For most of August and September, Germany was awash in adorable Italian prune plums, known to Brits as “damsons” and to Germans as Zwetschke (or Zwetschge, depending). Don’t you just want to pinch their chubby cheeks?
Roughly half to two-thirds the size of regular red plums, these purple beaut’s were selling for 1.99/kilo (2.2 lbs.) at the height of summer. And the bakeries in Berlin were going wild with plum Kuchen, plum tarts, plum pockets, and plum strudel. Not to be outdone, I bought a kilo of my own and began scheming.
An admittedly novice baker (and by “novice” I mean: stubborn, refuses to measure things properly, substitutes ingredients at will), I didn’t get much further than my old standby—plum cake. This cake never fails me, and it looks much more impressive than it has any right to. Ina Garten calls this “Plum Cake Tatin”; I call it perfect. (And by “perfect” I mean: despite my best efforts, I never manage to burn it, cause it to fall, or leave half of it clinging to the pan. Oh, and it tastes terrific, too.)
Think of this plum cake as a pretty update on pineapple upside down cake, and you get the idea. This one elicited oohs and aaahs from company, which I guiltily accepted, knowing how easy it is to make. Served up with a dollop of sour cream sauce or crème fraîche, this cake will serve you well in a pinch (or an overabundance of produce), too. Enjoy!
Plum Cake “Tatin” (after Ina Garten)
-6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the dish
-10 to 12 purple Italian “prune” plums or 4 regular plums pitted and sliced (if you use regular plums or another juicy fruit, you will probably have to pour off some juice after the cake bakes.)
-1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
-2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
-1/3 cup plain yogurt
-1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract
-1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-toasted sliced almonds, for topping (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie dish and arrange the plums in the dish, cut side down.
2. Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color. Swirl the pan but don’t stir. Pour quickly and evenly over the plums.
3. Meanwhile, cream 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. Add the yogurt, lemon zest, and vanilla (or almond extract) and mix until combined. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.
4. Pour the cake batter evenly over the plums and bake for 40 minutes, until the cake is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15-25 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate. [If the fruit was very juicy (i.e., the cake is swimming in sauce), you may need to pour off some of the fruit syrup before inverting the cake. Allow to set as much as possible before turning out the cake.]
7. Sprinkle with toasted almonds, if using. Serve warm or at room temperature with crème fraîche or whipped cream.