My announcement one Saturday morning — “I’m making a plum cake!” — fell a little flat. My fiancé was not enthused and when I explained that no, it would not be a cake with frosting, I was met with only more skepticism. But soon the house was scented with cinnamon and the plum torte sat proudly on my cake stand. The cake itself doesn’t take long to make, and it took even less time for this recipe to find its newest fans.
The New York Times first published the original plum torte recipe in the ’80s. The recipe ran again each year during plum season for more than a decade. Readers demanded it! Who can resist a recipe with such folklore? I made the cake just a few days after coming across it on one of my favorite food blogs, and I was impressed with its flavor and ease. No wonder Amelia made it twice already.
While Danny was out taking care of errands, I whipped up the cake and perhaps never felt more relaxed and cool about baking. There’s a lot of love for this torte, and a lot of that has to do with its simplicity and versatility. The cake elevates plums, for sure, but it’ll take to other fruit. Apricot. Cherry. Even berries. Try apples and pears as September takes us into fall. Just tumble the fruit over the top of the batter and the cake will puff up around it.
Fellow bakers suggest not cutting into the cake until the second day. That is, if you can find the willpower to wait. The juices from the plums settle and release into the cake, infusing even more flavor. I had no intention of waiting but that night we served up a solid dinner of butter chicken and basmati rice, and we found ourselves too full for dessert. With a big mug of coffee in the morning, a slice of the plum torte was wonderful for breakfast. Our friend ate two slices that morning.
“It’s like it had jam inside. It was so good,” Danny said. And that’s a big reason why I love this cake. I adore the intense flavors of roasted stone fruits, plums in particular, and this is a recipe that shows them off. Danny said he’ll take a slice of the plum torte over any frosted layer cake. Me too.
If I’ve convinced you to take advantage of the season’s plums and follow this recipe, you’ll be in good company and join the torte’s legions of fans. You’ll find this cake/torte everywhere:
Amelia of Bon Appétempt makes the cake twice in a week or so. This is where I first saw the purple plum torte and was inspired to make it.
The Splendid Table – The story of a dozen missing plum tortes.
Smitten Kitchen‘s Deb says to not cut into the cake until the second day if you can find the willpower to wait.
Food52 proves that even kids like this cake.
The Wednesday Chef made the torte but says she wouldn’t make it again. She prefers German plum cakes, which are made with a yeasted batter. I’ve made Luisa’s version of pflaumenkuchen, too. Danny prefers the original plum torte.
Lottie + Doof‘s Tim also made a raspberry version. He left the cinnamon out and added vanilla extract.
Epicurious – The recipe was originally titled Fruit Torte. I’m totally jealous of the baker who left a comment with tales of her cherry plum tree at home. She used the fruit for the torte; apparently they’re more tart. I love another baker’s suggestion to add lemon zest and cardamom. You can use other stone fruit! Apricot, cherry. Even berries. Apples and pears as September takes us into fall.
Amanda Hesser discusses the recipe on Leite’s Culinaria.
A very similar tart/cake from Molly of Orangette.
If you don’t have a springform pan, here’s a Chowhound thread for you on how to get around it.
This is a classic cake for using up late summer/early fall plums. Italian prune plums are preferred because they’re excellent for baked goods, but you can use any stone fruit for this recipe. Berries work too, and feel free to experiment with apples and pears later in the season. I took a tip from Amelia and added a squeeze of lemon juice to the plums. The batter comes together quickly, and it’s a great recipe for parties and last-minute entertaining. Use an 8- to 10-inch springform pan. If you don’t have a springform pan, use a well-greased cake pan lined with parchment paper. It may not cut as neatly into slices, but it’ll still taste great. This cake is even better the second day since it only gets better as it sits. I baked one on a Sunday and on Thursday morning we had delightful slices for breakfast. Recipe from The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook by Marian Burros and Lois Levine via The New York Times.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
12 small Italian prune plums, halved and pitted (or about 6 regular plums, which I used, will be fine)
sugar and cinnamon for topping
Heat oven to 350°F.
Cream sugar and butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, and combine.
Spoon the batter into a greased spring form pan. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. The batter will rise around the plums.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean of cake batter. Let cake cool and serve.
Note: Cake, once cooled, can be refrigerated or frozen if first double-wrapped in foil and sealed in a plastic bag. To serve a torte that has been frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.