purple-plum-torte1 Recipes

purple plum torte

This may look like an ordinary piece of plum cake, but it is not. It is a famous plum cake, so renowned that I suspect half of you out there have already made it, and the rest of you will soon commit it to memory, because this cake is like that — it is worthwhile enough to become your late September/early October staple. First published in the New York Times by Marian Burros in 1983, the recipe had been given to her by Lois Levine, her co-author on the excellent Elegant but Easy), the recipe was published every year during plum season between then and 1995, when the editor of the food section told readers they were cutting them off, and it was time to cut it out, laminate it and put it on the refrigerator door because they were on their own if they lost it. As if anyone would dare.

plums, found, icebox, etc.
dark italian plums

Amanda Hesser, who compiled and tested 1,400 recipes dating back to the 1850s, when the New York Times began covering food, the James Beard award-winning 2010 Essential New York Times Cookbook, said that when she asked readers for recipe suggestions to include the in book, she received no less than 247 for this one, and suspects that is because it’s a nearly perfect recipe. There are only eight ingredients, seven of which you probably have around and, if you took my hint earlier this week that “buttery plums” were coming later this week, you might even have the eighth. There are only four brief, simple steps, and the batter seems so simple (“like pancake batter,” says Hesser) that you might have understandable doubts about the greatness of this cake.

the plums had been neglected in the fridge

the batter is buttery
the batter is thick
plums pebbling the torte

They shouldn’t last. Two magical things happen when a massive heap of purple Italian plums are added and the cake is thickly coated with cinnamon and sugar, the first is that the cake rises up around them and buckles them in, leaving the cake riddled with deep pockets of jammy plum puddles that impart a sweet-sour complexity to an otherwise simple butter cake base. The second magical thing that will happen, if you take my advice, is to always start eating this cake on the second day. Although it will be hard to resist (deep pockets of plum puddles and all that, believe me, I know), what’s true of most cakes with fresh fruit — that in the oven, the fruit softens and bakes, but upon resting, the sweet juices seep out and become one with the cake around it, making it so incredibly moist, decadent and almost custard-like around the fruit pebbles that you won’t regret waiting — is triply true here, when there’s just so much fruit for so little cake.

plums pebbling the torte
famed plum torte, day two
plum torte, day two

Plums, previously: Plum Kuchen (this cake’s yeasted, German cousin), Dimply Plum Cake (from Dorie Greenspan; a wonderful cake that I have to confess just got bumped among my favorites for this one, oops), Single-Crust Apple and Crumb Pie (with a shortbread-like lid, perfect for this time of year), Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey (if nothing else, for the easiest crepe recipe for beginners or crepe-phobes), Hazelnut Plum Crumb Tart (a bit of a project, but worth it)

One year ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Two years ago: Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble
Three years ago: Mushroom Lasagna
Four years ago: Quiche Lorraine
Five years ago: Bread Without A Timetable, Black and White Cookies, Balsamic Glazed Sweet and Sour Cippoline
Six years ago: Spaghetti with Chorizo and Almonds and Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
Seven years ago: Summer Squash Soup, Giardinera and Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

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 oven 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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400 comments on purple plum torte

  1. Yesss, the magical butter plum cake! My mom gave me the recipe, and it has become my go-to dessert for last minute company. It’s good with other stone fruits too, and pears. Yours looks like it puffs up a little more than mine does, though, so I am going to make it this weekend (oh, poor us), this time looking at your recipe and following all the steps really precisely.

  2. LOVE the train rain ensemble. Just made this cake for the 47th time last week; I’d forgotten how simple a recipe it is. Brought it to a new mom (along with some lasagnas to freeze). I’d made that cake in a square disposable pan, and for that size pan, slicing the plums seemed to be the way to go. This freezes and defrosts like a dream.

  3. Can’t wait to try this…Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe that uses this sort of plum…I always have a bit of trouble finding them, but I know they are the best thing around. Thank you for another winner!

  4. Yum! I rediscovered my love of plums after finding this variety at the farmers markets in Chicago. They’re so easy to pit and chop (I just learned plums have clingstone and freestone varieties like peaches), and the way they cook down in this cake to make your sweet and sour jammy plum puddles also makes them amazing in jam and chutney too (speaking of, have you seen the plum chutney pie recipe floating around lately? I made a version, it smells like the holidays exploded in a good way.)

    1. Jeanne — No, it doesn’t get tough or anything. It’s super soft and you won’t notice it (or I didn’t, at least).

      Brittany — Good questions and I was wondering the same. I think it would be fine but make sure it has at least 2-inch sides and just to be safe, put a foil-lined tray underneath. I don’t think this is tall enough to “runneth over” but no reason to find out the hard way if it does.

  5. I get to bake again this weekend! I really want to make this….and it looks like the french clafoutis and tastes just as good too. :)

  6. Hi Deb! This looks beautiful and so tasty. Where did you find Italian Purple Plums in New York? Would love to make this torte this weekend.

    1. Purple plums — I bought them at the Union Square Greenmarket. I actually made this over a month ago, with hopes to post it while I was in the UK (hahahaha, ugh), but I saw plums still there this week so I know they’re around. You might find them at Whole Foods or the like too.

