Summer Plum Cake . . . with Cognac Cream

20 Oct

Company-worthy dessert!

For some reason, I have only recently discovered the pleasures of plums in baked goods. To my taste buds, plums provide a rich flavour without being too sweet or cloying. Even better there’s no need to peel the fruit before baking, unlike apples or pears.

This recipe is yet another from Rose Murray’s Taste of Canada: A Culinary Journey (Whitecap Books, 2008). It is a very quick, simple, white cake topped with fresh halved and pitted plums. It comes out of the oven with the cake puffed up around the plums, all golden and crispy on top. Served with the Cognac-flavoured whipped cream this makes an impressive presentation for a dinner party, particularly if you place it on a cake stand. It’s also simple enough for a weeknight dessert dusted, while still warm, with icing sugar.

 The recipe calls for the cake to be baked in a round (9″ dia./2.5 L) springform pan. These are pans in which the vertical wall is ‘buckled’ tight around a separate base. Setting the pan’s  base into the groove ringing the bottom of the wall and having it snapped tightly to create a ‘seal’ is the key to successful use of this bakeware. Trust me, I learned this the hard way . . . with the batter oozing out of the bottom of the pan.

Springform pans are generally used for cheesecakes (with crumb bases) and other relatively thin cakes (tortes) which cannot easily be inverted to release the cake from the pan (as you would with a layer cake.) Don’t let the lack or expense of a springform pan prevent you from making this cake. You could use a well-greased 8 or 9″ round cake pan just as well. It will be more difficult to slice and serve a pretty piece, but the flavour will be just as fine. Do what great cooks do all around the world — set aside the first slice for later use or for your own (and presumably last) serving.

It’s taken longer to write about springform pans than it will take you to prepare the batter for this cake! Start by setting a ½ cup/125 mL of unsalted butter in a large mixing bowl to soften.

Snap your springform pan into place and grease its bottom and sides well with butter. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Arrange your racks so the cake will bake in the centre of the oven.

 Into a small bowl or a 2 cup measure, place 1 cup/250 mL of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon/5 mL baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon /1.25 mL salt. Sift or whisk the dry ingredients together. Set aside.

Wash and pat dry 12 – 14 purple prune plums (This type of plum keeps its shape well when baked), sliced in half and pits removed. The plums I bought were dark purple and slightly oval in shape like prune plums but they were very large and their pits were small. I could fit only 4 ½ of these plums on the top of my cake.

     Measure out 1 cup/250 mL of white granulated sugar and add to the large bowl with the softened butter. With an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until combined and become light and fluffy. Add in 2 large eggs, one at a time, until well combined and then beat in 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of vanilla. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl so all the ingredients are worked into the batter.

Add the whisked, dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-eggs mixture a bit at a time, beating just until combined.

Pour the thick batter into your prepared pan. Use your spatula to push the batter to the edges of the pan and the back of a large spoon to smooth its top.

Place your halved plums, skin side up, directly on the batter arranging them in a pleasing pattern. As my plums were so large, I allocated a half a plum to each of the 8 servings, and one in the centre of the cake. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top of the batter/plums.

Bake the cake in the centre of a 350°F oven for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick/tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a rack. If you are planning to serve the cake warm, sprinkle it with some icing sugar before slicing.

For a stylish presentation, use a cake stand. Run a knife around the edges of the springform pan. Unbuckle the ‘belt’ on the vertical wall of the pan and carefully liberate the cake. I had to carefully pry the cake from the pan wall as some baked plum juice has created some sticky patches.

The bottom of my springform pan has a ‘quilted’ rather than a smooth surface. In fear of having the cake crumble or break trying to separate it from the pan bottom, I slid both pan bottom and cake directly onto the footed cake plate.
    Just before serving the cake for a company dessert, prepare the Cognac Cream. Whip 1 cup/250 mL whipping cream (35% bf) with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and 2 tablespoons of Cognac or brandy until the cream thickens and forms peaks. Slice and serve the cake with a healthy dollop of the cream which is both impressive-looking and deliciously boozy. Heck! Make the cognac cream even when you don’t have company. You’re worth it!

If preparing the more decadent version for yourself, you may wish to dial back the quantities to 1/4 cup/75 ml of whipping cream, ½ tablespoon of icing sugar and ½ tablespoon of cognac or brandy. You’ll feel virtuous about how moderately you indulge.
    I found the cake was wonderful and moist when fresh. It also held up well to being sliced, well-wrapped in plastic and foil and frozen. It even travelled well and was enjoyed for a few days after thawing. The later servings offered their best flavour when warmed slightly in the microwave for 20 – 30 seconds.


3 Responses to “Summer Plum Cake . . . with Cognac Cream”

  1. Debby Simpson October 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    This sounds really good although I will admit that it’s the cognac cream that caught my attention. Irish Mist liqueur also works well with whipping cream.

    • Susan at Savvy Single Suppers October 20, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

      Irish liqueur in whipped cream is certainly fine in coffee! Perhaps a nice sticky coffee cake would be great with irish whiskey-laced whipped cream?


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