Tuesday, September 14, 2021

I Just Can't Quit You.


As much as I try, I can’t tear myself away. I meet others, but they’re just, just not the same. They don’t live up to the (probably) impossibly high standard set previously. That’s why I come back again and again…


I’m not talking about a human love interest here. The obsession I’m talking about is the OG Viennese Plum Cake I’ve been making for over 20 years. It was my late mother-in-law’s recipe that she made every September. After she passed away, I became the keeper/baker of this family treasure. A mantle I was happy to carry. No one is sure where the recipe came from; Freda clipped it from a newspaper oh, so many years ago.



Like I said, I’ve tried others, but they’re missing “something.” Don’t get me wrong, almost any baked good that combines Italian prune plums with cinnamon and sugar, in a yeasty or non-yeast-risen form, will be tasty. But none of them have that, shall we say, je ne sais quoi, that this cake has. I love the deep, dark caramelization of the plums. Maybe it’s that the arrival of these plum babies signal the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Or maybe it’s nostalgia for old-world traditions? Who knows? I could be analyzing it way too much. Maybe it’s just a damn good cake. I’m gonna go with that.


All I know is that I keep returning to it. And I am never disappointed. 



Bakers in Austria and Germany have been making plum cakes (plum kuchen) for years after the fall harvest, and with good reason. It combines the delicious sweetness of these dark little fall-season-only plums with a rich buttery cinnamon-sugary cake, which is the perfect accompaniment to afternoon coffee. I typically shower it with some confectioners’ sugar just before serving. But you could serve it after dinner and gild the lily with a dollop of whipped cream and it would certainly not be frowned upon. Maybe offer your guests a small glass of port with the cake? Who could turn that down? Not me.


While you still have time, get your hands on some sweet Italian prune plums and make this cake. The season is short, make the most of it. I think after your first encounter with this love, you won’t be able to quit it either.


Freda’s Viennese Plum Cake


Ingredients:


For pan:

1 t butter, softened

1 t flour

For cake:

1/2 C butter, room temp

1/2 C granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/4 t salt

1 C AP flour

1 t baking powder

16 medium-sized Italian prune plums, washed, halved, and pitted


For topping:

1/2 C sugar

2 t cinnamon

1 T butter, cut in small pieces


Directions:


Preheat oven to 350°F


Butter and flour 8” square pan, and set aside.


Using electric stand or hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.


In small bowl, blend together flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine flour mixture with creamed butter mixture, until well blended.


Spread dough evenly in prepared pan. Place plums, skin side down, on top of dough.


Mix together cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over plums, dot with the butter. Bake 45 minutes or until top is golden.


Let cake cool completely. Serve at room temp. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Fall Plum Pound Cake



It’s that time of year, friends, when the Italian prune plums arrive! They have a very short season so we must make the most of it.







In previous years, I have made one of my very favorite prune plum recipes, but this year I wanted something more like a pound or loaf cake. I found it in this recipe from a New Zealand food site, and it is terrific. 





The original recipe calls for regular black plums, but when prune plums are available, that’s my go-to. It also calls for a sugar icing, but I really don’t think it needs it. I did add a sprinkle of powdered sugar when I served it, just to gussy it up a bit. 


Enjoy!



The coffee's on, come on over!


Plum Pound Cake

Adapted from Claire Aldous, Dish


Ingredients:


10 Italian prune plums

3 TB brown sugar

1/4 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground Chinese 5 spice


Cake:


1 C butter at room temp

1 C granulated sugar

1 t vanilla extract

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1-3/4 C AP flour

1/2 t sea salt

1 t baking powder


Directions:


Grease a 9x5, 8C capacity, loaf pan and fully line with parchment paper. 


Preheat oven to 300°F.


Halve and stone the plums and set aside. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and 5 spice in a bowl and set aside.


Cake:


Beat the butter, granulated sugar and vanilla until pale and light. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a TB of the flour if they start to curdle.


Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder and gently mix into the butter mixture. Don’t over beat or the cake will be tough.


Spread half of the batter in the base of the pan, then scatter half of the plums over the batter. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture over the top. Repeat with the remaining batter, plums, sugar.


Bake for about 1 hr and 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover the top loosely with foil if getting too brown. Cool completely before removing from the tin.


To serve: dust with confectioners’ sugar, or drizzle with a glaze made by combining 1/2 C confectioners’ sugar with enough lemon juice to make a smooth, thick but pourable icing.


Makes 1 loaf.