As the first post for my week-long daily series on late summer and early fall desserts, I chose a classic, old-fashioned and well-known Plum Cake or Torte ("Pflaumenkuchen"), using the first Italian plums that have appeared in the markets. This cake is best eaten while still warm and with a healthy dollop of whipped cream ("Schlagsahne")...
…and Sweet Dough Plum Leaves ("Süsse Pflaumenblätter"), a somewhat more modern sweet plum dessert that is easy to serve in individual portions - one "leaf" per person - and can be enjoyed on its own, or maybe some vanilla ice cream.
Europeans eat a lot of plums. European plums are best for eating fresh because they are sweeter and less juicy than other types of plums. Some varieties, such as the flavorful, oval-shaped purple Italian Plums, are sweet enough to eat fresh right off the tree. But there are not only great for eating fresh but can also be used for cooking, baking and canning. Other varieties that are widely available in Europe include the green skinned Reine Claude Plums and the Mirabelle Plum, a small sweet yellow plum that will be featured in one of my up-coming recipes.
Recipe for Plum Cake ("Pflaumenkuchen")
- 125 grams (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature and some more for buttering the pan
- 150 grams (3/4 cup) super fine sugar
- 1 package of pure vanilla sugar (or use 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
- 125 grams (1 cup) AP flour and some more for flouring the pan
- 1 tsp baking powder
- a pinch of fine sea salt
- 2 eggs (L), free range or organic if possible
- about 35 - 40 Italian plums, halved and pitted
3 tbsp sugar (I always use a less fine sugar for sprinkling than for baking)
1 tsp ground cinnamon, or more
a 25 - 26 centimeters (9-or 10 inch) spring form pan
some parchment paper
For Serving (optional)
some confectioners´ sugar
1. Preheat your oven to (180 degrees Celsius) 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Butter your spring form pan. Cut out a parchment paper round to fit your baking pan, place it in the bottom of the pan, butter and flour the pan and the parchment paper, shaking out any excess flour. Set aside.
3. With your electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter, super fine sugar, vanilla sugar (if using) the mixture is light and a bit fluffy.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
5. Add the eggs to the butter mixture (if using vanilla extract, add it now) and beat on medium high until incorporated.
6. Carefully add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated.
7. Spread the dough evenly in the pan (best done with a small offset spatula). Please note that there does not seem to be a lot of dough but it will rise around the plums.
8. Halve the plums, pit them and stick them in a circular pattern in the dough – the plums should “stand” in the dough with their tops sticking out and should be packed in as tightly as possible.
9. Mix the cinnamon with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle over the top of the fruit.
10. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or a bit longer, depending on the juiciness of your fruit.
11. Transfer to a rack to cool, carefully remove the sides of the spring form pan and let cool some more until lukewarm.
12. Just before serving, dust with some confectioners´ sugar. Serve with whipped cream.
Recipe for Sweet Pastry Dough Leaves (“Süsse Pflaumenblätter”)
Ingredients for the Dough
- 150 grams (1 ¼ cups) AP flour
- 25 grams (2 tbsp) super fine sugar
- a pinch of fine sea salt
- 100 grams (7 tbsp) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 egg yolk (L), free range or organic if possible
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract or 1 tsp pure vanilla sugar
- 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 1/2 tbsp ice cold water
Ingredients for the Plum Topping
a few plums, depending on how many leaves you would like to bake – one plum per leaf ( I used Italian plums but feel free to use a different variety)
one egg yolk with 1 tbsp water (egg wash)
one tbsp sugar
one pinch of ground cinnamon
two tbsp ice cold butter
or trace a leaf on a piece of cardboard paper and cut out
a wooden skewer
oven-proof glass dishes (if you prefer for the leaves to have raised edges)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, vanilla sugar (if using) and salt.
2. Blend in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (which is what I always use) until most of mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.
3. In a small bowl, stir together the yolk, vanilla extract (if using), lemon juice, and water with a fork. Stir into the flour mixture until combined well.
4. Gently knead with floured hands in bowl until a dough forms.
5. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead 4 or 5 times.
6. Form dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
7. Roll out the chilled dough to desired thickness and cut out or trace the leaves. Carefully transfer the cut-outs to two parchment lined cookie sheets and transfer them to the fridge. Reroll scraps, and cut out more leaves.
8. Keep the baking sheets in the fridge while the oven is pre-heating to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
9. One at a time, take the cookie sheets out of the fridge and, using a wooden skewer, draw some veins on the leaves.
10. Brush the leaves with some egg wash, place one pitted and quartered plum on each leaf. Dot each plum with a small piece of butter and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar.
11. Bake for about 15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your dough) or until golden and fragrant and the plums just begin to soften.
12. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks – the leaves are fragile, so carefully transfer them to a plate and serve one leaf per person with a dollop of softly whipped cream.
NOTE: if you would like to bake leaves that are not flat but have upturned or raised edges (that is the way I prefer them), you will have to place a piece of parchment paper in oven-proof wide glass dishes, put the leaves on top of the parchment paper and place the dishes on a baking sheet and then bake. Once the leaves have finished baking, be careful not to remove the leaves from the glass dishes before they have completely cooled otherwise the edges will crack and break off.