Sunday, August 29, 2010
One of the delights of summer. Italian prune plums are, I dare say, superior to all other plums. The small egg-shaped fruit has blue to purple bloom-covered skin and amber flesh that separates easily from the pit. Compared to other plums, the flesh is sweeter and less juicy, and the skin isn't nearly as sour. They're great for eating fresh and also perfect for baking. And fear not—fresh Italian prune plums bear no resemblance to dried.
It seemed natural to pair our Italian plums, from the little tree in our garden, with some fruity olive oil we brought back from Italy.
Plum Honey-Olive Oil Cake
Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup honey, preferably orange blossom honey
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk
8 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar for 2 to 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Whisk in the honey until thoroughly combined and then whisk in the olive oil and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then ½ of the milk, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the remaining ½ of the milk, and then the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture, whisking for only a few seconds after each addition until just combined. Do not overmix. Transfer to the cake pan and arrange the plums cut side down over the batter. Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cake start to shrink away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Run a paring knife around the inside of the cake pan, invert onto a cooling rack, and finish cooling completely. Cut into portions and serve.
Makes 1 9-inch cake, serving 8. The honey in the batter will cause the cake to brown quickly. The batter is relatively thin, and the plums will fall to the bottom of the cake as it bakes, so the cake is most attractive served upside down. This cake is effortless to whip up and yet loaded with flavor. It stays moist longer than most and may be even better the day after it's baked.