Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I have been waiting for this time of year since, well, last year. Readers, it is Italian Prune Plum Season!!

When I saw these little beauties in the grocery story I shrieked with joy. The other shoppers probably thought I was crazy (Jared certainly did). I couldn't help myself as I love, love, love these delicious fruits and they come but once a year, like so many fruits and vegetables I yearn for all year long. Italian prune plums are only available in late summer/early fall and if you see them in your produce aisle I strongly suggest that you grab a dozen or two.

Not only do I love these little plums because they are harbingers of cool autumn days, but they also look like they rolled out of a Dutch Master's still life AND they're a key ingredient for one of my favorite cakes ever. So many reasons to love them.

My love affair really started before I'd ever laid eyes on the fruit, however. I became infatuated with Ina Garden's Plum Cake Tatin years ago when I saw it on Barefoot Contessa. I wanted to make that pretty little cake so badly, but I didn't know where I could find the tiny plums that graced the top. Then, one autumn day they just appeared in the produce section and the rest is history. I've waited for them every year since and pick up a small bag whenever I find them.

But really, this post is all about the cake. And this cake is fantastic. Knitters sometimes talk about being process vs. product knitters which boils down to knitting a project because you enjoy the act of knitting it or because you want the end product (the sweater, hat, socks, etc.). This cake is rewarding in both in terms of process and product. The cake comes together quickly, but looks impressive and it involves some very basic candy making. Which is fantastic because I'm always looking for ways to improve my candy making skills without making dozens of lollipops in July and this is the perfect excuse.

Even better, this cakes will remain delicious stashed in the fridge for days which means you can have it for dessert one night and then for breakfast again the next day (and repeat)!

Plum Cake "Tatin"
Originally published in Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

Note: I hear you can substitute apples or pears, but even Jared loves this cake and he is not generally a fan of stone fruit. I followed Ina's suggestion of whipped cream as an accompaniment but it's also perfectly delicious on its own. Especially for breakfast.

Serves 6

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature plus extra for greasing the dish
10 to 12 Italian prune plums, cut in half and pitted
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie dish and arrange the plums in the dish, cut side down.
2. Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns amber color, about 360 degrees on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don't stir. Pour evenly over the plums.
3. Meanwhile, cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and, with the mixer on low speed, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.
4. Pour the cake batter evenly over the plums and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate. If a plum sticks, easy it out and replace it in the design on the top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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