Dimply Plum Cake

Aiiii, this cake, this cake. It's the one simple, rustic cake I make, year after year, during the short window in late August and early September when Italian plums appear in the markets. It's sturdy, it's fruity, it's a cake to savor bite by bite. Me, I like to top those jammy plums burrowed in cardamon-scented cake with a dollop of Swedish Cream, that's whipped cream made with a touch of sour cream and cardamom.

Dimply Plum Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, a rustic cake topped with sweet Italian plums burrowed into a cardamom-sweet, citrus-scented batter.

Fresh & Seasonal, Perfect for a Late-Summer Sweet Treat. Beautiful Color! A Long-Time Family Favorite. Extra Welcome When "Supper's a Little Skimpy". Fun Picnic Food. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Potluck & Party Friendly.

  • "Dinner was great but your cake is spectacular. It won't last long." ~ One Happy Husband

Waiting On the Plums from the Backyard Tree

On My Mind: Beating the Birds to the Plums ♥ KitchenParade.com

The concept of edible landscaping has captured my imagination: creating beautiful backyard 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," my now-husband would warn. "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 bird beak human hand?

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 global food supply, it's quite something.

When the two sides – local and global – meet and cooperate, we who so love fresh food, we're going to be as happy as birds in a late-summer plum tree.

Dimply Plum Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, a rustic cake topped with sweet Italian plums burrowed into a cardamom-sweet, citrus-scented batter.

And So What About the Plum Cake?!

Isn't it gorgeous?

The plum cake – fondly dubbed the "dimply plum cake" – is a favorite recipe from my favorite baking cookbook circa 2008, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

I'm not alone in loving Dorie's plum cake, many food bloggers make it too.

But Dimply Plum Cake is classic Kitchen Parade: a few pantry ingredients, a straight-forward technique, slightly rustic, slightly spiced, barely sweet, supremely satisfying.

The cake itself is reminiscent of the wonderful Peach Blueberry Cake.

Someday this winter, I shall recapture lazy summer days by topping one cake or the other with sour cherries and rhubarb from the freezer.

Because plums may be gorgeous, but if the birds get to them first? Find another fruit to enjoy!

Fresh figs? Yes, I think fresh figs! Fresh apricots? Yes, I think fresh apricots!


Who's heard of cookbook author Dorie Greenspan? We have Dorie to thank for this summer cake, just sweet Italian plums burrowed into a cardamom-sweet, citrus-scented rustic cake.

  • Baking: From My Home to Yours by the beloved Dorie Greenspan is a real treasure, a compendium of approachable recipes for home baking. Dorie's recipes are super reliable, I love her work.
  • Desserts by Pierre Herme Once upon a time, I was on a conference call with Dorie, she's just as nice in real life as in her many cookbooks. On the call, I told her about buying the French-pastry cookbook she wrote with/for Pierre Herme. It's totally NOT home-cook friendly – all the recipes have multiple steps over multiple days. But it still infected me with the baking bug and made me a forever-fan of Dorie Greenspan. We shared a nice laugh over that ...

Just so you know, I personally select these items — and if you buy something through an Amazon link, Kitchen Parade may earn a small commission, no extra cost to you. Every bit helps, so thank you! My Disclosure Promise

Girl holding basket of plums, linked to recipes calling for plums and prunes (dried plums) ♥ KitchenParade.com.

What Are Italian Plums?

Like other plums, Italian plums are what we call "stone" fruits — just like other kinds of plums but also apricots, peaches, nectarines and cherries. (And, get this, almonds!) Don't get me wrong, you won't find "stones" or rocks inside summer fruit. You will find "pits," that's the seed in the center of the fruit.

The best way to identify Italian plums is by their appearance.

Early in the summer plum season, you'll find larger, plumper plums in a myriad of color, red, black, green, golden. These are NOT Italian plums. They are rounder and feel heavy in the hand. In the store, they often feel hard, that's because they're not quite ripe. (How to ripen plums? Put them in a paper bag and let rest at room temperature for a day or two or even more.)

