Late Summer Plum Cake

By • August 1, 2010 • 112 Comments

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Author Notes: I developed this recipe for my book, Farmers' Market Desserts. But because I tend to write long recipes, including all of the detail the reader might need, space ran short and this one fell victim to the editorial axe. A recent windfall of plums from a friend’s tree reminded me it was time to make this cake.

I originally developed the recipe using the small, dense-fleshed prune plums that come toward the end of summer. This time, my fruit bowl was filled with juicy Flavor Rosa and Yummy Rosa varieties, some still firm, others soft. With these larger plums, I needed only five or six of them, and because they were juicier, the cake took a bit longer to bake (and turned out seductively moist).

I have been on a lemon verbena kick ever since putting the plant in my herb garden. If you don’t have any, substitute a teaspoon of finely chopped fresh lemon balm or lemon thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest. - JSCooks
JSCooks

Food52 Review: Plums don't need much, just a pillowy batter to encase them, to catch their juices and a little sweetness to joust with their tartness. The batter for JSCooks's cake is scented with sour cream, vanilla and lemon. She uses lemon verbena leaves; we went for the substitute, lemon zest, and the cake did not suffer for it. Do go the extra mile and make whipped cream or buy some creme fraiche for serving. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 8

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 medium-size fresh lemon verbena leaves or 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 12 small to medium, firm-ripe prune plums, halved lengthwise and pitted
  • Lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside. Stack the lemon verbena leaves (if using), roll up tightly lengthwise, and cut them crosswise into fine ribbons. You will want 2 to 3 packed teaspoons.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and reserved lemon verbena (or lemon zest) until well combined. On low speed, add the flour mixture just until combined. (The batter will be thick.)
  4. Spread half of the batter evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and top with 12 of the plum halves, cut side down. Dollop and spread the remaining batter over the plums. Arrange the remaining 12 plum halves, cut side up, over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar over the plums.
  5. Bake until the cake is golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted near the center tests clean (assuming you haven’t hit a plum), 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan front to back a little past halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
  6. Run a thin knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake sides. Invert a flat plate over the pan. Using oven mitts if needed, grasp the plate and pan tightly together on both sides and invert the plate and pan to release the cake onto the plate. Lift off the pan and peel off the parchment. Invert the cake again onto a serving plate.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream, if desired.
Jump to Comments (112)

Tags: farmers market, fruit, seasonal

Comments (112) Questions (3)

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4 days ago whmcdevitt

yes, it should work just fine. let them defrost and drain to remove the excess liquid.

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5 days ago pat

Our plum trees had so much fruit this year that I pitted and froze some. Do you think frozen would work in this? I wanted to do it for Thanksgiving so would hate to do it w/o a test cake first but there just isn't time.

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4 days ago JSCooks

Hi Pat. I'd be a bit hesitant about doing that for a holiday. When you freeze fruit it breaks down to some degree. While you could thaw and drain them, I'm afraid they would be too soft and mushy in the cake. Personally, I'd save that experiment for a casual evening when you won't feel too badly if it doesn't work out and go with something tried and true for Thanksgiving. But then, if you're not concerned and there are other desserts, you might feel differently. Happy holiday!

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10 months ago Luiz

Maravilha!

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about 1 year ago Atelier Allison

I made this yesterday "as written" except I did use a 10 inch springform. It worked perfectly. It is sheer Plum Cake Perfection! Thank you for sharing this fab recipe.

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about 1 year ago JSCooks

Oh, thank you so much for your comment Atelier Allison! It makes me happy every time I hear someone has used the recipe and enjoyed the cake. Also makes me want to run to the kitchen and make one myself!

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over 1 year ago Jo B

Really scrumptious! I made modifications--10-in. springform, so I multiplied ingredients by 1.2-ish (which doesn't work well when it comes to eggs), used apricots instead of plums, didn't have sour cream so used full-fat yoghurt (not the same!) and cut back on the brown sugar on top--just used a teaspoon, as we like things on the tart side. It took fully 1 hour and 40 minutes to bake, as that larger pan and, I think, too much liquid caused by using three eggs instead of 2.5 eggs, but it was really, really delicious! What is it about apricots and plums that makes them so transformed when cooked? I think I'll turn the apricots skin side up next time, and there will be a next time--with apricots and, in late summer, with plums. Brava/o! Here's a pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos...

