Plum Cake – a fall affair

plum cake

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 plum cake also seems to get better the second day, if there is any left.

Italian Plums | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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

3 eggs

2 yolks

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

Plum Cake Batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Cut plums in cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Place half of the cut plums on the batter, cut side up. Spread the remaining batter over the plums.

Cut plums in cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Spread the batter into an even layer and top with remaining plums.

Crumb Topping | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Plum cake with crumb topping | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Spread the crumb topping over the plums evenly.

Crumb topping on plum cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Slice of plum cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Serve it slightly warm or at room temperature.

Slice of plum cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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30 thoughts to “Plum Cake – a fall affair”

  1. Just printed out the recipe. No plums here at the moment, due to opposite seasons, but no reason why I can’t try it with something else for the time being 🙂

  2. Hi Zoë – The figs have been delicious and abundant here in Provence. I wonder how the cake would hold up using figs instead. Wish I had time to test the cake using figs. But Alas. Hope to see you before too long.

  3. Zoë, this is one of the most stunning cakes I have seen in such a long time, as simple as it is. The plums are now out in force and quickly fading and I have yet to bake anything with plums although I’ve been craving it. I think I found my recipe! The texture looks perfect! Beautiful!

    1. Thank you everyone!

      I’ve ended up making this cake 4 times in the past week! I’ve brought it to friends, family and neighbors!

      Bret, YES, I think it would be fantastic with figs. You may want to up the zest, since figs are so much sweeter!

      Cheers, Zoë

    1. Hi Erica,

      Please let me know how it goes, I was thinking to add almond flour to the recipe. Are you going to make it g-f or just in addition to the AP?

      Thanks, Zoë

  4. Zoe, you make baking sound so simple. Unfortunately I don’t bake much desserts for the sugar and butter that goes in but I am going to try one of your recipe this weekend.

    PS: I love your book and all the recipes are so easy to fix. Thanks for that.

  5. Has one been sent in the mail to the farm?
    If not – be ready to be made into a binder that I will store in cold-storage and keep away from any magical indulgence.

    You have the knack to tease and please.

    LOVE you Zoe and your recipes, this blog, your books and your personality and your charm – have smitten this man from the very first time I met you.

    You inspire me deeply.

    1. Hi Helen,

      Yes, this is the timing I got for the cake. It is a thick batter. You can check yours sooner if it makes you nervous to bake a cake that long!

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. Year 2 and my 4th cake. Delightful recipe, but am wondering if you have any suggestions as to how to keep the cake from falling in the middle. It happens with each cake 🙁

    1. Hi Mary,

      It sounds like your cake just needs a longer baking time. It could be the pan or your oven is running a touch cool. If you test it with a toothpick at the end, does it come out clean?

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. The edges were too brown to allow for a longer cooking time, and I do keep a thermometer in my oven to check temp – never have trusted an oven thermometer for my baking! I’m wondering if my oven is perhaps cycling on/off and that’s what’s messing with my cake. I also might try baking in a slightly larger pan. Oh, and the toothpick had crumbs stuck to it and was a bit damp, but I knew if I left it in any longer it was going to have burnt edges – true sadness. Thank you!

  7. I baked this cake with Pamela’s gluten free flour and it was fabulous! I used some local plums (little guys – not sure what the variety was). Simply incredible with vanilla ice cream 🙂 Thanks Zoë!

  8. This cake is amazing and I am madly in love with it. I am going to try making it with frozen cherries and see how that works out.

  9. This is Delicious!! Since it’s spring, I substituted rhubarb for the plums and followed the recipe with no other substitutions. It was mouth watering good. I look forward to when plums are in season. Thank you for this classic that will be at the top of my baking list!!

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