The grocery store on our new side of town has an aisle for “new age” drinks.
I don’t know exactly what they mean by that (the same aisle also has soft drinks and other stuff), but I laugh a little every time I walk past the sign.
There is nothing new-agey about this cake. You might even call it old fashioned.
It’s pretty, but in a humble, wholesome sense — a single layer cake that mixes up quickly and that you can serve straight from the pan.
If your idea of a good cake is more along the lines of a triple layer, pink frosting and luster dust kind of confection (of if you’re into new age cakes, whatever they might be), this sort of cake might never catch your eye.
You probably don’t need me to tell you whose loss that would be.
Perhaps the best endorsement for it is this: I made one for us to eat and one to freeze for another time and now, four days later, we are already halfway through the second cake. Last night, I pulled cake #2 from the freezer and chipped out a couple of frozen wedges that I proceeded to revive in the microwave because we lacked the patience for defrosting.
The rest is still in the freezer, but I suspect its days are numbered.
This cake is based on Marian Burros’ recipe for plum torte, which is both the most requested and most published in the New York Times. As the story goes, it was published in the Gray Lady nearly every year from 1983 to 1995, at which time the paper’s food editor declared that this little cake had received enough ink and that readers should laminate the recipe and quit asking for it to be reprinted.
A recipe with that kind of following really doesn’t need to be tinkered with and I haven’t changed much, other than to switch up the spices and replace half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat.
I also like baking this in a cast iron skillet, instead of in the springform pan originally called for. As it bakes, the cast iron causes the cake to form a thin, sugary crust around the edges, which I like.
But I’ve made this in a springform too, as well as in a standard, round, cake pan, and it works fine either way.
If you can find the oblong, dusty-looking purple plums called Italian prune plums, use them here. If not, any type of plum will do.
Burros calls for 12 prune plums. Mine were so large, however, that I only had room for five. The general idea is to cram as many as you can on top of the cake batter, so my advice is to go ahead and buy 12. If they don’t all fit, just do as I did and make yourself a second cake.
Adapted from Marian Burros in the New York Times.
Burros called for 12 plums. I only used five, but my plums were on the larger side. Use as many as you can comfortably fit in the pan.
This cake will keep, tightly wrapped, for a few days at room temperature. It also freezes well. Serve it alone or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (sweetened with a little brown sugar is nice).
- 3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 12 pitted Italian (aka prune or purple) plums, halved (see headnote)
Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cream together the 3/4 cup sugar and butter, until pale and fluffy. Whisk or sift together both flours, the baking powder, spices, and salt. Add the dry ingredients, mix well. Then add the eggs mix just to combine.
Pour the batter into a lightly greased 10" cast-iron skillet. It might seem a little scant, but don't worry there's enough. Arrange the plums on top of the batter and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature, directly from the pan.