For the occasion

by CSWSmovie

I baked this for a small grill-out party we had this past weekend out on our deck. Some people might not equate a barbecue with an Italian Plum Torte, but a Crown Heights grill-out is a serious thing – you need to break out the good stuff. There are neighbors with industrial grills and reggae music and huge families to compete with, and I need to look them in the eye when I walk in and out of my building each day. And when the sun’s shining and you’ve had your fill of grilled chicken and wheat beer, this manages to hit the spot in its own, I-don’t-belong-here way.

This is a great item to have in your baking repertoire, because despite the slightly stodgy name, this was the easiest cake I’ve ever made. It requires one bowl, one cake pan, and no fuss. It’s a perfect thing to throw together quickly if you volunteered to bring dessert to a dinner party, or if it’s 11 pm and you  say out loud what everyone is always thinking: “I could really go for some torte.” It’s really that simple to make.

A few notes: the recipe calls for Italian plums, which are smaller and slimmer than regular ones, and make for easy placement on cake batter when cut in half.  I used three regular plums cut into wedges since that’s what was available. Any stone fruit would do here – I’d imagine peaches or apricots would be delicious substitutions.

The recipe also calls for a sprinkling of cinammon-sugar on top before baking. I skipped this and found that the cake was more than sweet enough without it, but by all means go ahead.

Original Plum Torte

From The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook, by Marian Burros and Lois Levine.

Makes 8 Servings

  • 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 or purple) plums *(if using peaches or regular plums, 2-3 of each cut into wedges will be enough)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or more, to taste

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 and spread so that it’s even. 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. (optional)

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 or lightly sweetened whipped cream.