Sunday, September 2, 2012

CAKES AND FRUITS - PART I: Plum Torte and Sweet Dough Leaves with Plums

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

For Sprinkling

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
whipped cream


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


a large leaf shaped cookie cutter
or trace a leaf on a piece of cardboard paper and cut out
parchment paper
baking sheets
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.


  1. Thank you for sharing this rich and irresistible meals

  2. All of this is just beautiful, but the little plum topped cookie is just magical, isn't it? So simple, so pretty, so delicious looking. I am going to need to make these, such a terrific idea. Thanks.

    1. Thank you, Kayte, these Plum Leaves look like a lot of work, but they really are easy and fun to make.

  3. Andrea - that plum cake is just perfect & the leaves are also lovely. I truly enjoyed seeing both of these desserts!

    1. Cher, thank you for the nice comment - Plum Cake is one of my favorite cakes, I always look forward to the first Plum Cake of the season.

  4. This is absolutely beautiful. You are quite creative, this all looks fabulous, I wish I had your talent and those leaves are shouting out fall.

    1. Thank you, Suzi - this whole week is just meant as a tribute to some of the wonderful fruits that are available in fall.

  5. We love plums... we love your recipe!
    Easy, quick and absolutely delicious!

    Your leaves are so beautiful... The weather has gone from hot hot hot to rain and cold within one day... your leaves brings the autumn in our heart!
    (please summer, DO COME BACK! we still have 19 days!!!)

    1. Carola, there are still some warm and summery days ahead of us, I am sure of it, let us just call it "late summer", plums and leaves and all.

  6. You have inspired me to make this cake today. It looks delicious. Hoping my 8" springform pan works with this.

    1. I made the cake and it was really good. There was so much juicy, sweet fruit in it. And the batter was nice and light and sweet. Everyone really liked it. I can see this becoming a go to summer recipe. The 8" pan worked because I only had 31 plums, and I cooked it longer. Thanks for posting it!

    2. Marlise, it is so nice to read that you liked the recipe and even had the time to try it out! I am so glad that you not only baked and enjoyed the cake but also took the time to let me know that it turned out well! Thanks!

  7. We had friends for dinner this evening. She is Swiss and brought a (very American) Cobbler (made with Italian plums). She was saying how much Europeans enjoyed plums. This cake looks wonderful. I hope I can find some time to make this cake while the plums are still in season. Yum!

    1. Betsy, yes, the Europeans and the plums! My grandma was crazy about them and so are we, even the kids love them raw and in baked goods.

  8. Those dough leaves are fantastic. I love plums and can´t wait to start seeing stone fruits in the market. Wonderful recipe!

    1. Paula, thank you - I thought the leaves would look nice next to a cup of tea.

  9. This cake looks moist and dense, Andrea, and I know my friends and family would enjoy this. You have more patience than I, my dear, to make those darling tiny leaves. I suspect your little girls had a wonderful tea party with them. What a talented Mommy they have. I KNOW they didn't teach you to cook and bake in law school - where?????

    1. Mary, thank you for the wonderful comment. The cake is indeed very moist, to me, nothing beats a Plum Cake with the first Italian plums of the season, nothing. Yes, the younger ones had fun with those leaves but, alas, the little chinaware plates were too small for the leaves - napkins did a fabulous stand-in job. And as far as baking and cooking iss concerned, am I allowed to mention that I am one of those true "autodidact" people" just happened...

  10. Andrea, I’ve been so busy lately (out of town for 3 weekends in a row) that I haven’t been able to comment on many your posts…your cake is heavenly…and I love the leaves!

  11. dear Andrea,

    I already made your plum cake twice. Last time I used only 1/3 of the sugar because I wanted my diabetic brother in law to enjoy it as well as we all do. He loved it and you could taste very well the little acid bite of the plums. For the sweet tooth I also offered the whipped cream.
    Thank you very much for the recipe, which is one of my favourites now.
    best regards

    1. Dear Martina, so very kind of you to let me know about my Plum Torte - it means a lot to me to get such a wonderful comment on my recipe. You know this is one of my all-time favorite recipes - every single year, I look forward to making this cake with the first fresh Italian plums that hit the market! And even better that you adjusted the recipe to suit the dietary needs of your brother - absolutely fabulous! If you get a chance and if you have taken a picture, do send it to me or post it on my facebook page, I would be thrilled to see your torte! Thanks again, Andrea