It's that most wonderful time of year, when those lowly black-green Italian prune plums get their moment to shine like glorious rubies after the crucible of the oven.
Yes, the fabled Marian Burros plum torte recipe. Make it, love it, make more, share.
I made up and froze many last September, and gave my parents a couple when they finally moved in December after 55 years in their home. We had the first for Christmas dessert. The second we had on Father's Day - and it was still great. I sandwich mine between cake boards before wrapping like a mummy for freezing - it works well.
Anyway, my paraphrased and annotated version of the recipe for the few of you out there who might never have encountered it:
The New York Times’ Plum Torte
(originally from Marian Burros and Lois Levine's "The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook") – I would note that this “torte” is in reality a variation on the classic American dessert, the buckle – it’s just not so deep that the batter “buckles” so much that the fruit sinks completely beneath the top.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50-60 minutes
• 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
• 3/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
• 1 teaspoon baking powder∗
• 2 eggs
• Pinch salt
• 24 halves pitted Italian prune plums
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon or more, to taste∗∗
• [Optional: if warm, vanilla ice cream; if not, whipped cream or crème fraiche sweetened to taste with superfine (caster) sugar]
1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream the butter and the 3/4 cup of sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch springform pan.∗∗∗ Cover the top with the plums, skin sides down. Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle over the top.
3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.
4. To serve, let the torte return to room temperature and reheat at 300 degrees until warm, if desired. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream.
∗ Instead of AP flour & baking powder, you could use 1 cup of self-rising flour, sifted. That will give a very soft, biscuit like crumb that will dissolve in the mouth. The fruit will sink deeper into it, however, so consider lining the pan bottom with parchment paper (grease the bottom of the paper a bit to stick to the pan bottom, but leave the top ungreased).
∗∗ Perhaps a quarter teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg or cardamom in addition.
∗∗∗ The 9-inch pan presents less risk of the fruit touching and sticking to the bottom of the pan. If using a 10-inch pan, consider using parchment paper as described in the preceding note.