A few weeks ago I went to visit a friend with a plum tree. If I were a more organized person, I would schedule my social obligations around southern California's backyard fruit harvest schedule. I'm not and I don't, but this time, in a happy coincidence, I arrived, hugged my friend, looked out into her yard, and saw ripe Santa Rosa plums. With her permission, my inappropriate footwear and I clambered up the hill and pulled down a few dozen light-red plums to take home.
And then - this always seems to happen when friends give me fruit - I got busy. The plums sat on my counter for a week, then two. The skin darkened from light red to deep purple. Santa Rosas have a complex flavor but they're not exactly sweet, so eating out of hand didn't really appeal.
Yesterday, finally, I had time to consider the plums. I spent a good half-hour reading plum recipes on SimplyRecipes, noodling with the idea of plum sorbet, plum galette, and a wacky plum conserve that reads like jam until you get to the raisins and nuts.
Ultimately, though, I went back to a magical combination I discovered last year when making a plum bread pudding: Plums love Chinese five-spice powder, a traditional blend of cinnamon, star anise, pepper, cloves and fennel. I wrapped it all in a traditional French yogurt cake, one I've made a hundred times. The end result: a rustic cake with a beautiful purple layer of fruit in the middle. The cake isn't super sweet, and neither are the plums, so if you're looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, move along. I would call this a bracing cake, dessert for those who don't mind a bit of pucker.
Plum yogurt cake
Any plums will work in this recipe. Don't peel them - with most plums, the color comes from the skin. Some lightly sweetened whipped cream wouldn't hurt for serving.
- 1 pound plums (Santa Rosa or another variety)
- 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup Greek yogurt (lowfat or nonfat)
- 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, divided
- 1/3 cup canola or grapeseed oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
Wash, pit and dice the plums, not too small. In a small bowl, gently toss the diced plums with the granulated sugar and Chinese five-spice powder. Let sit while you make the cake batter.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, 1 cup of brown sugar, and oil until smooth. Into another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the dry ingredients on top of the wet ingredients and mix gently with a spatula or large spoon until just combined - if you mix it too much the cake will be tough. Stir in the almond extract.Spread half the cake batter in the prepared pan. Spoon the plums over the batter evenly, then cover with the remaining batter as best you can. It may not cover it perfectly - that's okay. If some of the plums peek out of the edges of the cake, so much the better. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, then slide the pan into the oven. Bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool in the pan at least 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edges of the cake, then lift the cake out of the pan with a large, wide spatula and slide it onto a cake stand. Serve at room temperature.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings