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A Tale of Two Tortes: Marian Burros' Famous Cake, Two Ways

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What happens when two food editors accidentally make the same recipe on the same day?

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Yesterday, I spotted some prune plums at the market and snatched them up with plans to make the most famous plum cake on the internet (you've seen it in the New York Times, on Smitten Kitchen and The Kitchn, and on this site, too; you've heard about it on The Splendid Table).  

I texted Ali: "Have u ever had Marian Burros' plum torte?"
She responded, almost immediately: "me Rn," with the following picture:

  
My response: "????
And then: "What is that."

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I knew what it was—and that it must be delicious (those puckering plum butts!)—but I was surprised: I had never seen Marian Burros' plum torte look quite like that before. And when I baked my own version later that day, it looked nothing like Ali's.

  
Ali's geometric plum torte on the left; my spotted one on the right.

So what was different?

  • I used prune plums; Ali used red sugar plums.
  • I used a 9-inch round pan; Ali used an 8-inch square one. (The recipe calls for a 9-inch springform.)
  • I sprinkled the cake with 2 teaspoons of turbinado sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon; Ali sprinkled with white sugar, cardamom, and, per the original recipe, lemon juice (and she put a thin layer of shredded unsweetened coconut underneath the plums). 
  • I used vanilla sugar (the only type I had); Ali used white sugar. 
  • I baked my cake for 40 minutes; Ali baked hers for 1 hour, but her cake still turned out more blonde. (The original instructions are: "Bake one hour, approximately." The instructions on our site are: "Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.)

Would you ever think these two slices were made using the same recipe?
 

Ali and I compared our tortes to the pictures on Food52 and realized that neither came close to our reference point:

 
But then we looked in Genius Recipes, where the torte is also featured, and saw that that one looked different, too (so many fewer plums!):

We also noticed that our hero Molly Wizenberg of Orangette had baked a suspiciously similar-yet-different looking cake over the weekend:

 

Three guesses.

A photo posted by Molly Wizenberg (@mollyorangette) on


You guessed it—Molly was baking the plum torte, too. We deemed this weekend "The Weekend of Marian Burros' Plum Torte," gave up on trying to figure out what made them all look so different, and just enjoyed. 

Have you made Marian Burros' torte, too? What did yours look like? Tell us your experiences in the comments below, and share your plum torte photos by tagging them with #f52grams on Instagram. 


See more from the illustrated biographies of 16.5 global desserts

Tags: plum torte, plums, prune plums, marian burros, cake, plum cake