  7. One of my go-to recipes this time of year. It’s simple and delicious. I’ve shared it with lots of people and they really like it. Thanks for giving the wonderful recipe greater exposure; it deserves it. (Also great earlier in the year with blueberries and some peaches, and later in the year with pears and some orange zest in the batter.) Have you yet tackled a yeast-raised streuselkuchen? (hint, hint)

  8. Memories!

    I have been making this cake for years and loved that Amanda Hesser included it in the NYT Cookbook.

    It freezes really well. When plums are in season, I make several so we have them during the winter months.

  9. Deb, thank you for your fruit+simple cake=cakeplumughyum recipes. Your Mom’s Apple Cake (for big crowds) and Strawberry Summer Cake (which converted my strawberry-averse husband) are two of my go-to cakes. I’ve thought this comment many times before, so perhaps I’ve posted it, but perhaps not. Either way, thanks again! I’m looking forward to adding this torte to my list.

  10. I made about 50 of these last year when my Italian Prune tree was literally dripping with fruit. I wrapped and froze them. They were even better after being in the freezer for 6 months. One of my all-time favorites! It was so great to be able to pull them out and have them for short notice company.

  11. This looks amazing – and reminds me a little of Blueberry Boy Bait – buttery rich cake, sugar, cinnamon, juicy fresh fruit. Super excited to try this one out! :)

  12. I have a soft spot in my heart for plum desserts because the first time I ever made a dessert from scratch, it was a plum crumble to use up a hefty crop of plums that I bought. I adore the look of this torte, and I would love to whip one up with the plums that I have right now. It looks as though I have a favorite fruit around this time of the year!

  13. Wow That is lot of testing.After all those trails this is has to be a great recipe. I prefer to eat denser fruit cakes over night in the fridge because it seams to make them resemble a English pudding more than cake. Also it means the slicing is lot easier!
    Lovely recipe deb.

  14. My mom used to make this for me for my birthday cake every year, at my specific request. What a fantastic memory – thanks for posting!

  15. I just moved to Alsace, where these plums are known as quetsch. I have a twice-weekly famers market exactly five doors down from my flat where I have been loading up on two kilos of quetsch every three and a half days.

    The other day I stewed them with a cinnamon stick, lemon peel, lemon juice and sliced ginger. Slop it on top of petit suisses, yogurt, vanilla ice cream…

    I have six jars of the stuff and wa

  16. This looks amazing, but I was wondering flavor-wise how it compared to the plum kuchen. I made that a number of years ago, and it took longer to make than to eat it was so delicious!

  17. I love cooked plums. My mom is from Slovenia and made plum dumplings for me when I was a child and I just never got over that glorious combination of dough, plums, sugar and butter. I’m going to get some plums at the farmers market tomorrow morning and make this in the evening so the kiddos won’t see it and devour it until the second day. I’m guessing it will be fabulous with a dollop of fresh whipped cream (what fruit dessert isn’t?)

  18. I’ve been given this recipe several times and keep forgetting to try it, but I think this post and my apple tree covered in fruit mean that today’s the day! Thanks for that extra poke I needed – can’t wait! :)

  19. Such a blast from the past! I’ve been making this for 50 years, out of the original Elegant But Easy cookbook–but always with blueberries or a blueberry-peach combo. Agree about letting it sit for a day to soak up all those juices, but the smell and taste are almost impossible to resist. Plums, here I come.

  20. These simple cakes that you feature once in a while have become my very favorite weekday treat because they’re good at any time of the day. I have this apple dessert/coffee cake recipe that uses a cake mix as the base that I’ve been trying to replace with a scratch cake recipe. I think this batter might be it. Double thanks for featuring this little gem!

  21. This cake is amazing. I haven’t made it in years, but used to make it constantly. It was my go-to potluck or dinner party contribution. So easy and SO good. It’s equally amazing with apricots and also really good with pears, which might be easier to find this time of year. I omit the cinnamon, but often add vanilla or almond extract. I need to make this again soon! Thanks for the reminder. (It’s also pretty amazing left over for breakfast, all that fruit makes it appropriate, right?)

  22. Deb, what are your thoughts about leaving out the cinnamon? My 5.5 year old doesn’t like it but I’d bet he’d gobble this up if it wasn’t there.

  23. Deb, do you know approximately how many pounds of plums this would need? The plums I have on hand (the only ones at my market) are the President variety, which are fairly large. Or maybe I could just see how many would fit in the pan. I can’t imagine using too many plums! Thanks.

  24. You mention an apple variation, but would you just slice the apples and put them on top instead of the plums? I’m thinking I might need to look for plums this weekend, but since I have two. large. bags. full of apples right now (had to pick my trees since the raccoons were eating the dropped ones…), it would be nice to use some of those instead.

    Anyways, this looks amazing, as always.

  25. Hi Deb!

    This looks fabulous! I’m such a sucker for quick fruit pies/breads/cakes like this one. These pictures are so absolutely gorgeous that this recipe will find its way to the top of my recipe queue. Thanks for the inspiration!!