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over 1 year ago JSCooks

Hi Jo B -- that sounds great with apricots. I'm afraid I'll have to wait for next year to try that. Besides the factors you mentioned the yogurt likely had considerably more moisture than sour cream which would contribute to the longer baking time. I would use a well-drained Greek yogurt if you want to make that substitution. I think it would be fine to bake the recipe as I shared it in a 10-inch springform. Just watch carefully and reduce the baking time slightly. Thanks again for trying it and reporting back!

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over 1 year ago whmcdevitt

i think peaches would work just fine if they aren't too ripe. cooking softens them so
hopefully they're firm!.......good luck!

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over 1 year ago nike

oh thank you for the quick response, because i was going to make it now ha!!! let you know how it turned out ..

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over 1 year ago JSCooks

I don't think they need to be too firm -- look for ripe-firm peaches that aren't super juicy.

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over 1 year ago nike

sorry for the late response, it worked out great with the peaches!

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over 1 year ago JSCooks

delighted to hear that -- thanks for reporting back!

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over 1 year ago nike

hi i couldnt find the prune plums , can i substitute with peaches or would that ruin the spirit of this lovely cake ? tx

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over 1 year ago JSCooks

I don't think it would ruin it at all! Let us know how it works out for you if you try it, keeping in mind that peaches can be super juicy.

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over 1 year ago starface80

i made this last night - delicious and just moist enough! i cut back on the sugar to about 1/2 C as well and found it was plenty sweet - as did the other 4 diners. i could see using this batter with all kinds of other delicious summer fruit.

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over 1 year ago JSCooks

I agree it's amenable to many different types of fruit. I am all in favor of cutting down the sugar for those who prefer that -- I aim for making recipes with the least amount of sweetener possible. It helps the flavors to shine through!

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over 1 year ago niharika

has anyone made this eggless..? if yes, can you pls help with the substitutions? I would love to try this, but i dont eat eggs!

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over 1 year ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

No, but I did some research for you. According to Shirley Corriher in Bakewise, eggs perform several functions in a cake-- the whites are leavening and drying agents, and the yolks emulsify and provide a creamy texture. In addition, they supply protein to set and hold the cake. Without them, you have to optimize the flour in the cake's ability to form gluten and set. She recommends that you use a high protein flour (she suggests King Arthur's unbleached flour, or you could use bread flour), and you have to stir the water in before the fat so that gluten can form. She has an eggless recipe that includes 1 teaspoon of vinegar so that the batter stays acidic. Without the drying effect of the egg whites, the cake will be very moist.

I also found you this article on substitutions, so you can choose the one that works best for you: http://chefinyou.com/egg...

Good luck! This is a really delicious cake-- I hope you're able to modify it.

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over 1 year ago JSCooks

niharika: thanks for your comment, and drbabs: thanks for piping in with this great information! I have an eggless cupcake recipe in my Farmers' Market Desserts cookbook that has that bit of vinegar. It's amazing how that works! I know a lot of people use Ener-G Egg Replacer successfully, or the mixture of ground flax seed and water mentioned in the article drbabs referenced. niharika -- let us know if you try one of these and how it works out. I am tickled pink that this cake is still getting so much attention. Plums are just coming out and will be around through late summer to early fall, so there's plenty of time to experiment!

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about 2 years ago whmcdevitt

I've never had a chance to freeze it. it gets eaten so fast. i think it would do ok as long as you wrap it well and don't freeze it for to long. the fruit would get funky I believe!

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about 2 years ago whmcdevitt

I've never had a chance to freeze it. it gets eaten so fast. i think it would do ok as long as you wrap it well and don't freeze it for to long. the fruit would get funky I believe!

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about 2 years ago jacksonholefoodie

Thank you whmcdevitt. I'll give it a try!

