Plum Cake Reimagined
Ok, here’s the thing. Cooking doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming…or perfect. It needs to fit into our busy lives, the things we have in our kitchen, and the food we want to put into our bodies. So, when I looked at the small pile of prune plums in my fridge, (the ones I’d managed to keep my family from eating after a fruit picking trip last weekend), all I could think of was baking one of those classic not-too-sweet cakes packed with plums on top. I scoured my numerous cookbooks and note cards scribbled with favorite recipes, and realized I didn’t actually have a version of this classic European recipe to work with.
A quick online search turned up this Classic Plum Torte by Marion Burros in the NY Times, and a funny story about how they tried to stop printing it every September since 1983 but readers protested with angry letters. They also had this article with suggestions for many variations using different flours, fruits, and nuts to encourage experimentation with this classic recipe. This all put a smile on my face, but as I reached for the flour to start baking, I hesitated. My family has been trying to be proactive around our health, and while we love us some good sourdough bread, we’ve also been trying to reduce the amount of wheat and sugar in our diets. So I was instantly inspired to see if I could use oats and dates, both low glycemic level foods, instead of the standard flour and sugar in the recipe. Coconut oil was an easy replacement for the butter (nothing personal butter, we still love you), some nuts for protein, flavor and texture, and some spices to balance out the strong flavor the dates and coconut oil might give the cake.
The first try at this cake was a success, and many friends are insisting on social media that they’re happy to have this first recipe I created, even if it’s not tweaked to perfection. I love this. It’s real food in real life. Please take this recipe, give it a try, play with it, see what works for you. Maybe add 1/4 less oats to make the cake softer, use almonds and almond extract if that’s your thing, peaches instead of plums, sunflower oil instead of coconut, or something to replace the eggs if you want it to be vegan. AND, please share the cake and your version of it so we can see what worked for you. This is the joy of food that nourishes life and a relaxed spirit of improvising in the kitchen. If you end up with a crumbly mess, just scoop it into a bowl with some yogurt and call it dessert (or breakfast). Happy baking!
Plum Cake Reimagined
Makes 1 - 9inch cake
12 medjool dates
2 cups warm water (for soaking dates)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup ground up rolled oats or oat flour (ground and then measured)
1/2 cup ground nuts (I used pecans)
1/4 cup arrowroot powder (tapioca or corn starch can be used too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
10 prune plumes, seeds removed and cut lengthwise into quarters
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch cardamom and star anise (or clove, allspice, pepper or other spices you like)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon raw sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut dates in half and remove pits. place in a bowl and cover with warm water to soften, for approximately 15 minutes.
Grease and line the bottom of an 8, 9, or 10 inch spring form pan with parchment.(This is the kind with a removable bottom, if you don’t have one you can make this in a regular cake pan too).
Place dates, 2 tablespoons of the soaking water, coconut oil, and vanilla in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add eggs and blend until smooth. If using a blender, pour mixture into a bowl. If using a food processor you can make the rest of the recipe in the food processor.
Combine ground oats, nuts, arrowroot, salt, baking powder, and spices in a bowl. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined and pour into the prepared pan.
Place plums over the top of the batter in concentric circles. Packing them as close together as possible. Skin side up, or a mix of up and down are both fine. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of raw granular sugar (if desired) and place in the center of the oven to bake. The original version of this recipe bakes for 1 hour. Check your cake after 40 minutes. When the center is firm, the edges are starting to brown and pull away from the sides of the pan, your cake is done - 45 to 50 minutes - I think ;-).