Later in the season, in late August and maybe into early September, keep your eyes peeled for for smaller, slightly elongated plums with deep, dark purple skins. The color is similar to an eggplant but where an eggplant's skin is glossy, an Italian plum's skin is dark and dusky. These are Italian plums!

And now you know exactly what to make once you do find them! Dimply Plum Cake!

Other Names for Italian Plums

You might also see Italian plums called "prune plums" or "Damson" plums.

When You'll Find Italian Plums

One year, Facebook reminded me that I made a Dimply Plum Cake on the exact same day three years before! I had to laugh but really, it's no surprise.

That's because Italian plums, those small, dark, dusky and almost bruised-looking plums show up at the grocery store for just a couple of weeks in late August.

Blink! And you'll miss them. Wait? And a few days later they'll be gone.

Stock up! Italian plums freeze beautifully, just remove the pits and freeze in a solid mass so there's no air/space between the plums where ice crystals can form.

How do I know? Italian plums are a favorite filling for my family's fruit peroghies!

How to Cut into a Plum

If it's "freestone" plum, the fruit will easily separate from the pit, just cut it half from stem to stern in the crease, bypassing the pit. Twist one half of the plum, it'll probably easily release. Pull the pit from the other half. That's it.

If it's a "clingstone" plum, well, you'll have to fight the plum with a knife to remove the pit. Make the same vertical cut, twist to see what happens. Then just do the best you can to neatly remove the fruit from the pit.

Some times, if the pits are really entrenched, I cut a plum like a mango. Balance a plum upright on its base, the stem side up. Position the knife to one side of the stem end (not at the center, since the pit is inside, right in the middle) and slice straight down, bypassing the pit. Do the other side, you'll end up with two plum "cheeks". A mango is large enough to cut off the remaining flesh for "lips". A plum is small enough, it's probably not worth going for the lips too.

Dimply Plum Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, a rustic cake topped with sweet Italian plums burrowed into a cardamom-sweet, citrus-scented batter.

What's In a Dimply Plum Cake? Mostly Pantry Ingredients! (Except Those Pesky Plums)

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. Usually I'm a big fan of substitutes, in this case, I recommend sticking with the recipe, it just works.

  • Two Kinds of Fat This cake calls for both butter and a neutral oil like vegetable oil.
  • Sweetness Brown sugar is used in the cake batter and gives this cake a slight touch of molasses. So good! I also sprinkle a little raw sugar across the top just before the cake goes in the oven.
  • Eggs Just two large eggs, that's it.
  • The Usual Dry Ingredients You've got all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt, right?
  • Extra Oomph All three are important, grated citrus zest, vanilla and most importantly, ground cardamon.
  • Italian Plums It takes about a pound of plums to cover the top of an 8x8 or 9x9 cake pan.
Dimply Plum Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, a rustic cake topped with sweet Italian plums burrowed into a cardamom-sweet, citrus-scented batter.

Quick Note on the photo above, it shows way less fruit than is best in Dimply Plum Cake. That year, the Italian plums were very ripe and many were over-ripe, verging on rotten. So I ran short. Do use as many plums as you can squeeze into the pan in a single layer.

Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

  • BUTTER I always bake with salted butter but if you prefer unsalted butter, no problem, just double the salt. I would think that coconut oil would work here too, but haven't tried it. Be sure to let the butter warm to room temperature before mixing, that's about an hour on the counter if left whole, less if diced up.
  • BROWN SUGAR I always bake with dark brown sugar, that extra oomph of molasses is nice. But if you only have light brown sugar, no problem, use what you have. No brown sugar at all? Use 3/4 cup white sugar plus 2-1/4 teaspoons molasses.
  • EGGS My recipes always call for large eggs. No eggs or can't eat eggs? Sorry, I don't have experience with substitutes.
  • VEGETABLE OIL This recipe includes not only butter (for great taste) but also a liquid oil (so the cake stays fresh longer). Use what's called a "neutral" oil, that's one that doesn't have much (if any) flavor. My favorite neutral oils are a liquid vegetable oil like Crisco or grapeseed oil. That said, I've also had good luck using a nice fruity olive oil for this cake.
  • CITRUS ZEST Orange zest is lovely, so are lemon zest and lime zest. For the finest, fluffiest zest, use a microplane (affiliate link). There are soooo many Microplane size and shape choices anymore! Choose one that's specifically designed for zesting oranges, lemons and limes.
  • VANILLA EXTRACT No vanilla? Use bourbon (my favorite, even if I have vanilla) or apple juice.
  • FLOUR I make this cake with either all-purpose flour (a good brand like either General Mills or Pillsbury) or white whole-wheat flour (Bob's Red Mill). I also think it would do fine with a measure-for-measure gluten-free flour.
  • BAKING POWDER Out of baking powder? Oops, it happens. I have good luck making my own baking powder substitute. The formula is 1 teaspoon baking powder = 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. So for this recipe, which calls for 2 teaspoons baking powder, double that.
  • SALT I use table salt for baking. A fine sea salt is a good substitute.
  • CARDAMOM Cardamom (ending in m) is also spelled cardamon (ending in n) but either way, it's my very very favorite baking spice, maybe because it's so often found in Finnish and other Scandinavian baked goods. Cardamom is also super-pricey (and not everyone likes it, like my sister!) so you may want to use another spice, probably a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and a little ginger.
  • PLUMS Above, you'll see why I choose Italian plums, why they're worth waiting for every year.
  • RAW SUGAR What is raw sugar? Raw sugar is large grains of light brown sugar, thanks to a touch of molasses. Raw sugar is slightly less processed than white and brown sugar but really, is no healthier. I love to use raw sugar as a finishing sugar, because just a thin sprinkle creates a crispy crust.

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • What about using other kinds of plums for Dimply Plum Cake? I think so. If you can't find Italian plums, I do think that other plums would work and they're certainly easier to find and have a longer season. So yes, I'd try other plums for a Dimply Plum Cake but would cut them into quarters since they're so much larger.

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe for this special summer cake inspires you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

Dimply Plum Cake ♥ KitchenParade.com, a rustic cake topped with sweet Italian plums burrowed into a cardamom-sweet, citrus-scented batter.


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time-to-table: 90 minutes
Makes 1 8x8 or 9x9 cake to serve about 9; double for a 9x13
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150) brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (72g) vegetable oil (see ALANNA's TIPS)
  • Grated citrus zest (see TIPS)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla or bourbon
  • About 1 pound (450g) Italian plums (preferably), halved and pits removed
  • Raw sugar, for sprinkling over the plums
  • Swedish Whipped Cream (recipe below), for serving, optional

Heat oven to 350F/180C. Butter or spray an eight- or nine-inch square pan.

WET INGREDIENTS With an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl on medium-low speed for 3 minutes. (Why so long? You're adding air to the butter, be sure to scrape the beaters when they become coated with butter.) Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. One at a time, add the eggs, beating for 1 minute after each. Beat in the oil, zest and vanilla, just until mixed in.

DRY INGREDIENTS In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking powder and salt. (If you're using a stand mixer, it's easy to do this while the mixer is working away on the butter, sugar and eggs.)

Turn the flour mixture into the large bowl. On low speed, mix in the flour, just until mixed, a few floury bits are fine. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula, mixing in any loose flour.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, it's thick, you may need something like an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan and into the corners.

FINISH Arrange the plum halves decoratively (diagonal rows are especially pretty, I think), cut-side up and at a slight angle, completely filling the entire top with fruit. Once all the plums are in place, press each one gently to settle it into the cake batter but do not submerge. Sprinkle the plums tops with raw sugar, just a light coating.

BAKE Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes (35 minutes is perfect in my oven for an 8x8 pan) or until the top is honey-colored and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake, if it does, the cake can be a little dry.

