Plums were possibly my least favorite fruit growing up. I think it might have been the sometimes-mushy texture of the flesh and the tart, sour crisp skins that bothered me. Plums were just not my fruit. I think my brother loved them, but I could never understand why.
Now, I love plums. I love the crisp, tangy skin that is a welcome contrast to the soft, uber-sweet flesh of the fruit. Their flavor is perfectly balanced, slightly floral even, and I can’t get enough of them.
I started with Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for a dimply plum cake from Baking: From My Home to Yours (page 41) because I love the way the cake features the plum halves, like they are on display. Dorie uses cardamom in her recipe, but I felt like more spice, but not just the usual cinnamon and nutmeg combination. Instead, I opted for anise seed for its licorice flavor, and allspice because it reminds me of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves combined.
This is a fantastic cake for spotlighting perfectly ripe plums. The cake is light and full of flavor. The sweet caramel flavor from the brown sugar is the perfect complement to the tart plum skins. And, though the oil in the cake batter may seem a little unusual, I think it actually yields a moister crumb than an all-butter cake.
Plum spice cake
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 230 grams
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp fine kosher salt
- 2/3 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground anise seed
- 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter 71 grams, room temperature
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar 150 grams, packed
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup canola oil 80 mL
- 3 –5 plums halved and pit removed
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and line with parchment paper a 9-inch square baking pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and all the spices. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, cream together the butter and the brown sugar with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well.
- Add the oil, and mix well. The batter will be glossy and silky at this point.
- Add the flour, and stir slowly to combine, making sure that the flour is completely incorporated.
- Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place the plum halves, cut side up, and pressing them slightly into place in to batter.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the edges are golden brown, and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the cake.
- Remove the pan from the oven, and let cool on a wire rack, cut into squares (using the plums as a guide) and serve warm or at room temperature.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.