I’ve finally turned on the oven after a long, long withdrawal, and it is good to finally break the fast of baked goods. The end of summer is now coming, the heat breaking, and I took advantage of it this weekend.
I’ve been getting plums from the grocery store for the past few weeks, and they’ve been really good. Hence, I was on the lookout for a recipe to bake with plums with ingredients that I already had at home (not including the plums). I wanted something a little more complicated than a cobbler or crumble bars, and this recipe fit the bill.
Ina Garten calls this Plum Cake “Tatin,” but I disagree. It isn’t what I would consider a tarte tatin; there’s no pastry, puff or shortcrust. Tarte tatin is basically an inside-out pie– lots of caramelized fruit with a flaky pastry on the bottom. This is a cake, more or less an upside-down cake, so I’m going to call it a Plum Upside-Down cake even though I can admit that Ina’s name is much more luxurious.
This recipe uses prune plums, also called Italian plums, which are much smaller than the normal plums that you typically pick up and eat. As the name suggests, they are dried to make prunes. Raw, they have a faint flavor reminiscent of prunes, but baked, they impart a tartness that perfectly contrasts with the caramel that coats them and the sweet, lemon-scented cake that they sit atop. Served with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, the cake is a welcome farewell to the summer heat.
Plum upside-down cake
slightly adapted from Barefoot in Paris
makes 6-8 servings; 1-9 ½ inch cake
Note: Feel free to use a 9 or 10 inch glass pie pan; you might need one or two fewer or more prunes depending on the size that you use.
12 prune plums, halved and pitted
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
⅓ cup sour cream
zest of ¼ a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1. Butter a 9 ½ inch glass pie dish and arranged the halved plums on the bottom, cut side down.
2. In a small saucepan, mix together 1 cup sugar and ⅓ cup water. Set over high heat and cook until it turns amber in color, about 10 minutes, swirling the caramel in the pan occasionally but not stirring. Immediately once it has turned amber, pour evenly over the plums.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the 6 tablespoons butter and ¾ cup sugar until light and fluffy (level 2). Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla and stir together (1) until combined.
4. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the wet ingredients. Mix together (1), until combined. If needed, finish incorporating the flour on the sides of the bowl by hand.
5. Pour the cake batter over the plums and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the edges are golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 to 20 minutes, and then invert it onto a plate. This part gets a little messy– I suggest setting the top of the plate over the cake, carrying it over to a sink, and quickly flipping the pie pan and plate. Some caramel/syrup will likely end up in the sink, but hopefully you’ve avoided most of the mess.
6. Serve immediately, or let cool for an hour more. Serve slices with lightly sweetened whipped cream, if desired.