A couple of weeks ago a friend (hi Julia!) texted me asking if I wanted some plums from her parents’ tree. Of course I did, thinking she’d bring me three of four.
What I found on my doorstep was a bagful of gorgeous summer plums.
I love plums. Like, LOVE them. I can’t place the memory specifically, but nothing smells more like summer to me than an almost-too-ripe late summer plum. Gemstone colored and juicy, one whiff of a plum and I’m back on my boogie board catching waves at Mission Beach or sitting on a towel on the pool deck of my childhood home, waterlogged, smelling strongly of chlorine and letting the sun warm me up.
While I considered taking the challenge, even I couldn’t eat three three dozen plums (and Tom doesn’t like them). So, I set out to find something to bake with them.
Not having baked with plums before, I had no idea there was a reigning queen of the plum recipes. First published in the New York Times in 1983, Marian Burro’s plum torte earned its sovereignty by being the newspaper’s most ever requested recipe.
According to legend (okay, fine, well documented as fact), the recipe was printed each year until 1989 and for many, symbolized summer’s last fete.
Poetry has been written about this recipe.
The recipe itself is simple, as the best summer things are. It’s equal parts fruit and cake and endlessly adaptable. While I’ve given the recipe in its original below, I subbed-in some toasted almond flour for the torte pictured above. I plan to try this with whatever fruits come my way in the next few months (and whatever flour I have on hand).
At this writing, we’re only 2/3rd of the way through summer as a season. But, school started this week (well, my school). And the mornings are darker. And though it won’t get cooler here in Southern California for at least another couple of months, the danger apples will be ready to pick in a few weeks. So onward we go.
Original Plum Torte
Marian Burros as published in the New York Times, 1983
- ¾ C sugar
- ½ C unsalted butter, softened
- 1 C unbleached flour, sifted (TMH note: I subbed in 1/4 almond flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- 24 halves pitted purple plums (any soft fruit will work–peaches, blueberries etc)
- Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line springform pan with parchment (any size pan will do–mine is larger, 10″–but the original recipe says 8-10 is fine). Grease lined pan.
- Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
- Cream sugar and butter.
- Beat-in eggs.
- Beat in dry ingredients (yes, beat–no need to be gentle).
- Spoon batter into prepared pan.
- Place plums (or other fruit), skin-side up on top of batter.
- Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and lemon juice. The sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.
- Bake for about an hour (longer than you feel comfortable…trust me). Remove and cool. Refrigerate or freeze.