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If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.
Today: A going away present, from plums, to you. And it all happens in one bowl.
If this is the last thing you do with plums all year, you won't be sorry.
This is the story of a buttoned-up little plum cake that was meant to be a freer, unfettered dessert of syrupy poached plums. When I worked in a kitchen a few years back, I was the one in charge of poaching pears in vats of spiced red wine, and I wanted to riff on that, to pay homage to the slightly thick, warm, citrus-scented poaching liquid I'd stir with a spoon as long as my right arm.
And then one night I threw together this lovely book's one-bowl ricotta olive oil cake with a few editors you may know. I threw caution to the wind, added plums, threw more caution to the wind, amped up the lemon zest, drank another glass of wine, slyly increased the salt. What came out of the oven was delicious. My poached plum plans had officially derailed, as plans do, and I wasn't mad about it.
Because what use are we, really, if we don't share our cake discoveries?
Use perfectly ripe plums when you make this, as they have a way of being honest, true to themselves, in this cake -- if they're too firm, you won't get them to say they're not later. (Did you get an unlucky pint anyway? Defer to Merrill.) And at the risk of making enemies with Alice Medrich, I will tell you that I've made this cake without first sifting the flour, and not a soul complained. Sift if you wish, you won't hear from me if you don't. It will, however, make things more dramatic if you happen to be photographing the whole process. Try to tell me you didn't want a dramatic sifting shot.
So let's save the pears for deeper into fall, shall we? They'll be what to cook then.
Makes one 9-inch cake
Butter for pan
1 cup fresh, full-fat ricotta
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 to 10 small plums, halved, pitted, and set aside
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
Photos by Eric Moran