Sunday, September 9, 2012

prune plum cake

it’s september and portland has been my home for precisely two years

when i first moved here i did a lot of wandering. i remember pausing in front of houses for what felt like hours, dumbfounded at rosemary bushes the size of living room chairs, magenta dahlias, fig trees, lavender, artichoke

i still stop every time i see mount hood,

i can’t help it.

a few days ago, on my walk home from a trip to the grocery store, i noticed an italian prune plum tree in front of a small home. there was a sign out front, “for sale.” i couldn’t help but think to myself, “i want those plums,” quickly rationalizing my desire to steal by saying, “who is going to harvest this poor plum tree? what’s gonna happen to all the fruit? what’s gonna happen to the tree?!”

so the next night, i put on my cape and filled my bag high


. . .

italian prune plums are one of my favourite end of summer treats. they’re tart and sweet, slightly crunchy, perfect for afternoon snackin’

today, i wanted a little bit more than just a plum, so i turned on the oven, tied my apron and baked my favourite plum cake

billie sang for me

this plum cake recipe comes from a dear family friend, uwe pleban. when i think of uwe, i think of late night economics conversations after family dinner; walking near the river spotting woodland birds; sunday afternoon football games. uwe and his wife, sharbyn are incredible cooks. their home was always so comfortable - toasty with dinner aromas, soft with sunshine, tucked away in the woods. 

so, in celebration of two formative years in the misty pacific northwest, with plum cake in the oven, i’m happy to say that my home, too, feels this way

German Plum Cake
from uwe pleban, originally from his mother's dr. oetker kochbuch from the 1950’s

for the dough, you’ll need:

one stick plus one tablespoons butter (room temperature)
150 grams sugar (about 6 heaping tablespoons)
one half teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
pinch of salt
500 grams flour (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ to 1 cup of milk (the amount depends on a number of factors discussed later)

for the fruit topping, you’ll need:
2-3 pounds prune plums (only prune plums will work, other plums will make a mess in the oven)

beat the butter until it is smooth, then gradually add the sugar and salt.  

add the eggs one egg at the time

sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl

add a few tablespoons of the sifted flour to the batter, then some milk, and keep alternating, ending with the flour. the batter should "tear" from the wooden spoon; if it "drips", there is too much liquid, and more flour should be added. the last two rounds of stirring the batter will require a lot of muscle power, since the batter will be stiff.

butter a baking sheet (i use a rectangular pyrex baking dish). spread the batter evenly over the sheet.

preheat the oven to 375 F

preparing the plums
cut prune plums open enough so that you can remove the pit. Spread each plum and place it in the batter in rows. the rows will be close together. the plums should be at an angle such that the interior light colored side faces upward.

bake for about forty minutes

after the cake has cooled, optionally sprinkle confectioners sugar over it

serve it warm with,

whipping cream
1 ½ pint heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
whip with a hand held electric mixer until soft peaks form

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