And Then Sometimes It's Fall

Well, not really. Not yet anyway, but it kind of feels like it, doesn't it? Now, please don't get me wrong. I'm a summer person. I always want to feel the sun on my skin. I always want berries and tomatoes to be in the market. And I usually want to drink watermelon aguas frescas.

Sorry to get carried away. Back to the season it currently feels like.

It's around this time each year that I usually start craving the cooking techniques of Fall. I want to braise meats and greens. I want to make soups and stews and polentas and risottos. I want to gratin potatoes and roast chickens and begin my annual ritual of swearing to myself that I will actually make latkes this winter. And then sometimes, I get a strange itch and decide I really want to bake.

I made a promise, not just to you guys - dear readers, but also to my Sidekick, that as soon as I could stand to turn the oven back on, I would bake Smitten Kitchen's plum cake.

And that I did.

It didn't turn out quite as beautifully as Smitten Kitchen's drool-inducing images, but you guys, it tasted REALLY good.

I made a few McPickles-esque changes. By that I mean, I used the wrong-sized pan because I do not bake, added extra spices (including cayenne pepper, which my Sidekick will not stop laughing about - "You add pepper to EVERYTHING!") and used regular sugar instead of brown because that's what I had on hand. I can tell you that this recipe is very difficult to screw up and has proportions that I can ALMOST remember by heart. It is buttery, crumbly, comforting, tart from the plums and has been my Sidekick's breakfast every day since.

That said, here are the changes I made that you should ignore: if you have the correct-sized pan, use it. I think this cake will taste best when it has room to spread out and get really sticky. Also, I think using brown sugar will really help to make this even more buttery and caramely. You and I should both just buy some so we have it and don't have to learn these things the hard way. Happy baking!

Dimply Plum Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it, barely, from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper (I KNOW.)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup olive oil (you can use canola or something with less flavor, if you like)
Grated zest of 1 orange, lemon or lime
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums halved and pitted (I used Italian prune plums since they were at my market, but this is also great with nectarines, blackberries, your imagination is the limit)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°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, nutmeg, cayenne and cinnamon together.

Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, zest and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, 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–without over-crowding, you want your cake to have room to spread out–jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.

Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes (check early and often), or until the top is just 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 juices will seep back into the cake then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Thanks, Smitten!


  1. 1) "jiggling the plums"

    2) thank you for bringing it someplace i could put it in my face.

    3) confession: pudding recipe also came from smitten kitchen. we are the same.

  2. Should I reveal our secret name for said cake? I'm sure folks can imagine as much.