Cake

This is the Cake to Make Before Summer Turns to Fall

August 24, 2017

Once upon a time—okay, two summers ago—I fell in love with a plum cake. Our relationship, it's fair to say, was a complex one. This cake had high standards: It wanted me to blend plums to a pulp, then mix them into a purple, sour caramel. It wanted me to incorporate crème fraîche and semolina flour and egg yolks. It wanted me to layer, drizzle, and spread—and all in a springform pan.

Now, I still stand by that cake—and my love for it is real—but this 2017 version is gentler and less demanding. It's a more mature, more comfortable relationship. It's a cake that takes minutes, rather than hours, to put together. It's a cake that accommodates the "summer lifestyle" (or the summer lifestyle you, er, aspire to).

First, the caramel. Instead of making a true caramel sauce, you make a lazy-bones version: Melt butter in the bottom of an oven-safe skillet, then sprinkle brown sugar and sliced almonds on top. The heat of the oven will do the work of caramelization, no stirring required.

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Next, the fruit, which is also treated simply: Slice your favorite stone fruit (nectarines, plums, pluots, apricots, apriplums?) into wedges and arrange them as rustically or fancifully as you'd like (the almonds will cover up any mishaps, anyhow).

Looks great with a dollop of whipped cream, no? Photo by Julia Gartland

The cake has no spices or infusions, relying instead on the ripe sweetness of late-summer fruit, lemon zest, the pleasant tang of buttermilk, and a bit of vanilla and almond extracts. The juices from the fruit run into the sugar and butter below as the cake bakes; and then, when you invert it onto a serving platter, it drips back into the tender cake beneath it, serving double duty.

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Top Comment:
“It is really easy to undercook this cake, as the testers come out clean, and it will still be very undercooked in the center. I didn't have a 10" cast iron, and so used my All-Clad stainless, which I think was a mistake. Don't think I will try it again, although it is very pretty. ”
— SF E.
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I'd add this cake to my list of must-bake summer desserts, which is expanding at a troubling rate. It's the kind that will help you cling to the season for the dear life, the kind you'll spend most of the winter and spring longing for.

It may not be as sexy as a multi-layered cake with plum caramel, but it's humble, simple, and good—and you'll have enough time to get out of the kitchen, frolic outside, and eat cake, too.

A few recipe notes:

  • If you don't like almond flavor, or you want a nut-free cake, feel free to omit both the nuts and the extract.
  • But keep the lemon zest! The cake benefits from the bright acidity it adds.
  • It's tempting to let your cake cool completely in the pan, but you do want to turn it out while it's still warm—otherwise, the caramel layer will adhere to your pan as it cools and hardens.
  • If you swap in different types of stone fruit, you'll want to make sure you're using around 2 pounds.

What's one dessert you'd still like to make before summer ends? Tell us in the comments below!

8 Comments

JoAnn N. January 21, 2018
This is a show stopper . I made it at the end of summer last year and still thinking about it . Very showy , worth it visually and very tasty . Picture does not do it justice .
 
Klshadrick September 8, 2017
Made this last night and my husband who never raves was commenting in between bites.<br />He went back for seconds and so did I!
 
SF E. September 4, 2017
I've made this twice now, both disappointing. It is really easy to undercook this cake, as the testers come out clean, and it will still be very undercooked in the center. I didn't have a 10" cast iron, and so used my All-Clad stainless, which I think was a mistake. Don't think I will try it again, although it is very pretty.
 
SandraH September 3, 2017
This sounds yummy! Before summer ends, I'm partial to Ina Garten's Plum Tart recipe in her "Parties!" 2001 cookbook, made with Italian plums and a walnut, flour, brown sugar, butter and egg yolk crumb crust. Thats basically the ingredient list. There's some different versions online (just googled it to see if I could find it online as well) but this link is the one I make from her book. I think it's yummy too!<br />http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/plum-tart-recipe2-1916996
 
Tracy September 3, 2017
I cannot WAIT to make this one!!
 
witloof August 26, 2017
Amanda's mother's peach tart! I've made it a few times already but I could make it every week.
 
Sherry W. September 5, 2017
Re: peach tart--I agree, I have many it many many times with whatever fruit I want to put in there. My favorite go-to.<br />
 
FrugalCat August 24, 2017
Cherries(pit them first!) with almonds.<br />Apricots with walnuts.<br />Peaches and Pecans (very state of Georgia)<br />