to the bowl with your sugar and flour and mix until combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place the plum halves skin side down on top.
- Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes part (not through a plum) comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack. Top with powdered sugar if you want to get fancy with it.