My neighborhood in Seattle is a funny place. Every block has at least one “chicken house” where folks tend to their own coop of egg-laying chickens. There is a weekly farmer’s market and there is enough demand to service least 3 different CSA delivery programs.
With all this love of all things farm to table, why does the fruit from all of the neighborhood trees go to waste? On my dog walking circuit, there are countless homes that have abundantly producing fruit trees: apples, Asian pears, Italian prunes. Most of the fruit ends up on the ground wasted. Apparently no fruitarians live here. For years, a particularly prolific prune tree was ignored. I’d take the hounds on a walk after dark, and as I passed by the tree, I’d stuff my pockets with the most delicious fruit. For good or bad (for me) the current owners now pick the tree bare right when the fruit ripens. Currently at a loss for my own fruit, we just planted an Italian prune tree in our yard. It will of course take several years to produce, but for sure these plums will not go to waste.
This cake is not too sweet and has a delicate crumb. You could probably use any type of stone fruit, but I really like using Italian plums. Instead of brown sugar, I used raw sugar.
Food 52 Plum Cake
- 1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 8 medium-size fresh lemon verbena leaves or 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
- 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
- 12 small to medium, firm-ripe prune plums, halved lengthwise and pitted
- Lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
- Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside. Stack the lemon verbena leaves (if using), roll up tightly lengthwise, and cut them crosswise into fine ribbons. You will want 2 to 3 packed teaspoons.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and reserved lemon verbena (or lemon zest) until well combined. On low speed, add the flour mixture just until combined. (The batter will be thick.)
- Spread half of the batter evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and top with 12 of the plum halves, cut side down. Dollop and spread the remaining batter over the plums. Arrange the remaining 12 plum halves, cut side up, over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar over the plums.
- Bake until the cake is golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted near the center tests clean (assuming you haven’t hit a plum), 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan front to back a little past halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
- Run a thin knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake sides. Invert a flat plate over the pan. Using oven mitts if needed, grasp the plate and pan tightly together on both sides and invert the plate and pan to release the cake onto the plate. Lift off the pan and peel off the parchment. Invert the cake again onto a serving plate.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream, if desired.