The Recipe: A sturdy rustic cake with sweet Italian plums burrowed into a cardamom-sweet, citrus-scented rustic cake.
The Conversation: Waiting on plums from a backyard tree, learning to respect our global food system.
The concept of edible landscaping has captured my imagination: creating beautiful landscapes with food-bearing plants, shrubs and trees.
But it may be tricky, methinks, as learned while waiting for plums to ripen in a backyard tree. "Any day now," I'd hear. "You'd best get those plums before the birds get 'em." But how can a mere cook compete with birds that flutter amid the boughs, awaiting the exact second when the sun has kissed the fruit just long enough, when the sweet flesh will yield to a waiting
Finally, one lazy-perfect Sunday morning, I stretched into the fruit-burdened branches, checking the plums for ripeness. Many were upripe, unwilling to give way. Others collapsed in my hand, where, long past ripe, ewww, bugs had already taken up residence. Someplace in the center of the ripeness continuum were a handful of juicy, plump plums.
The experience gives me new respect for commercial fruit growers who deliver almost-ready fruit to our supermarkets. I'm as happy with 'locally grown' as the next person, but my goodness, the abundance and consistency of our food supply, it's quite something. When the two sides meet and cooperate, we who so love fresh food, we're going to be as happy as birds in a late-summer plum tree.
So, what about the plum cake?!
Isn't it gorgeous? The plum cake - 'dimply plum cake' - is a favorite recipe from my favorite baking cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I'm not alone in loving Dorie's plum cake, just check all the food bloggers who've made it too. But it's classic Kitchen Parade: a few ingredients, a straight-forward technique, slightly rustic, slightly spicy, barely sweet, supremely satisfying. The cake itself is reminiscent of the peach blueberry cake from a 2005 column. Someday this winter, I shall recapture lazy summer days by topping one or the other with sour cherries and rhubarb from the freezer. Plums may be gorgeous, but if the birds get to them first, find another fruit to enjoy!
DIMPLY PLUM CAKE
Time-to-table: 90 minutes
- 1-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 190g (see TIPS)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup oil (see TIPS)
- Grated citrus zest (see TIPS)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 10 - 18 Italian plums, halved and pits removed
Heat oven to 350F. Grease an eight- or nine-inch square pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each. Beat in the oil, zest and vanilla. Turn in the flour mixture and incorporate on low speed just until mixed. With a spatula, make sure all the flour is incorporated, then pour into the prepared pan.
Arrange the plums, cut-side up and at a slight angle, in diagonal rows. Once all the plums are in place, press each one gently to settle into the cake batter but do not submerge.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is honey-colored and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, slice and serve with Swedish Cream.
Flour: I'm converting to 100% white whole wheat flour, a whole grain flour that acts, mostly, like all-purpose. It worked beautifully here, so does all-purpose.
Oil: Dorie suggests a flavorless oil such as canola or safflower. To carry through the citrus, I used a beautiful lime olive oil from O Olive Oil.
Zest: Dorie suggests orange zest, I've used orange but also lime and lemon. All add brightness.
Storage: If the cake lasts more than a day, I'd recommend covering tightly and refrigerating. Dorie says the cake doesn't freeze well.
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