    Lisa

  26. First, I know I can’t be the only one who plays “where’s Jacob” with your posts before actually reading them. I must scan for the word I think Jacob will be “hiding” behind and once I’ve had my hearty helping of cuteness I can move on to the recipe!

    Second, I have been wanting to make my mom an extra special birthday cake next week that also speaks to the season. This is perfect and such a welcome change of pace from the usual.

  27. My mom clipped and saved this from the NYT in 1989. She gave me Amanda Hesser’s NYT cookbook for Christmas the year it came out, with this recipe marked with a bookmark. It is a classic!! I’ve made it with raspberries, which is pretty good, but plums are the best. One could play with it and add any fruit, even a medley, and it would be good. Also works for breakfast (while singing Bill Cosby’s “Dad is great, gives us chocolate cake…”)

  28. I adore my copy of Elegant But Easy that my mother-in-law gave me. Many winning dishes in there and a great resource for retro party.

  29. My five year old would love a plum cake at Christmastime because he is smitten with the book Plum Pudding for Christmas. I realize that you probably haven’t tried any methods of preserving this cake or the plums in it for two months, but do you think that I could successfully make this cake with plums that I had halved and then frozen, or that I could make the whole cake and and then freeze it until December? Would you guess it would be worth it or would the cake be ruined? Thank you!

  30. Yes! I have absolutely made this cake before, after getting the recipe AGES ago from a now-defunct blog called, I think, What We Ate. Definitely one of the best cakes ever! You have to love all the melty plum pockets everywhere.

  31. This post could not have come at a better time. I currently have a big buket of Italian plums frozen in my freezer and was scratching my head wondering what to do with them. Do you think this would work with frozen plums? or would it be mushy?

  32. Okay that looks amazing! I’ll be trying it this weekend. Deb, do you have a recommendation on the ripeness of the plums?

    Thank you for all your amazing recipes!

  33. Wow, there’s a seven-years-ago link. (I know, that’s been possible for most of 2013, but still.) And in it, you’re talking about making a baby! How time flies…

    1. Karyn — Watch out! We went apple picking last weekend, ended up with thirty pounds (oops) and this week I’ve already made 8#s applesauce, 2 apple crisps (one with an oatmeal-raisin cookie topping, gotta share that), and am now plotting apple cinnamon rolls (should I?) and we still have half left! But, that’s not what you asked. I couldn’t find an online record of the apple version, it may have just been in the paper. It’s definitely worth trying, though apples might take longer to turn into jammy puddles. I might quarter them instead.

      Karin — Definitely skip the cinnamon if it won’t be enjoyed. There’s a LOT here.

      Seanna Lea — Ooh, I love the plum kuchen. They’re similar in spirit, but that is a yeasted batter, it’s a little less sweet and different texture. Those plums are sliced and they don’t take over as much, and the cake doesn’t overtake them (it’s not a buckle). And it’s served upside-down. So, mostly it just has plums and butter in common. ;)

      Celeste — 8 regular wedges/generous slices, 10 slimmer ones and 12 tiny ones, for those people asking for “slivers” all the time

      Laura — :) I think the site turned 7 August-September-ish, but I only remembered to add the 7 years ago in late September. Time really does fly.

      J — Mine were horribly overripe/neglected in the back of the fridge, and it was great. I think fully ripe is great here, don’t worry if they’re soft.

      Kathy — They might end up softer, but I don’t think it will be a problem/bad thing.

      Kirsti — The cake freezes well. In fact, there’s a whole famous story that Burros recounts in her book about freezing the cakes, I’ll just copy it here. It’s from her book Elegant But Easy, linked above:

      When I had been married just a couple of years, I had worked out an assembly-line process for making many tortes and putting them in the freezer. A friend who loved the tortes said that in exchange for two she would let me store as many as I wanted in her freezer. A week later she went on vacation for two weeks and her mother stayed with her children. When she returned, my friend called and asked:

      “How many of those tortes did you leave in my freezer?”
      “Twenty-four, but two of those were for you.”
      There was a long pause. “Well, I guess my mother either ate twelve of them or gave them away.” Her mother must have liked them as much as I do. And the children. And possibly the neighbors.

  34. Those Italian prune plums have a very short season, but this cake is good made with peaches, berries, any fruit. Baking it now with pears and almond extract!

  35. I have been making this cake since long before the NYTimes issued its edict. Always great for company, everyone thinks it is so elegant I rarely confess how easy it is (I can have in in the oven in literally 15 minutes). Vanilla ice cream goes great . . . homemade if my husband is in the mood to make it. My teenage sons now hope for leftovers for breakfast (as if . . .)

  36. I love the BIG halves, just laying there, and the cake batter rises up around them. Glad you said you find fruit-based cakes to be moister and just better on the 2nd-3rd days. I do too and thought maybe I was imagining it but everything you said about the sweet juices releasing and dispersing – so true!

  37. Leaving it overnight would make it perfect for breakfast, which is always when I want to eat my sweets anyway. Add on the fact that I LOVE plums, and it means I will definitely be making this very soon.

