It was my turn to choose this week's TWD recipe. Exciting? Yes. Difficult? You bet! There are so many fantastic recipes in this book, it was nearly impossible to choose one recipe. I decided on the plum cake because I love plums and cardamom is one of my favorite spices. Also, I've been very busy with work and travel lately, so I decided it would be safe to choose an easy recipe that I could throw together quickly.
Wow, I'm so thankful I choose such an easy recipe. In addition to working 14 hour days at the bakery; last week I went to a Star Chef conference in NYC for two days, and then Joe and I went to NYC again Sunday returning late last night. Both trips were great. I hope to post about the conference sometime today, it was amazing. Yesterday we had a nice lunch at David Burke and Donatella, and afterwards I shopped around while Joe went to an appointment. We got home late last night, and skipped dinner because we were still stuffed from lunch.
Back to the plum cake. First off, I decided to halve the recipe. Both Joe and I have been consuming copious amounts of baked goods since Sofra opened, so I decided we didn't exactly "need" 8 servings of this cake! I baked the cake in a 6" round cake pan, which worked out perfectly. I think the cake may have been slightly shorter than Dorie's, but I wanted to fit more plums on top of the cake and I knew my 4" pan would only hold about 5 plum halves. The recipe was easy to make. Cream butter and sugar, add egg(s), add oil, zest, and vanilla; and finally add dry ingredients till just incorporated.
I scraped the batter into my cake pan, leveled it out a bit, and then topped it with 7 plum halves (I couldn't squeeze the last one in).
My bake time was surprisingly longer than Dorie suggested. I baked the cake for just over 45 minutes at 350.
When the cake came out of the oven, I was slightly disappointed with how dry the plums looked.
I decided to beautify it by making a plum cardamom glaze. What I did was I cut a plum up into small pieces and put it in a pan with some sugar, once the sugar started to melt, I added two fresh cardamom seeds and a little bit of brandy.
I left the skin on the plums because I love the color that plum skin leaches while cooking. Next I went to the dining room to pay bills. Having forgotten about my plum glaze, I came back to a nicely caramelized plum glaze (phew)! I wish every time I forgot about something on the stovetop that would happen! I added a little bit of water to thin out my glaze and topped the cake with it.
Appearance wise, I think the glaze made this a really beautiful cake.
It's the kind of cake I would want to buy at a bakery based on appearance. I swear my pictures don't even come close to showing just how pretty this cake was. Overall though, I wasn't blown away by the cake itself. I have a feeling it's because my plums weren't that great. There were hundreds of purple plums at the grocery store, but they were all rock hard. I chose the ripest of the lot, but that's not saying much. I will certainly make this cake again when I can find some beautiful plums. I have a feeling that will make a huge difference in the overall flavor of the cake. Also, I'm interested to see what this cake tastes like tomorrow. Dorie says that the first day the cake is like corn bread and the 2nd and 3rd days it's soft and moist. Perhaps I'll fall in love with it tomorrow.
Just a side note. If you have David Lebovitz's book Ripe for Dessert try his recipe for a yeasted plum tart with red wine-plum sauce. It's a fantastic plum recipe. Also, today I plan on catching up on some posts. Check out my posts on both Sofra and the Star Chefs Conference.
Here's the recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours
Dimply Plum Cake (page 41)
1 ½ C AP Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp salt
Scant ¼ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
5 Tbsp Unsalted butter, room temp
¾ C Packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 C flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
8 purple of red plums (in the fall, use Italian prune plums), halved and pitted
Getting Ready: center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degress F. 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 cardamom, if you're using it, together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, 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 mixture 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 till they're 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-I usually make 4 rows of 4 plum halves each-jiggling the plums a tad just 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.