Fall is officially here in Seattle. The mornings are chilly. Some rain has been falling. Pops of orange, yellow, and red can be seen amidst the evergreens throughout the city. Cravings for pumpkin pie abound. But just a few short weeks ago, we were still enjoying the delightful late summer that is so common in the Pacific Northwest. A late summer marked in my mind by sunny days and an abundance of Italian prune plums. Our neighbor's tree was overflowing at an alarming rate, and they were kind enough to share the bounty with us.
For a few weeks straight, I did nothing in the kitchen beside bake with plums. Cakes. Pies. Tarts. Crumbles. Muffins. I'd saved a few recipes in anticipation of the plum harvest, but ended up tweaking most of them to my liking. Usually this meant removing some sugar and butter to make it more reasonable that we were eating them for breakfast and dessert every day of the week. The recipes below were my two winners this year. So. Good.
Plum Pudding Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours."
~24 Italian prune plums
1t ground cinnamon
1/4t ground ginger
1/4t ground coriander
2T candied ginger, chopped finely
3/4c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4c all-purpose flour
2t baking powder
1t vanilla extract
1t amaretto liqueur
6T butter, cut into 4 pieces
1. Cut each plum into 4-6 pieces and toss into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon, both gingers, and coriander. Stir the plums and then let them sit. Stir from time to time as you prepare the batter.
2. Put remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl. Whisk to blend and then add milk, vanilla, and amaretto.
3. Put the butter in a 9x12 inch glass or porcelain baking pan, and place in oven on centered rack. Set oven to 350 degrees. Once butter has melted (approximately 5 minutes) remove pan from oven.
4. Give the batter a light stir to smooth it out, and then pour it evenly over the hot butter. Scatter the plums over the batter and drizzle any remaining sugar syrup.
5. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the top is golden and a thin knife comes out clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes. Delicious immediately, but keeps in the fridge for a few days.
Adapted from The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook, by Marian Burros and Lois Levine.
1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (optional, you can use 1 cup whatever flour you like!)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
24 halves pitted Italian prune plums
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1. Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch springform pan.
2. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Cover the top with the plums, skin sides down. Mix the spices with 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle over the top.
3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.
4. To serve, let the torte return to room temperature and reheat at 300 degrees until warm, if desired.