  38. I don’t think I’d ever actually even eaten a plum until a few years ago. How sad is that? I’ll definitely have to try this cake sometime. Looks delicious, and you definitely can’t argue with lasting popularity like that.

  39. This looks great! It also bears a strong resemblance to Dorie’s French apple cake, which is my go-to this time of year. Such an easy, silky batter! I’m looking forward to giving this one a try.

  40. I will have to go to Union Square Green Market and locate these exact plums. This cake looks perfect for keeping on the kitchen counter all weekend!

  41. I have been making the original version of the plum torte for years. It freezes beautifully. I wrap the bottom of the springform pan with aluminum foil before baking to make it easy to remove the whole cake from the pan when it is cooled. I then double wrap in foil and freeze. I have some in the freezer from last fall that I will defrost in the refrigerator when needed/wanted and they will be just as good as when they were baked. We finally planted our own plum tree last year – still a couple years from having any fruit but then I plan on making and freezing a dozen or so each year if I have enough plums. Wonderful if reheated just a bit and served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

  42. Yikes! I just put the cinnamon on the torte and 1 Tablespoon seemed like A LOT! When I referenced the NY times recipe it calls for 1 Teaspoon…. fingers crossed

  43. Hi Deb. This looked so delicious that I immediately took to the farmers’ market for plums. I’ve got it in the oven now (it smells heavenly btw). Upon looking at the original recipe from the NYT, it reads 1 tsp of cinnamon where you put 1 TBS. Is this intentional or an oops? I’m sure I’ll love it either way :)

  44. I’ve made this for years and *everyone* loves it! It’s so easy but so delicious. I only use 3/4 cup of sugar and it’s perfect–no need for more. I haven’t made it with lemon juice but I’m sure it would be good. As others have written, it freezes beautifully. I make a bunch when these plums are in season and freeze them. I’ve also done variations off season. It’s great with apples (toss the slices in lemon juice as you prepare them to keep them from browning and for flavor) and I’ve done it with mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries) as well and use vanilla extract and omit the cinnamon. I think the plum version is by far the best though–as Deb says, it tastes great when the juices run through the cake. You must try this torte!

  45. The first year I made this cake I had a baby a few weeks before so I would bake and bring to Washington Sq Park to share, but never tell where I got the recipe. After it was reprinted the next year, others would make but I would bring and share in the same park. 29 years later I am still making this cake every August September, sharing now with that baby’s baby. It’s a perfect cake of joy: simple, tasty, lovely to look at, and memorable.

  46. yes that is a brilliant recipe, but isn’t tracing a recipe a blast? I found a stack of vintage Time Life cookbooks, with authors such as MFK Fisher, Craig Claiborne, James Beard, Julia C, Alec Waugh and others! A real find!
    Plums are a find too – they grow everywhere in Washington State!

  47. My grandmother made this cake every year, as soon as the Italian plums came out. I make it now myself…and think of her as I eat it. Thanks for the post.

  48. Congratulations on being featured in DASH – I am so glad for you. This recipe looks wonderful. I hope when I retire to have a plum tree in my yard. I noticed to price of walnuts and pecans is really up so I hope to have nut trees too!

  49. I’ve been a fan of this blog all the way from Sydney for years. This plum torte looks amazing. I’ll be visiting NYC in a few weeks so hopefully there are still some plums around for me to sample!

  50. I love this cake, (partly because I love prune plums so much)! I make it every year. it’s always a big hit on Rosh Hashanah.

  51. Deb, this recipe comes just in time. We recently moved to the small town of Walla Walla in eastern Washington. This past summer we watched several trees along the creek in our backyard bearing fruit…lots and lots of pretty little purple ovals that a local friend kindly identified as Italian prune plums. Aside from canning them (afraid) I had no idea how to use them. This recipe is so exciting! I’ll make my first cake tomorrow with an eye to establishing a tradition of baking many cakes to give away each fall. Thank you for sharing this…and all your other wonderful SK goodness.

  52. I first discovered these amazing plums when I moved to Germany 4 years ago. They are called zwetschgen here, and all the bakeries start featuring Zwetschgenkuchen in September. Zwetschgen themselves were such a surprise, a little taste explosion. I am excited to pair those little surprises with some American cake richness, which is often lacking in German cakes. I’ve already addicted my German friends to your”Mom’s Apple Cake” recipe (apples being another important and AMAZINGLY delicious fruit here), I can’t wait to amaze them with this! Thanks!

  53. Wonder if these are like the Victoria plums in the UK, or maybe they could be made with greengages as well. Will have to do some investigating as to what are prune plums here.

  54. I love this cake, it tastes like summer. My grandmother used to make it all through summer but with apricots not plums. Didn’t know the original recipe is using plums.. I think I prefer apricots as they are not as sweet.

  55. This cake looks gorgeous. I love fruit cakes and have never yet had the pleasure of trying one with plums, and after reading your description of this one I am in no doubt that I am definitely going to have to bake it. Thank you for the inspiration.

