“Original”, “beloved”, “fabled”. I have even seen “infamous”! These are all words used to describe this simple yet tasty plumb torte on the various blogs and discussion boards where I have seen it described. I have to suspect that the writer didn’t really mean “infamous”, right? After all, this torte never stole from anyone did it? It never actually tortured anyone in defiance of the Geneva Conventions nor did it lead a country into war using falsified evidence of weapons of mass destruction, did it? Of course not! Certainly it would deserve to be known as infamous (and we would all agree) if it had done these things but this particular torte did not. It does, however, deserve fame — the good kind. “Original Plumb Torte” has been in my clipping pile for so long I can’t even remember how it got there. It may have been clipped during one of its annual runs from the Food Section of the New York Times but it could have just as likely been culled from the many other times it has appeared in newsprint. I do know that it is one of those baking legends that everyone seems to know but me. I Googled it and was astonished to see just how many times this cake has been made and referenced. 519,000 results! It turns out the New York Times had ran Marian Burros’ famous recipe 13 years in a row in the pages of the New York Times Food Section until one day she finally got so fed up with the repeated requests that she told her readers to just laminate the damn thing ’cause she wasn’t going to publish it any more!
These are the kinds of factoids I don’t really bargain for when I Google a recipe! I prefer to read things like “it was a bit too sweet” or “it needed 10 extra minutes in the oven” because that is good stuff to know before you start out! Knowing that this torte was so popular that the fabled New York Times food writer actually got sick of sharing the recipe would have you thinking you were about to eat the Second Coming of cake and while it is good, this torte is not That Cake. Whatever That Cake is, I can safely say that no dessert with only a handful of ingredients and that is this simple to make can be considered That Cake — but conversely, I simply don’t know of any other desert with this few ingredients that is this good. Period. And really, all I needed was to use a bowl of Italian plumbs that were thismuch away from being “old” to be happy. This torte dispatched them perfectly and elegantly to boot. While you can make this with any stone fruit or even berries there is something about the fleshy plum that turns magical during the cooking process here that I can’t imagine any other fruit achieving quite the same way. The plum transforms into an almost jam like consistency as the puffy warm batter surrounds it. The light sprinkling of sugar adds some texture and flavor to the top without getting in the way of the delicate flavors of both the cake and the plums themselves. Knowing my audience, I omitted the cinnamon in favor of a dash of cardamom tossed into the batter. Just enough to be inconspicuous yet somehow present. This will definitely be made again. Several times.
Original Plum Torte
Adapted from the New York Times
This is what you will need:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of Cardamom (just shy of 1/4 teasp.)
- 2 eggs
- 24 halves pitted purple or Italian plums (I had several fewer.)
- Sugar for topping.
- Cinnamon (optional)
This is how you make it:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, cardamom, salt and eggs and beat well. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with (about) 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon. (Omit if using cardamom.)
- Bake one hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream..To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.
If plumbs aren’t your thing but you still want to give a torte a try check out my recipe/post written for standmixer.ca where figs are used instead of plumbs. The recipe is every bit as easy and every bit as tasty!