My copy of David Tanis’s ‘A platter of figs’ falls open in the most familiar way at page 171………there is even a faint, careless, circular coffee cup stain. Two clues which suggest I have made it dozens of times…….I haven’t….. I have just looked at page 171 rather alot.
Having said that…. it is a little strange. I have faithfully smoothed and stared at other pages, pored over various pictures with equal intensity. The page in question is not the middle of the book, the binding doesn’t seem to favour it and whats more, it is a volume fat with bookmarks – 4 posit’s, 1 postcard, a recipe I ripped out of the newspaper and a depressing bank statement – and it still falls open at page 171.
Anyway, I decided to take it as a sign, a message, maybe from the author himself.
I just needed to wait for Plum time…..
…. which has arrived.
Nice plums have been around at the market since late July but apart from some tiny greengagelike delights which took me by surprise one-day, I didn’t buy any – being too preoccupied with cherries and then the peaches, nectarines and apricots before they disappeared for another year – Plums can wait I thought.
Until now that is, September, when are at their best, their sweet, juicy but robust flesh and dusty mellow colours fitting and right for these still warm but unmistakably autumnal days. We ate the first plums straight, they deserved it. Blue, black, oval ones called Stanley or Italian plums, golden globes called la giocca d’oro (golden drop) some flushed with scarlet and pale greeny yellow ones known here as regina claudia.
Then I flopped the book open and finally made the cake.
It is a delight of a cake. Stanley, drops of gold and Queen Claudia Plums (David Tanis recommends you use all Stanley plums) baked in batter of ground almonds, sugar, eggs, melted butter, milk and just a little flour. It is dense and compact. It is most certainly a cake but inside the texture is reminiscent of clafoutis or pancakes. This is because the generous quantity of plums studding the batter bake and collapse in the oven, becoming soft and jammy thus keeping the batter surrounding them moist and dense, slightly fudgy and almondy. Each slice is a delight as you meet pools of soft, baked plums. For this reason it is best served warm or within a few hours of baking.
A little after I took this photo the light faded alongwith the possibility of decent photos, rest assured we had two slices each and then Vincenzo shaved off about 3 more slivers. We thought about some ice-cream, or creme fraiche on top, but that would have meant leaving the house and neither of us wanted either badly enough to do that. I will however get ice-cream, maybe almond, for next Thursday when I make it again for supper with some friends I know will appreciate a slice or two of warm plum and almond cake for pudding.
Now I used a smaller, deeper tin than recommended which meant longer in the oven was needed, with a little tin foil hat for some of the time to stop the top burning, it did work, but I will be interested to see what happens with a wider tin. Maybe the depth of my tin was also the reason all the plum slices drowned and sank in the batter rather than providing a pretty pattern on the top. Actually I didn’t mind them drowning and the lack of pretty patterns and perfect execution, it made the whole thing kind of rustic and easy which is how I like my food really.
Just for the record my tin was 8″ across and I only used 700g of plums (it was looking very full) and I left it in the oven for 50 minutes with the tin foil hat to stop the top burning for the final 15 minutes. I have however given you the original page 171 recipe because it is David Tanis and it feels right, I am sure you will play around and experiment accordingly if you feel need, after all, I think we might all be making this quite alot.
Italian plum cake
Adapted From David Tanis’s ‘A platter of figs‘
- 100g / 1 cup ground almonds
- 100g /1/2 cup of fine sugar plus 50g/ 1/4 cup of sugar for topping
- 75g / 1/3 cup of all – purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup of whole milk
- 4 tbsp of melted butter
- 900g Italian/ stanley plums, pitted and sliced thickly
Set the oven to 180°/ 350F and butter a 10 inch tart dish or springform pan.
Mix the ground almonds, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl.
Beat the eggs with the milk and then stir in the melted butter and then add to the dry ingredients. Stir with a spoon and them whisk with a balloon whisk until the batter is smooth and silky.
Pour and scrape the batter into the pan. Arrange the plum slices on top in a circular pattern (!!!). sprinkle the extra 1/4 cup of sugar over the top.
Bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden and a skewer pushed into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Best served warm or within a few hours of baking.