  56. I’ve been baking this cake my whole adult life! As a studio apt dweller in NYC in the early 80s, I never had a spring-form– did the original recipe even call for one? I always bake it in a pie plate, and slice the plums smaller. Although I always loved to bake, this was the first cake where I “arranged” the fruit for a beautiful presentation, spiraling around the pan. So rewarding! It never fails. Like an earlier poster, I often reduce the sugar. A friend who professionally bakes at our local farmers market– usually my favorite Eastern European pastries–makes a version that is WAY too sweet for me.

    It works with every variety of plum but the prune type taste and look best. Also, I always found it better right out of the oven, would even take ingredients to bake on site at a dinner party out. Possibly that’s because I was baking a shallower version… the next day it tasted fine, but the crumb was noticeably stale.

  57. I have made this recipe using blueberries, and apples, and peaches– not all in one torte!– and I always omit the cinnamon. It’s fail proof and gets raves wherever it goes!

  58. I made this about a month ago. Soooo good. But the recipe I have says 24 halves pitted plums. After quickly reading the list of ingredients, I bought 24 plums and when I halved them all, I wondered how I was going to fit them all on the cake! Oh, by the way, my recipe says skin side down. Weird. It is, in fact, called Plum Torte by Marian Burros – I got it from Epicurious.

  59. This is my daughter’s fall birthday cake. Plum Kuchen – our recipe does not use yeast. It is paired with a dinner of rouladen, pickled cabbage, homemade noodles. A lovely feast! A sure sign of FALL!

  60. Have been making the Burros recipe from a clipping (freezer story and all) for a long time – do not even know where I got it. I make them in bulk and freeze them in disposable pans, while making one in a springform pan to eat right away. I have not been able to find Italian prune plums this year, so I guess I better break down and make it with regular plums. Which means the next day I will find the prune plums.

    Anyway, my tip is, if you are making a lot of these, is to use the food processor. I double the recipe, and then split the batter between two pans. I make four at a time, bake them in two ovens, and just before they come out of the oven, start making the next four. The recipe uses 12 plums per cake. My notes say 3 pounds makes four cakes. My Oma added grated lemon rind to her torte, so if I have it, I will sometimes add it as well. If I am using prune plums, I halve them but if using bigger purple plums, I quarter or slice them. The skin is the best part – it seems to be where the “sour” is.

    Every year, I wonder if I can freeze them unbaked, and then bake them from frozen. I have an apple cake that is very similar to this and I assemble it, toss it in the freezer and bake frozen a couple of hours before we want to eat it.

  61. This is similar to “French apple cakes” I like to make! So simple, but the taste is phenomenal. As I prefer plums over apples most of the time, I’d probably like this torte the best. The simplicity wins out, too.

  62. I love this recipe, too. My original says skin side down as well. If you were using cranberries, Deb, how would you adjust the sweetness?

  63. Coincidentally, I’m making the torte for a dinner party I’m having tonight. I make this at least twice a year (sometimes with apricots when in season). And, yes, it can be baked in a 9-inch pan, as long as it’s deep enough; I’ve always made it that way since I prefer a deeper torte.

  64. This is the no fail cake in our house. Plums, blueberries, strawberries, sliced apples, pears, bananas are amongst the fruits that we’ve used to vary it up. Even my 16 year old can make it by rote now. We do dial back the sugar to 3/4 cup, especially if using blueberries or strawberries, but the cake forgives you if you use any amount between 3/4 to 1 cup. Double the recipe and make it in a cookie sheet for a party or school function. (Blueberries make this phenomenally quick and easy.) It’s almost impossible to foul this cake up. Lemon and cinnamon depend on fruit choice. That said, prune plums remain my favorite version as they arrive with Rosh Hashanah, making it an annual tradition.

  65. Hi Deb — this looks amazing, but I want to make it for friends who are unable to eat butter. Is crisco at all a reasonable substitute, or would it just not work? Thanks, and I love your site and cookbook!

  66. Wow! Looks delicious and easy to prepare. I have never been good at baking, but will definitely try this. Heading to the grocery store for plums.
    I also tried your pizza crust recipe. It turned out just great! Thanks.

  67. Lovely looking dessert! I will need to make mine with apples and plan to take it to a Thanksgiving Feast with Friends this weekend! Thanks, again for the inspiration!

  68. Hi Deb, this looks lovely. I’ll be making this very soon. Have ever had gnocchi made with Italian plums? That’s what I always think of when those purple jewels are in season. It’s a very special regional dish from the Friuli region. I grew up there. The pits are replaced with cinnamon, sugar and a knob of butter and then the entire plum is wrapped in gnocchi dough and boiled as usual. They’re served with a sauce of brown butter and fresh bread crumbs. Swoon.

  69. My springform is 10″, I am wondering if I should just let the cake be less tall or should I 1 1/2X the recipe and just make it thicker? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Kristin — Either should work. I don’t think thicker would be unwelcome.

      Lisa — Oh my gawd. Seriously? That sounds… oh forget it… I’m buying tickets to Friuli. People have travelled for worse reasons, right?

