Dimply Plum Cake

One of my pet peeves is when grocery stores bundle produce together, forcing me to buy way more than what I actually need.  Since I usually cook just for myself, I’m only in the market for one carrot, not ten; one tomato, not five, no matter how charming they look still on the vine in a perfectly wrapped cardboard package.  Trader Joe’s, though I love them with my all of my giant gluttonous heart, is a repeat offender in this respect.  But because my self-control always shatters whenever I walk through the doors of a Trader Joe’s, I find myself succumbing repeatedly.

A couple of weekends ago, I had just innocently picked up some cheese at Trader Joe’s when I turned around and saw a display of beautiful, plump, deep purple plums.  They were packaged nine to a basket, and even as I stood there telling myself that there was no way I could eat nine plums before they spoiled, I found myself reaching for them.  They were simply too perfect to resist.  And so I left the store with the tastiest of dilemmas.

As soon as I got home, I jumped on the Internet and started searching for plum recipes, eager to find some way to use up at least a portion of my plums.  I initially settled on an intriguing plum kuchen, but when I started making it I discovered that my jar of yeast had died and the dough wouldn’t rise.  So I switched gears and made this dimply plum cake instead, which is as fun to look at and eat as it is to say.  The cake isn’t too sweet and provides a sturdy base for the plums, which turn soft and slightly sour during the baking process.  Plus, I love how easy it is to cut squares of cake with a plum half in the middle of each one.  Perfect individual portions!

But that plum kuchen?  It’s still calling out to me.  I guess I’m going to have to return to Trader Joe’s and get another basket of plums.  Stay tuned!

Dimply Plum Cake

Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves at least 9

A note on the number of plums:  The original recipe calls for 8 plums, but mine must have been huge because I could only squeeze 9 plum halves into my pan.  The basic idea is that you want to arrange the plum halves in even rows, i.e. 4×4 or 3×3.  Because I’d cut up 5 plums, this meant I had an extra half left over.  Solution?  Eat it!

Also, I omitted the orange zest because I didn’t have any oranges on hand and didn’t want to bother running to the grocery store, which is literally right across the street from me.  Yes, I am that lazy.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil (I used grapeseed)
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 or 8 plums, halved and pitted (see note, above)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan (I use Baker’s Joy, which is a lifesaver and can be found most grocery stores).

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy.  Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg is added. Beat in the oil, zest and vanilla.  At this point, the batter will look smooth and shiny. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until just incorporated.

Pour batter into the pan and smooth the top.  Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter.  (I arranged mine in 3 rows of 3 plums).  Jiggle the pan gently so that the plums settle into the batter.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is honey-brown and puffed around the plums and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes.  Unmold the cake.  (Do NOT try to unmold it early, or it will crack – or worse, break apart – and you will be sad.)  Invert and cool right side up.

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