Plum torte

Plums are in abundance this autumn, and seem to be hanging about everywhere I look: in supermarkets, in the organic fruit box, and dropping off a neighbour’s tree into our garden. Over the years we have milked this tree for its worth – if they’re on our side of the fence, they’re ours, right? Plum jams, chutney, and crumbles have been stewed and baked on many an occasion in our house.

For years, my grandad has had his own allotment. I’m very much in awe of his skills, growing not just the basic potatoes and carrots, but also tomatoes, strawberries, beetroot, spring onions, and more. This weekend he gave to us a vast quantity of his homegrown plums and raspberries, as he simply didn’t know what to do with them. I’ve been scoffing them on their own, with yoghurt, and in my porridge for breakfast, but I thought I’d try putting the plums into a cake.

My eye was caught by this recipe for plum torte on the Smitten Kitchen blog, one of my favourite Instagram users. It was first published in the New York Times in 1983, and was apparently republished every season for the next twelve years – so it’s clearly a recipe to be relied upon.

This torte is easy to make, and smells absolutely heavenly in the oven. You’ll need:

  • 125g plain flour
  • a tsp baking powder
  • 200g granulated sugar (the recipe advises adding another one or two tablespoons on top, if your plums aren’t particularly sweet)
  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • large pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 relatively small purple plums (I only needed 9 and a half)
  • 2 tsps freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used the juice of a whole  small lemon)
  • 1 tsp / tbsp ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to gas mark 5, or 170 degrees Celsius. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl. (If you’re using salted butter, leave out the salt.)

In a bigger bowl, cream the butter and 200g sugar with a hand mixer, until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure to scrape down the sides.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, and mix until just combined. (I added an extra couple of dashes of cinnamon to the flour, just to give the whole cake more of a cinnamony taste.)

Cut each plum in half, and take out the stone. It’s easier if you make a slit on each side of the plum, pull it apart, then take the stone out.

Grease and line a 9″ springform baking tin, and spoon the batter into it. Actually, the recipe didn’t call to line the tin, but I was too nervous to try it without; but seeing as the thick batter pulled up the paper as I levelled it out, it’s probably easier unlined.

Arrange the plums, skin-side up, however you like on top of the batter, perhaps in two concentric circles. Sprinkle the lemon juice and cinnamon evenly on top, then the remaining sugar if you think you’ll need it.

Bake until golden brown for 45 – 50 minutes – mine actually took an hour, before the knife I stuck in came out clean. Leave it to cool before removing from the tin – be careful, as the sides of the torte may want to stick and come away from the base.

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The plums ooze a delicious tart sweetness, so I’d really recommend serving the torte with cream or custard. It’s a rather lovely autumnal dessert, and a good way to use up those excess plums. You can freeze plums, too: just pit them, put about a pound into freezer bags, and defrost at your leisure.

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