      Nancy — I see no reason not to make it with shortening, olive oil or even virgin coconut oil. It will change the flavor profile but will still work as a cake.

      Cranberry, apple, and other variations — Here is an article Burro wrote about freezing the torte, as well as making an apple-cranberry version.

      Recipe discrepancies — As I mentioned in the recipe’s head notes, there have been many versions of this over the years, almost all sanctioned by Burros as she responded to readers wishes. Well, a few have typos, too. Anyway, some say that the plums should be flesh-side-down, others skin-side-down, some have more or less sugar (3/4 cup instead 1 cup in cake, 1 tablespoon instead of 2 on top), some omit the lemon juice, etc. I used the one closest to the original that I could find, as I figured that it was the original that sent it into popular orbit forever. Or so I thought. I received a note from Amanda Hesser this morning giving me a heads-up that the 1 tablespoon listed in the Essential New York Times Cookbook is actually a typo, and should be 1 teaspoon. I made it with 1 tablespoon and didn’t mind it, but when I think about it, 1 teaspoon makes a lot more sense. I’ll add a note in the recipe. 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.

      Elizabeth — It might be delicious. It might also get lost in the recipe; it’s hard to guess with browned butter when there’s a more dominant ingredient (the plums and cinnamon).

  70. I usually make the Cook’s Illustrated version of this cake (July/August 2007), which uses ground almonds, but I’ll have to try this one next September!

  71. I just inherited this recipe (your photos helped me improve the final step!) and have been making if for a few weeks. The card that I got promised that it also freezes well – which turns out to be true….and that you can substitute other sorts of fruits (suggested were apples) to this basic recipe. I would love to know what other fruits might work.

  72. These, these are the recipes that I love! Those that are tried and true, by folks I “know”; those we turn to again and again, and yet again; and lastly, those recommended so soundly by you. I absolutely cannot wait to try this, and I’ll bet it is one I’ll return to over and over. And, as you so perfectly put it, “why am I still sitting here”?

  73. Oh my gosh! This will surely become my staple cake for Fall! I have quite an obsession, ehm passion for plums and recently I’ve posted a yellow multi-grain cake on my blog too! I can’t wait to try this version out, and I totally agree with you: fruit cakes taste a lot better eaten the second day. I was skeptical at the beginning but had to change my mind about that :)

    xo, Elisa

  74. Hmmmm….think this would be good using grapes instead of plums? Wondering weight-wise what the substitution amount would be. Also, what a is good spice to use with grapes? Still cinnamon? Ideas appreciated – thanks!

  75. My Mom made this every year since about the early 1930’s. the only difference is that she quartered the plums and laid skin side down. Thanks for printing the recipe as she had hers commited to memory – a pinch of this and a pinch of that!!!!!

  76. This cake sits on my counter at this moment, fresh from the oven, its sugar-and cinnamony scent practically begging me to eat i right away.. I might have to leave the house for a while so I don’t give in to the impulse to do just that. Darn this tests my impulse control

  77. This is my husband’s favorite plum torte. He even has the original recipe from NY TImes 1983. Any chance of using a 10″ spring form pan? Any variation to baking time? Tomorrow is our anniversary and this would be perfect! Thanks Deb. Glad the UK trip was rocking for you.

  78. I need to be virtually sugar free and I hate imitations. What about applesauce, or 1/4 cup granulated maple sugar (a lot healthier), or just leaving it out? The sweet plums would be a nice contrast with a cinnamon-bread texture, maybe? Can I use olive oil in place of butter? Can’t eat that either. I’m not crazy just on a special food plan. Would either of these substitutions work?

  79. Is there any way to make this cake without a springform pan? My kitchen is teeming with appliances and yet I feel like I am always short of essential ones. But with something like an electric mixer, there’s obviously a more manual solution. Is there any workaround for this? I would love to make this torte.

  80. I have this recipe written in my mother’s handwriting on an index card – here in Auckland, New Zealand! She starting making in in the 80s, & I’ve continued – with multiple variations in fruit, and have even used canned peaches or plums in an emergency. Lovely to hear the recipe provenance here, and wonder how it made its way to NZ…

  81. My mom made this every year while I was growing up in Brooklyn! This recipe is laminated in my brain. The cake freezes beautifully, too.

  82. I’m so excited to make this cake. It looks amazing.

    I truly look forward to your entries everyday, (although there isn’t a new recipe waiting for me everyday. Whaaa) Your writing is just pure geniu, making me want to run to the market gather all the missing ingredients and then back to the kitchen to begin baking or cooking.

    Thanks for being so inspirational.

  83. Holy frioles! I understand why this is such a hit. I honestly didn’t have high expectations, but I had some plums that were on their last leg and needed to go. I made it earlier today, and I can’t get enough. Hopefully, I will have some to try tomorrow to see if it is even better. Although, I can’t imagine it being much better. The best part, it was super quick and easy. Thanks for another great recipe!

  84. Yum! Mine is in the oven right now, but just a note for those without access to Italian purple plums: half the number of plums if you’re using the run-of-the-mill kind! I went out and bought 12 and had waaaay too many. Otherwise, I’m really excited to see how it turns out; your photos make it look divine!

