It is that time of year when plum trees (Italian prune plums) are all of a sudden exploding with ripe plums – too many to know what to do with! I don’t have a plum tree, but I have friends with plum trees, which is kind of perfect. My friend Sonja gave me a big bag loaded with these small, egg shaped fruit.
I was a bit overwhelmed, and didn’t have a recipe, so I set the plums in their bag in a corner of the kitchen, and proceeded to forget about them. Several days later, when our kitchen was afloat with fruit flies, I discovered the source… I rooted through the bag and got rid of the few plums that had gone bad. I then decided that I would not be daunted; I would figure out a way to use these plums! Sonja gave me a recipe (in German!) for a plum kuchen… she included a translation.
It was a lot of work – yeasted dough, crumb topping, etc. It was good, but I was imagining a softer cake, kind of like a crumb cake. What I got was a type of yeast “crust”. Later Sonja told me that it was like a fruit pizza, so I guess I did it right, but just not what I was hoping for. During this time, there was (and still is) a lot of excitement over a New York Times recipe for a plum torte that was going around. It was fast and easy to make, with ordinary ingredients. Since I still had plenty of plums, I decided to give it a try. And OH MY.
In all of its simplicity, this torte is perfection. Soft and moist, with homey flavors that will have you feeling summer’s last whispers on your tongue. Sweet, but with a wonderful tartness here and there from the plums that were just freshly picked. And the best surprise? The outside of the torte is crispy! So you not only have the wonderful contrast of sweet and tart, but you also have the delight of crispy on the outside, and soft cake-y fruity-ness on the inside. And bonus, this is so easy to make. I have started asking other friends for plums, while telling them about this amazing recipe. You may have already heard about it, but if not, here it is for you, along with a couple of tips that make it work better for me.
(Marian Burro’s recipe from the New York Times)
- 1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (NOT melted)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour*, sifted (measure first, then sift)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 goodly pinch of kosher salt
- 1 dash cardamom (optional; not in original recipe)
- 2 eggs
- 24 to 26 halves pitted purple Italian plums (super easy to halve and pit!)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon for sprinkling
- lemon juice for sprinkling (optional)
- Heat oven to 350°
- Butter a 9″ springform pan, place a 9″ round of parchment paper on bottom of pan, and butter that too. Sprinkle a little bit of granulated sugar on the bottom and swoosh it around. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter until light (in color) and fluffy.
- Add flour (you can sift it directly into the bowl if you like), baking powder, salt and eggs and beat until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix. Batter will be thick.
- Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread it to edges with a spatula.
- Place plum halves skin side up on top of batter. A pretty design is fun, but it will get covered by rising cake batter, so keep that in mind. A nice even covering is good so that each piece will have plenty of plum in it. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sugar, then about a teaspoon of cinnamon. I don’t use the lemon juice, since I find the plums to be quite tart, but if you like, sprinkle with lemon juice.
- Bake 1 hour. Remove and cool; a light dusting of powdered sugar just before serving is a nice touch, but not necessary. I think this dessert is best served at room temperature, although we have enjoyed it still warm, and also cold out of the fridge.
*I have had the best luck using King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour for this torte. the second time I made this torte I tried a lower protein flour and found the cake to be a bit mushy. The higher protein flour gives the cake more structure.
**I plan on making a few of these and freezing them, but if that doesn’t happen, I have frozen some halved and pitted plums so that I can make this summer sensation in the middle of winter. To serve a torte that has been frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300°.