September 7, 2021
Makes one 8-inch torte
Ciao. What are Italian plums? They are smaller than your average plum, with purple skin, pale yellow flesh, and an oblong shape. They are firm and deliciously sweet and, when baked, melt into puddles of ruby red, gooey, plummy, jammy heaven. I live in Seattle and have an Italian plum tree in my yard. When summer lazily dances into fall, the tree is heaving with ripe fruit. And I am ready to bake.
Marian Burros is a cookbook author and food columnist at the New York Times. Her recipe quickly became a fan favorite and was printed every September for six years. It's crazy simple and crazy good. I made a few minor adjustments by adding vanilla extract and salt to the batter. I also wanted my cake to look pretty and shiny like the New York Times photo, so I brushed on a simple glaze of apricot jam and water after baking.
My one issue is calling it a torte, which conjures up fancy-schmancy cakes with four or more layers. This plum torte is a cake. And it's a delicious one.
10-12 Italian plums, cut in half, pits removed
*If you can't get your hands on Italian plums, any plum variety will do. I would cut them in half and then in quarters.
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar for dusting
1 teaspoon cinnamon for dusting
*demerara sugar for texture, if you have it
1-2-tablespoons apricot jam
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8-inch springform pan with baking spray, or grease and flour the pan.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice.
Add the flour mixture, eggs, and vanilla and mix on medium-low speed until combined, just a minute or so. Try not to overdo it with the mixing!
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Add the plum halves in concentric circles, skin-side up. Sprinkle the turbinado and cinnamon (as much or as little as you'd like, depending on how sweet you want the cake to be and how much you like cinnamon). I like to add a pinch of demerara sugar as well, as it offers a lovely texture and crunch.
Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes until the top becomes golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. Let cool on a rack. Once cool, heat a tablespoon or two of apricot jam with about one teaspoon of water. Stir and gently brush the mixture over the top of the cake.
Enjoy a slice (or two), and if you can control yourself, cover and let it sit overnight at room temperature because it's even better the next day!