It's been a good summer. Full of ocean walks, harbour swims, stone fruit and of course, cake. And when that cake is made with summer fruit, and eaten outside then it's a win-win-win. Though I've misleadingly pictured apricots above (because how could I not when they're this beautiful?), the cake above left is a plum cake. And a famous one at that. From 1982-89, Marian Burros' recipe was printed each summer in The New York Times. Despite a warning from editors and a final printing of the recipe in large print with a border to encourage clipping, when it didn't appear the following year the newspaper's readers rioted. Ever since, it has been a perennial recipe on its pages. I can see why. A base of pale, buttery cake rises up around dark fruit that transforms in the baking into perfectly sour-sweet pockets of jam. It looks and tastes like something you've picked up at a patisserie when really all you did was potter around in your kitchen for fifteen minutes one morning before heading out for a swim.
Adapted from a recipe by Marian Burros, as published by The New York Times
I took this cake to a big family barbeque at my friend Elizabeth's place. I'd expected it to only appeal to the adults but the kids not only tucked in but returned for seconds. You can use any sort of plums for this, just as long as you have enough to nicely top the cake. If your plums are small, you'll need more and only to halve them. If they're large, you'll need fewer but to cut them into smaller wedges.
3/4 cup sugar, plus a little extra
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
8 medium size plums, quartered
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more, if you like)
Preheat oven to 350 deg F / 180 deg C.
Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and mix well.
Spoon the batter into a spring form tin. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake for one hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream.
To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees F / 160 C.