As the weather gets chillier, at least here in the upper Midwest, we turn our attention over to apples and pears. The summer fruits and berries are no longer available, with the exception of Italian plums. They have a short season, so ACT NOW; they won’t last long. These little gems are good to eat, but even better to bake with. They aren’t quite as juicy or sweet as their American cousins, but they keep their shape well and their skin adds a gorgeous purple color to tarts and cakes.
The brown sugar cake batter and sweet crumb topping are a perfect compliment to the not-too-sweet fruit. It is great for breakfast with a cup of tea and/or with ice cream after dinner. This is a cake that also seems to get better the second day, if there is any left.
The Italian plums have a lovely purple skin with a slightly chalky look. This is just how they look and will keep this appearance even after washing them.
Italian Plum Cake
Makes: one 8-inch cake
Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 1 1/4 hours
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
18 Italian plums, cut in half and pitted.
For the topping:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F
Grease an 8-inch springform pan with butter.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each. Mix in the zest and vanilla. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.
Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan.
Place half of the cut plums on the batter, cut side up. Spread the remaining batter over the plums.
Spread the batter into an even layer and top with remaining plums.
In a bowl mix together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and melted butter. You may have to mix it with your hands to get all the butter incorporated.
Spread the crumb topping over the plums evenly.
Place the cake on two stacked cookie sheets, to prevent the bottom from getting too brown during the long baking time. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours or until a tester come out clean. Cool on a rack.
Serve it slightly warm or at room temperature.
Zoë François, author of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day, studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She now calls Minneapolis her home, where she has worked with some of the top talent in the culinary world — Steven Brown, Andrew Zimmern and many chefs at the D’Amico company. In addition to writing, Zoë teaches baking classes and consults at restaurants. You can find her writing and recipe creations on Devour, on her baking blog, zoebakes.com and on the site, www.breadin5.com.