Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Recipe: Judith's plum torte

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Italian prune plums say autumn to me in a way few other foods can. When I was just out of college and living in New York, teaching myself to cook by watching PBS on lazy Saturday afternoons, I'd walk from my apartment near Lincoln Center up to the original, somewhat shabby Fairway market on Broadway, and in early fall these egg-shaped purple beauties would be overflowing one of the bins outside the store. They were cheap - maybe 49 cents a pound at the height of their appearance - and I'd no idea what to do with them, but I bought them anyway.

Luckily, my friend Judith - who grew up in a baking household, very much unlike mine - did know what to do with them. She made a simple fruit torte, a soft vanilla-scented batter in a round springform pan, which she topped with these plums, cut in half, pushed flesh side down into the batter. Twenty years later, she and I both still make this cake, because it works with any seasonal fruit. But when I make it with these plums, I feel young again: short hair, a burnt-orange vintage suede jacket whose fringe had definitely seen better days, pushing my cart up Broadway as summer turned to fall in Manhattan and I learned what it meant to grow up.

Judith's plum torte
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 8-10 Italian prune plums, pitted and halved 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a stand mixer - or, for you very strong bakers, in a bowl with a wooden spoon - cream together 1 cup of the sugar and the butter. Add the eggs and beat well to combine. Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, then add to the butter mixture and combine. Pour the batter into the pan, then arrange the plums, flesh side down, over the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake 1 hour or until top is golden and fruit juices are bubbling around the sides. Cool in the pan, then remove to a serving plate.

6 comments:

Jackie said...

Great story, Erika. I love how food has the power to transport us back to a different time. This recipe looks great - delicious, versatile and easy.

The Diva on a Diet said...

What a beautiful post, Erika! Food memories are so powerful. Funny, too, you took me back to a time when Fairway wasn't the nightmare that it currently is. Gah, shopping there is a combat sport these days, sadly.

Oh, and the recipe looks phenomenal too!

Laura said...

Wow that looks so dang good! I'd love to try this if I ever find plums at a fair price. Are we going to get a blogher recap?

Erika said...

@Jackie @Diva @Laura: Thanks for coming to visit my blog! Yes, I do love this little cake. It's so easy, and I've made it with peaches, apricots, cherries, blueberries, apples...whatever I have on hand, actually.

Laura, I'm not sure I have enough material in me for a BlogHer recap. I didn't take ANY pictures. Maybe I'll do a post that just gives a shout-out to ALL the amazing women (and men, to be fair) I met at the conference. I have so much more good reading material these days!

Anali said...

I can just see that fringe jacket! Sounds so pretty. The plums are beautiful and I bet the torte is delicious. : )

Doug said...

Hi Erika! This has been my go-to dessert recipe for years. It's easy and always turns out well. I got it from my friend Tom, who lived in Manhattan Beach, written out on some notepad from Ophthalmology Times magazine. The only difference in Tom's recipe is that he squeezes a little lemon juice over the plums to give them some more zing -- balances out the sweetness of the cake.

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