  85. I saw this entry yesterday and decided to make the plum torte last night for a family shindig today. It went over AMAZINGLY well — yours is prettier though :)

  86. One tablespoon of cinnamon seems like a lot — from what I can see online, the Marian Burros version called for one teaspoon. Did you purposely increase it? Just wondering, before I try it!

  87. Hi Deb

    So many people seem to talk about freezing this recipe-but I find things never taste so good when I them and so i am a little cautious about it-what is the best way to freeze and defrost a cake like this? Thanks

  88. I cooked my cake for almost 50 minutes at 350 degrees and it seemed done but when I cut into it after it cooled it wasn’t cooked through. I tried the toothpick trick and no batter stuck to it. Any tips on what could have gone wrong?

  89. Deb_obsessed with you site from the day i stumbled upon it…i have a question! Can i simply use a glass pie pan? i don’t have my treasured springform pan after my last break up i lost all my good baking supplies…

    Thanks so much for making my life as a stay at home mom so much better, i went to culinary school and though i’ve had a passion for food since i was a young girl there are many a night i wouldn’ t have had anything decent or different to eat if it weren’t for you…im notorious for getting myself into a cooking rut and swearing off food.

  90. I buy Italian plums in season, slice them, pit them and then freeze them in freezer bags so that I can make this cake all winter long. Works great! Sometimes I don’t have time to defrost them fully, so i’ll bake the cake a bit longer.

  91. I made this cake last night for a special birthday dinner for my parents-in-law, and it was amazingly, awesomely, delicious!!! Thank you for putting up the recipe!!!

  92. I don’t have plums. They were very bad this season all the good fruits being exported. Could I use black seedless grapes?

  93. An addendum to my earlier concern (#78) about the amount of cinnamon….I did use the whole 1 TBS and thought it lovely. Not too much by any means. And waiting overnight, as difficult as it was, left me rewarded with the best plummy, jammy puddles. Perfect as written, Thx Deb.

  94. This is very similar to a recipe we have in our family. I make it all the time during blue-plum season, and I’ve found it works great with blueberries or raspberries too. In our recipe, we stand the plums up on their sides so we can fit more into the cake!

  95. Deb, I may be one of your few readers who own the original paperback copy of Elegant but Easy. In fact, I found one at a tag sale a few years ago and bought that as well as my original copy was falling apart! Thanks for reprising these wonderful recipes

  96. My sister and I have been making the NYT/Burros recipe for a while now. We usually modify it slightly by adding roughly 4 oz. of almond paste to the batter. It is delicious!

  97. Thanks for responding to my question! I did make it in my 10″ springform with one and a half times the batter. The extra batter rose and covered the plums, so it looked quite different, but it was incredibly delicious. It was kind of neat that the fruit was a hidden surprise. Thanks again!

  98. Couldn’t find small black plums so cut up regular black plums. It came out great, and the kitchen smelled wonderful while it was baking.

  99. I have had Burros’s cookbook for years, since the New York Times published that recipe, and I have enjoyed this torte many times – not so much lately…Thanks for the reminder!

  100. Have always made this cake with peaches and blueberries, only had it with plums at a restaurant. Didn’t know that was the classic. Saw and made it this year with strawberries, but peaches and blueberries is the best, in my opinion. I sometimes double it in a 3 qt glass pan.

  101. Oh my, this is so weird. I just got home from the farmer’s market with two quarts of these exact plums. I just sat down at the computer to look up some recipes. The first website I went to was this one. And bingo! So it would be just wrong of me NOT to make this recipe.

  102. Are we driving you crazy with all of our questions and food foibles? It’s only because you’re the greatest and so are your recipes!

    1. Nechama — Not at all. I fell behind on answering questions this weekend, though, so I’m catching up this morning (earlier ones in this post weren’t responded to, but later ones were, because I usually read them backwards.)

      Tanya — Depends on how deep it is, but I suspect it would work. When baking in glass pans, it’s better to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees.

      Josh — It might help to poke the toothpick in a few places — I do this because my oven bakes so unevenly that the front third might seem fine but then there’s a weird batter-y pocket on the side.

      Kathy — I link to Burros freezing directions in Comment #126. However, if the issue is flavor, and you mean a “freezery” flavor, there’s little that can be done (it’s just your freezer) except for cleaning out the vents and that kind of thing. (You can google for instructions on helping to get rid of that smell. I have had this problem with almost every freezer I’ve had, as I have always lived in rentals.)

      Donna — See my additional notes about the cinnamon in Comment #126. Meant to add it to the headnotes this weekend but forgot. :(

  103. Agree with all the praise about this versatile cake. I make it in a 9″ pie plate – have made it with rhubarb and peaches and with whole wheat pastry flour.

  104. I smiled big and wide when I read this for I too have a copy of this recipe…..somewhere. Every year about this time I go searching through drawers and paper stacks trying to locate this rare little cake map. I am happy to see that I need only to come to your site to find a long lost treasure! Thanks!