To serve warm, let cool for 15 minutes, slice and serve with Swedish Cream if you like.

To serve cool, just let cool right in the pan and slice when you're ready! If the cake lasts more than a day, I'd recommend covering tightly and refrigerating. Dorie says the cake doesn't freeze well.

  • MIXER Even with unusually long mixing times, I prefer using a hand mixer for this recipe. That's because the cake batter volume is small enough, in the big bowl of a standing mixer, you have to stop and scrape, stop and scrape, stop and scrape.
  • OIL Dorie suggests a neutral oil such as canola or safflower, I always use a clear vegetable oil like Crisco. Be sure the oil is fresh, just give it a sniff. I've learned to buy vegetable oil in small bottles because they get a little off quite quickly. By the way, "neutral oil" is what recipe writers call what are essentially flavorless oils. That means that the olive oil we normally use for cooking is probably not a good choice, it has too much flavor. That said, I love using a light, fruity olive oil for this cake, especially one of the citrus oils from O Olive Oil [not sponsored, just a product I've been using for years].
  • CITRUS ZEST Dorie suggests orange zest, I like orange but also lime and lemon. All add brightness!
  • FLOUR I'm slowly converting to 100% white whole wheat flour, a whole-grain flour that acts, mostly, like all-purpose. It worked beautifully here but so does all-purpose.
  • PARCHMENT This is an easy cake to just leave in the pan as a snacking cake but it's also an impressive enough for a cake stand for a dessert buffet, a brunch coffeecake. In order to lift the cake out of the baking pan, before baking, line the baking pan with parchment (spray the pan first, then the parchment too), enough so the parchment hangs over the sides. Bake, let the cake cool completely and then lift out onto a cake stand.
  • CHANGES TO DORIE's RECIPE I use salted butter for baking, always. If you use unsalted butter, add 1 teaspoon table salt instead of 1/4 teaspoon. Dorie uses just 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, I use a full teaspoon, it makes the cake "spice-forward" in a way I really love. Dorie uses vanilla, I often substitute the same amount of bourbon. Most of all, I use more fruit than Dorie calls for. Really pack in the plums, cover the entire pan, butting the plum halves right up against one another. The fruit will shrink in the oven, you'll still see cake in between. I also sprinkle the plums with a little raw sugar, this helps them cook and soften in the oven without overbaking the cake itself.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2008/09/dimply-plum-cake.php .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving, assumes 9: 307 Calories; 15g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 63mg Cholesterol; 238mg Sodium; 38g Carb; 1g Fiber; 21g Sugar; 5g Protein. Old Points 7 & PointsPlus 8 & SmartPoints 13 & Freestyle 11 & myWW green 11 & blue 11 & purple 11 & future WW points


Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time-to-table: 5 minutes

Whip 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon sour cream until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1/2 tablespoon sugar and a pinch of cardamom and whip until firm peaks form.

Seasonal Cooking: Late-Summer & Early Fall Across the Years

Sautéed Red & Yellow Pepper Relish Quick Brown Bread Cornmeal Catfish with Warm Potato Salad Banana Oatmeal Cookies Dimply Plum Cake Eggplant & Bean Thai Curry Bowl Lamb Stew with Sweet Tomato Jam Rethinking Fruit for Weight Watchers Favorite Recipes for Fall Baking Should Cooked Pork Be Pink? Black Beans & Rice Skillet Casserole with Smoked Chicken Chicken Salad for Sandwiches

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Fresh Apricot Bars, another fruity summer dessert ♥ KitchenParade.com, just fresh apricot halves tucked into almond-scented buttery bars. Simple and seasonal, pretty on a plate.

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~ sour cream ~

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Anonymous9/10/2008

    Beautiful photo and a wonderful recipe I look forward to making. I love the idea of an edible landscape. I've tried with herb gardens which are quite fun and kind of complicated. Some results I've seen (not mine!) have been beautiful.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna