Plum cake, round one

One of the innumerable fantastic things about the house where I live is the plum tree in the yard. There are two, actually, and this year’s produce is a bumper crop compared to last year’s. I think they’re Italian plums—they’re egg-shaped, not round, with purple skin and a freestone seed. The side yard is littered with them, so last weekend I picked through the plums that hadn’t split open yet and looked up a few recipes.

Y’all, I was disappointed. I trusted Martha Stewart to give me great recipes and she let me down. The plum cake, despite sticking to the recipe with uncharacteristic precision, overflowed out of the cake pan and made a huge mess in the oven. The rising batter completely sunk the plums so you couldn’t tell that Mckenzie and I laid them in a pretty pattern; I ended up turning the cake upside down onto a plate because it was such a mess. Still not clear on what I did wrong—I read and re-read that recipe at least a dozen times and couldn’t figure out what happened. (I also used a Martha recipe for a rustic plum tart, and it was a disaster. More on that in another post.)

Anyway, the good news is that even if the cake didn’t look like the prettiest thing, it was delicious. It tasted like the cake version of a blueberry muffin, if you substituted plums for the blueberries. So I guess it tasted like plum muffins? The lemon zest is essential in this recipe, so don’t skip it.

There are even more ripe plums on the tree today, so I just gathered a bowl full of them and am going to attempt another plum cake recipe (and a plum pie!) today or tomorrow. I’ll post plum cake, round two later this week.

Plum cake
from Martha Stewart…maybe you’ll have more luck with this recipe than I did.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 cup sour cream
3 plums (I used 6 Italian plums because they’re smaller than regular plums)
confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 375˚. Butter a 9-inch or 8×2-inch cake pan. Whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until it’s light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Beat in 1/2 the flour mixture, then the sour cream, and then the rest of the flour mixture.

Spread the batter into the pan; toss plums with remaining flour in a bowl and sprinkle over the batter. (Or, spend some time arranging them in an intricate pattern even though it won’t matter in the end.)

Bake 30 minutes until cake is golden. Loosely tent tinfoil over it and bake 35 minutes more, until the cake pulls away from the pan and a toothpick comes out clean. (Or, bake for 10 minutes; check on the cake; realize it’s overflowing and smoking; take the smoke detector off the wall and put it by a window; clean out as much of the overflow as possible from the bottom of the oven; put cake pan on a cookie sheet to catch the anticipated future overflow.)


This isn’t how it’s supposed to look. Martha, what happened?

Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Put it on a plate or whatever and then dust it with confectioner’s sugar.

The finished product:

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5 thoughts on “Plum cake, round one

  1. Pingback: Plum tart | Pimento Cheese, Please.

  2. Pingback: Plum cake, round two | Pimento Cheese, Please.

  3. I wish I had seen this post earlier, I had the same problem with our house in Seattle! I would end up making a ton of plum preserves and freezing a bunch to put in yogurt in the winter. Plus just eating a bunch ;).

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