As the weather gets chillier, at least here in the upper Midwest, we turn our attention over to apples and pears. The summer fruits and berries are no longer available, with the exception of the Italian plum. It has a short little season, which gives one hope and the ability to make it through a winter without stone fruits. ACT NOW, they don’t last long. These little gems are good to eat, but even better to bake with. They aren’t quite as juicy or sweet as their American cousins (of course, once the Italian plums are dried into prunes, and the sugars concentrated, they are the sweetest of all), but they keep their shape well and their skin adds a gorgeous purple color to tarts and cakes.
The brown sugar cake batter and sweet crumb topping are a perfect compliment to the not-too-sweet fruit. It is great for breakfast with a cup of tea and/or with ice cream after dinner. This is a cake that also seems to get better the second day, if there is any left.
The Italian plums have a lovely purple skin with a slightly chalky look. This is just how they look and will keep this appearance even after washing them.
Italian Plum Cake:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
18 Italian plums, cut in half and pitted.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F
Grease an 8-inch springform pan with butter
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each. Mix in the zest and vanilla. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.
Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan.
Place half of the cut plums on the batter, cut side up. Spread the remaining batter over the plums.
Spread the batter into an even layer and top with remaining plums.
In a bowl mix together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and melted butter. You may have to mix it with your hands to get all the butter incorporated.
Spread the crumb topping over the plums evenly.
Place the cake on two stacked cookie sheets, to prevent the bottom from getting too brown during the long baking time. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours or until a tester come out clean. Cool on a rack.
Serve it slightly warm or at room temperature.