The Best Use for Prune Plums

September 16, 2013

Prune plums are a rather dull fruit, but they're the last gasp of summer.  This classic cake, which has been published in many places, is the best use for the fruit that I've ever found. It's best served warm, although it's  delicious at any temperature.

Photo (66)
Plum Torte

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

zest of one lemon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

12 large or 20 small prune plums, pits removed, halved the long way

4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided


1. Heat an oven to 350 degrees 

2. Prepare a 9” round cake pan. Butter the bottom and sides of the pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment paper and dust the whole pan with flour.

3. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy in a standing mixer for about 5 minutes. 

4. Add the eggs one at a time and thoroughly combine after each addition. If the batter appears curdled, do not worry, it is because the eggs may be cooler than the rest of the mixture, and the butter hardened when the eggs were added. The batter will become smooth with the addition of the flour..

5. Beat in the the buttermilk or yogurt and add the vanilla and lemon zest.

6.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and add to the butter mixture, at low speed, until just combined.

 7. Separate the halved plums into two equal piles.

 8. Spoon half the batter into the pan and level the top with a small offset spatula. 

9. Place the plums, cut side down on the batter, and sprinkle with two tablespoons brown sugar.

10. Spoon the rest of the mixture over the plums, and place the rest of the plums on top cut side up. Sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar.

 11. Bake for about an hour, until golden.

12. Cool the cake on a rack for 10 minutes. The cake will pull away from the sides of the pan.

13. Run a knife around the edge of the cake. Invert onto a plate, peel away the paper, and invert again onto a serving plate.





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  • Ellen Green says:

    Ruth, I stand by what I said at the market–these are my favorite plums. (This is the girl from Bug Hill Farm at GBFM.) Psyched to make this for dessert tonight. I’ll let you know what the farm crew thinks of it next week. Great to see you today!

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Hope you like the torte. I’m just eating the last of the raspberries I bought from you. They are fantastic!

  • Ellen Green says:

    Aw, thank you! They’re kind of our specialty…
    The verdict: the crew approves, particularly with the addition of Bart’s vanilla ice cream. (It’s gone. I think a couple people ate it for breakfast.) It definitely sits there on the plate saying “tea party”. Wish I had time for one. =)
    One warning for other people who try to make it: I found that a 8-inch cake pan was a bit too small. Everything just barely fit, and it made a mess on the cookie sheet I put it on. Might work better in a 9×9. Or even a bundt pan…fun…

  • susanruth says:

    In the midst of making this and,ever the editor, you forgot to include the baking soda in step 6.
    Hope you’re fine.

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Ellen, you’re right. I have a high-sided 8 inch cake pan, which works well. But for normal cake pans, a 9 inch pan works better.
    And Susanruth – oops! Mea culpa, and you’re absolutely right. Thanks so much.
    Both fixed now.
    Hope the cakes were fine.

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  • Nikki says:

    Hi Ruth, I made your Plum Torte this weekend using prune plums from a tree my grandfather planted in our garden years ago. Although he always made jam from his harvest I know he would have enjoyed your cake. I particularly loved the caramelised brown-sugar edges on the sweet-tart plums. Thank you! Nikki