I remember it pretty well: those lazy afternoons in our garden, sitting on the terrace, and indulging ourselves in sugar plum cake. What, that doesn’t sound very decadent? Mind you, when I say indulging it means two huge baking sheets full of sweet yeast dough and studded with plums shared between five people. And it surly didn’t take all weekend to polish it off. Even with such an abundance of cake, someone peeking through our hedge-like shrubs could still find us fighting over the last piece – not to mention the heated discussions about who ate more than his or her fair share…
Some people might find this cake rather plain and won’t understand the fuss about it. However - tart-sweet plums on top of a tender yeast cake with a slightly soggy upper layer where all the purple juices join with the crumb – this simple combination sounds like heaven to me! Unfortunately, when moving to
Sugar Plum Cake
500g all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1 sachet dry yeast or 30g fresh yeast
2-3 eggs (depending on size – if using three large eggs, use less milk)
1kg sugar plums, halved, stones removed
2-3 tbsp caster sugar
One third of the dough is more than enough to cover a spring form 24 centimetres in diameter. The rest of the dough can be baked as a brioche (or topped with other fruits, streusel, cream cheese/curd/sour cream filling – whatever strikes your fancy).
Melt butter. Pour cold milk into the melted butter, the mixture should be lukewarm. Set aside.
Mix other ingredients in a large bowl, making sure not to put the yeast next to the salt. Pour in butter-milk-mixture.
Using your mixer with the dough hooks, beat the dough until it comes together in a soft and wobbly mass. It should not stick to the sides of the bowl anymore. This step may take between 20 and 40 minutes (I confess I used my bread maker for kneading).
Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until doubled in volume. Put the risen dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth again.
For the plum cake take about a third of the dough or less and flatten it inside the buttered baking tin. Be careful to roll out the dough very thinly because it will rise quite a bit during the baking process. Equal thickness of fruit and cake layer provides the best fruit-to-dough ratio in my opinion. Unfortunately, after my plum cake deprivation, I forgot about this important fact and made the cake base too thick.
Place plums on top of the dough in an upright manner trying to squeeze in as many as possible. Fan-bake at 150 degrees Celsius until the edges of the cake are golden brown (25-35 minutes).
Right after taking the cake out of the oven sprinkle roughly three tablespoons of caster sugar on top. This has to be done while still hot and will cause the plums to release their juices. Up to half of the cake base should get soggy from the juices – don’t be afraid, that’s the best part. Another reason is that the baking seems to bring out the tartness of the plums - even if sweet when tasted raw, the cooked plums will need some extra sugar.
Despite the obvious temptation, don’t eat this cake while still hot or lukewarm. It’s best when fully cooled. In fact, this cake tastes best on the second or even on the third day when all the flavours have thoroughly combined.