purple plum torte

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Marian Burros’ Famous Purple Plum Torte
From Elegant but Easy and The Essential New York Times Cookbook,

This cake has been around for so long, it’s seen its fair share of variations as readers demands for tortes for all seasons and food trends far exceeded the reach of the original recipe. There are versions where the sugar has been cut back to 3/4 cup (feel free to, although I didn’t find the 1 cup too sweet at all), plus versions with other fruit (blueberries, apples or cranberries too) and even a low-fat version with mashed bananas and applesauce. (The version I had clipped didn’t even include the lemon juice, but I think it would have been excellent here, so I’m including it.) But I think that the original cake was perfect as printed, and deserves a chance to end up laminated and framed, er, bookmarked/pinned for your permanent early fall bliss.

[Updated 10/14/13 to add] As I mentioned above, there are a lot of different versions, and many of them include 1 teaspoon of cinnamon instead of 1 tablespoon. In fact, I received a note from Amanda Hesser over the weekend giving me a heads-up that the 1 tablespoon listed in the Essential New York Times Cookbook was actually a typo, and should have been 1 teaspoon. In fact, the very original version in the Times had 1 tablespoon too, but all of the future ones had only 1 teaspoon, suggesting that it had been a typo there too. I made it with 1 tablespoon and thought it worked, but I realize that 1 teaspoon is a much more common level for a cake. Do use the level you’re most comfortable with.

This is ideal with purple Italian prune plums, but if you can’t find them, other plums will do.

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder (the aluminum-free kind, if you can find it)
Large pinch of salt
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 to 2 tablespoon (depending on sweetness of plums)
1/2 cup (115 grams or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon or tablespoon ground cinnamon (see Note up top for explanation)

Heat over to 350°F. Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl, then the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan (but if you’re worried, you can always lightly coat it first with butter or a nonstick spray) and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then remaining sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes out free of batter (but of course not plum juice), about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack.

Once cool, if you can stand it, and I highly recommend trying, leave it covered at room temperature overnight as this cake is even better on the second day, when those plum juices further release into the the cake around it, becoming not just “cake with plum,” but cakeplumughyum (official terminology, there).


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