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about 2 years ago jacksonholefoodie

I came upon this recipe when faced with a case of rapidly ripening Italian prune plums. It is a winner. I substituted whole fat plain yogurt and increased it to 1 cup (because I live at high altitude and more moisture is needed), and added 1/4 cup almond meal. Has anyone successfully frozen this cake? I still have about 10 # plums left!!

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about 2 years ago Franca

I made this with italian black plums from my dad's tree. My son couldn't get enough of it. Deliciously moist.

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about 2 years ago JSCooks

Thanks so much for letting me know, Franca! I bet it was fabulous with those black plums.

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about 2 years ago brooklyncook

I made this cake for the first time this summer -- a quart of farmer's market plums and the desire to not let them go to waste prompted a cruise through Food
52 -- and I have to tell you, this was amazing! I'm tempted to experiment a bit for different flavors jus for the fun of it but wanted to thank you for a fabulous cake!

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about 2 years ago JSCooks

Oh, thank you so much, brooklyncook -- you made my day!

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about 2 years ago Jane Eyrehead

My, that looks good and I shall make one tomorrow. Some years back Martha Stewart featured a plum upside down cake with black plums and red raspberries. It was delicious, but I like the layers of plums in this one.

Gosh, I sure like good food.

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about 2 years ago Summer corn salad

This sounds incredible..I used to make a plum Pound cake using two jars of junior plums which i can no longer find..Anyone with a sugestion would be much aprieciated !!!

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about 2 years ago Summer corn salad

This sounds incredible..I used to make a plum Pound cake using two jars of junior plums which i can no longer find..Anyone with a sugestion would be much aprieciated !!!

Bananacakewithtangyvanilla

over 2 years ago cookingintheheights

just made this for the first time and it was absolutely BRILLIANT. pillowy, light cake and utterly delicious with the bright fruit. and very forgiving of my fudges. had only about 6 small plums on hand, and a pair of uber ripe peaches (which i peeled & cut into eighths). i used slightly less than 2/3 white sugar but the full quotient of brown sugar -- all of the later on top b/c i didn't bother trying to layer the fruit inside, i just plunked it all on the surface. my only other switch was greek yogurt rather than sour cream. am in heaven about this and will be making it again for sure! thank you thank you.

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about 2 years ago JSCooks

Thanks so much, cookingintheheights -- I'm delighted it worked out so well for you. This is most certainly the perfect time for prune plums and I'm glad you're all reminding me it's time to bake a cake!

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3 months ago cookingintheheights

how funny - am making this again today - and totally forgot that i'd subbed part of fruit with peaches two years ago. this time, am trying it with donut peaches which were darn tricky to de-stone. but the house already smells magical -- can't wait to slice into it tonight. thanks, yet again, for this great recipe

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over 2 years ago Blynnk

I made this recipe (with lemon zest and regular vanilla) and Marian Burros's version (no changes). Both are no fail. Both are very tasty and similar but the textures are different. This version is heavy and dense, which I like for breakfast, so dense that it almost felt as though I were eating cheesecake. Burros's version came out light and fluffy, more like a cake. I will use both, but prefer Burros's version.

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about 2 years ago JSCooks

Thanks for reporting back, Blynnk. They are indeed different cakes and I'm glad you like both enough to return to them. This one should be moist due to the sour cream but if it was like eating cheesecake it sounds like it was possibly underbaked? If you wanted to make it a little less rich, you could use light (but not nonfat) sour cream, or even Greek yogurt.

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about 2 years ago Blynnk

My plum cake was not undercooked. I just meant that it had the sensation of cheesecake, because it was rather like a poundcake and cold since I'd stored it in the fridge. The other recipe produces a very airy cake in comparison. Again, they both have their charm. I have now passed on both recipes to several family members, who are trying them out! Thank you for your suggestion of using Greek yogurt. That sounds divine.

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about 2 years ago JSCooks

Got it. Let us know how you like it with Greek yogurt if you try it!

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about 3 years ago jstew52

This was terrific. Would be good even without fruit!