Rosh Hashanah and the holidays that follow mark the season of sweet foods.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and try to avoid sugar, but there is, as they say, a time and place for everything. This is the season for my grandmother’s plum cake.
The first rule of this plum cake: Use more plums than you think is reasonable. The top should be covered entirely in plums that have been cut in half. And yes, you can use pluots or apriums or whatever color or flavor of plum you like. Just make sure they’re delicious.
Edited to add: I just spoke to my grandmother and she says apricots are also marvelous in this recipe. You can even halve them, freeze them, and make this cake in winter.
The original recipe calls for regular flour. I’ve made it gluten-free with a blend of rice flour and nut flour. It works great with either almond flour or hazelnut flour. The last two nights, I’ve used local hazelnut flour, probably my favorite baking ingredient (after butter).
Make this to celebrate fall, to break fast on Yom Kippur, to eat on Sukkot, to sweeten Shabbat Shuva (tonight) or just to use up all those plums that have been attacking you from your plum tree (or the one down the block/in the park/in your friend’s yard).
And when you eat it, wish sweet things, and strength and health this year, for my grandmother in return.
Grandma’s Holiday Plum Cake
- 1 cup sugar (I’ve used white or brown. You can also reduce the sugar but it’s necessary to have some for the cake’s crumb)
- 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
- a dash of vanilla (optional — you can also try almond)
- zest of one lemon or orange
- 1 cup flours: I combine rice and hazelnut (or almond) in a proportion of either 1/2 cup of each or 3/4 cup rice to 1/4 cup nut. Fluff or sift.
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (you can sift into flour)
- pinch of salt, unless you’ve used salted butter
- 2 eggs (beat with fork to mix)
- 6-8 large, or 12 small, plums or pluots, halved and pitted (I like to use different kinds/colors for aesthetics and flavor)
- a few spoonfuls of sugar mixed with 1 tsp or more cinnamon and (I added) cardamom
- lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350F.
1. Cream sugar and butter until light.
2. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and zest if using.
3. In a separate bowl, mix flours baking powder, and salt. Mix in gently but thoroughly.
4. Spoon the batter into a buttered 9-inch springform pan.
5. Cover the top entirely with the halved plums, skin side up. Sprinkle lightly with topping mixture and lemon juice. You can skip the topping too.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Remove and cool. Remove sides of spring form pan but leave cake on the bottom part. Refrigerate or freeze if desired, or cool to lukewarm and serve plain with vanilla ice cram or whipped cream (which Grandma prefers).
To serve frozen torte, defrost and reheat briefly at 300 degrees.
Yield 8 servings.