Italian Plum Cake

During any type of orientation, you are guaranteed to be asked: "Please share one unique thing about yourself". In a lunch meeting with a group of students and my academic advisory dean, I said I liked to cook and bake, especially when stressed out.

My dean laughed, saying, "You just made a bunch of new friends".  All week, I thought what to bring in to our next lunch meeting. When I saw the plump little prune plums at the Public Market last Saturday, I knew just what to do.

This has always been a favorite cake of mine, and since it's so seasonal (as far as I know, prune plums are only available in the fall)---it always feels like a rare and delicious treat. The otherwise too-tart plums bake up golden and sweet, perfectly complimented by the vanilla cake below them. The recipe is a hand-me-down from a family friend, one my mom made only once or twice every year....

I brought in the cake to the next meeting of our advisory group, and it sat, awkwardly, in the middle of the table as we discussed topics about the upcoming year. "Does anyone have any other concerns?" my dean asked after a while. When silence ensued, he said, "Well, my concern is how we're going to divide up this cake!"

The cake was as good as I always remember it to be. It is beautiful and delicious, tart and sweet. A friend of mine who claims to have lost his sweet tooth as a teenager ate two whole pieces. It seemed to prompt my advisor's comment: "Maybe you chose the wrong career." While I'm not giving up medical school any time soon, I will continue to bake as much as I possibly can.

Italian Plum Cake
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • about 12 prune plums, halved
  • 1 tsp cinnamon mixed with about 1/4 c sugar

Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Cream the butter in sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the other dry ingredients. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar, and beat in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet one, and combine. 

Pour the batter into a well-greased 9" springform pan (a pie plate works as well--though I'll usually put a circle of parchment paper down before I grease the whole thing). Arrange the prune plums out (skin side down) in concentric circles, not overlapping, on top of the batter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the top, and bake for 30-40 minutes.

**These pictures are not from the cake I made for my advisor (there was not even one crumb left from that version), but from a version I made this summer with a slightly different (non-dairy) cake bottom. If you are dairy-free, you can substitute this cake base for another recipe, but the batter I made this summer didn't hold up the plums as well as the version with butter. However, if your cake looks a little different, that's why!

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