When I saw the baskets full of perfectly ripe plums at Brick Works farmers' market this weekend, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them -- bake them into Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum Cake, from her tome Baking: From My Home To Yours.
Let me count the ways in which I love this cake: 1) It's way easy to prepare; 2) It bakes up beautifully, the batter rising up around the plum halves and transforming into a deep golden brown; and 3) It's delicious.
I also saw this recipe not too long ago on the excellent Smitten Kitchen, and took a cue from it in subbing cinnamon for cardamom. It's not that I don't enjoy cardamom -- in the right recipe (savoury or sweet) it can be wonderful. But cinnamon and plums is, quite simply, a divine combination.
As Dorie suggests, you can substitute other fruits and spices depending on what's available. Apricots with orange zest and star anise, peaches with lemon zest and finely chopped fresh basil, nectarines with orange zest, cherries with lime zest. Whatever your preference, you'll love this cake!
Dimply Plum Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavourless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums (in the fall, use Italian prune plums), halved and pitted
Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.
Using a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest, and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter, jiggling the plums a tad so they settle comfortably into the batter.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes -- during which time the plums' juice will return to the fruit - then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.
Source: Baking: From My Home To Yours, Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin, 2006.