I think I told you a long time ago about our old plum tree and how it suddenly and miraculously started bearing fruit (singular, because we only got one) after we’d assumed it was a dud. Well, this year I can report the most bumper crop yet: a whole twenty plums (!) and all of them delicious. That’s what you see in the above photo, but for the recipe below, I got extra help. A good friend of mine is blessed with the most fecund plum tree ever (she might see it as being cursed because she doesn’t care for Italian plums), and a few weeks ago I brought home a huge, heavy bag full–a beneficial situation for both me and her.
So, of couse I had to bake with them, and this is the recipe I make every year, no matter what, with Italian plums. It is September. It is the best part of cake + plums, which = so much yummy. I urge you to make it, either now or in six months, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, and eat it with softly whipped cream or on its own, outside, in the fading light of later summer.
Italian Plum Cake
Adapted from Menus from an Orchard Table
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 vanilla bean, sliced open and scraped of seeds
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
about 20 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
vanilla sugar to sprinkle on top
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a nine-inch baking pan. I use one normal layer-cake pan, but springform works as well.
Cream the butter and sugar until light, then add the eggs and vanilla seeds scraped from the vanilla pod. (You can also substitute 1 tbsp vanilla extract if you don’t have a bean). In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Slowly add to the creamed mixture and combine well. Scrape the batter into the pan with a spatula and smooth it flat. Stand the halves of the plums in the batter, pushing them down so they stick out about a third above the surface. I like to start at the outer edge of the pan and make a circle, then a smaller circle inside that, and so on until I’ve reached the middle. Make sure the plum halves don’t actually touch each other, but otherwise they can be pretty close together. Sprinkle the cake with the vanilla sugar, or if you’d rather, a 50/50 sugar and cinnamon mix.
Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake (not a plum!) clean. Cool on a rack until the edge shrinks back and you can run a spatula or knife around the edge. I cut and serve mine straight from the cake pan using a non-metal knife, but if you want to have prettier presentation, bake the cake in a springform pan so you can put it out on a plate with lavender springs or mint leaves or gold leaf. Just kidding. Maybe.