  105. What’s the best way to pit the plums? I actually was trying to pit plums this very morning for the muffins from your cookbook, and the skins were coming off but all the flesh was sticking to the pit. Advice?

  106. This looks delicious, but plums are not easy to come by where I live. Has anyone tried it with rhubarb? Might need some extra sugar…

  107. I often bake for a group where someone is deathly allergic to cinnamon. Any thoughts on what cinnamon could be replaced by in recipes like this one?

  108. I haven’t seen prune plums for at least a month (cursed West Coast weather), but I did pick up some regular old black ones earlier today and will give it a go. This sounds too good to resist.

  109. I baked it yesterday with anonymous plums from the farmers’ market and we waited impatiently until tonight. O yum!!! I used the full Tbsp. of cinnamon and it was great. Our plums were pretty tart, so I’m glad I used the cup of sugar. Tomorrow we’re going to try zapping it just a bit, with some cold cream to pour over. Thank you, Deb!

  110. Just made this for the 1st time and it’s *amazing* — a brilliant, glorious thing! I added a tiny splash of vanilla and almond extract to the batter — but followed everything else as written and it’s a perfect torte… I just saw the comment regarding the typo regarding the cinnamon, but thought it worked, even with the mistake (but I am a cinnamon addict).

    Thanks SO much for posting this one! I’ve printed it out, tucked it into my Cake Bible and will definitely make it again!

  111. Have been making it for years – but could never wait till the second day for the first slice…even though I agree that it does become moist and decadent and even more delicious. I do like a little drizzle of vanilla extract.

  112. Oh Deb! You did it again, this is fantastic! We have three prune plum trees, we give sacks and sacks away to all our neighbors. I always like to include a new recipe so they will be sure and use every last one! This one is so easy, can’t believe I’ve never come across it before. MANY, MANY THANKS! I made it Saturday night with plums that I froze (season is over here in Seattle) waited until breakfast to try it, the two of use finished it off this morning (Monday)! Wonderful!!!!

  113. This cake turned out great, even with not so great plums. But I think there was a bit too much cinnamon, even though I like the flavor. Next time, I would use 1-2 teaspoons instead of a tablespoon on top.

  114. Any idea why this was caled a torte? Maybe I am narrow minded, but I believe a torte is a European style cake, usually with lots of whipped cream/ frosting, often in layers, sometimes flourless. This is a buckle/ coffee cake. In our period of internet recipes, seems like names matter even more for folks searching, not to mention distortion of culinary traditions by using fancier names than needed. I guess the time period in which this recipe was originally written was perhaps somewhat provincial period in American cooking? This cake doesn’t need improving upon with a fancy name– it is quite good.

  115. Hi Deb,
    I have enjoyed your recipes/website for years and the cookbook has been great fun. What is it about cookbooks that make for such pleasant bedtime reading?! It’s kind of like short stories for folks who don’t like short stories. Don’t get me wrong, I like it for the recipes too, but it’s kind of like a two for one deal.

    This plum cake reminds me very much of a similar cake I make from a German recipe that uses apples instead of plum. After peeling the apple, you shallowly score the rounded side about 1/8″ apart and place rounded side up just as you’ve done here. While baking, all those little scores open up and sort of ‘bloom’ making the apple look sort of like a fan. It’s very pretty, and tasty, but I will definitely have to try this plum version.

    All of this got me thinking about the ‘rumtopf’ that I’ve currently been making this spring & summer. I’d love to make some sort of cake, using the rumtopf fruits, baked into a cake that is then also brushed with (more!) liquor and allowed to age. Do you think the crumb/batter of this recipe would hold up to this sort of treatment? I like the idea of, I almost hate to say it, fruitcakes, but rarely like the outcome because of, well all of those fruitcake jokes are around for a reason. The cake part of fruitcake seems to be too scant to cover all of the fruit, and the usual dried fruits that are used are kind of horrible. Also, they all seem to be too overly spiced for my taste. If you can think of a cake batter that would hold up to my proposed treatment, let me know!

    Anyway, thanks again for all the great recipes and wonderful writing. I enjoy both immensely.

  116. Deb, I have made this famous plum torte in the past, and I found it nearly indistinguishable from the Dimply Plum Cake recipe I’ve also made from your blog. When it is plum season I look forward to making either one!

  117. Deb, for your slew of apples, 1) Yes, we want apple cinnamon rolls and 2) you should consider preserving some apple compote or something of that nature to have for oatmeal later in the winter when the apples have gone away.

  118. I’m sorry if someone has already asked this question, but I don’t honestly have time to read them all.

    How ripe do the plums need to be? Hard, medium, soft, super soft (about to get tossed out)? What have you found is the best level of ripeness for this cake?

    Also, they didn’t have any smallish ones. I’d say these are medium-large. Do you think it would still work to cut them in quarters? The batter will fill up and over them anyway, right?

    I bought a bunch this weekend expressly to make this and I don’t want to make til the perfect moment for the plums.

    Thanks!

    1. Maria — So interesting! I find that one comparatively firm/dry and not plum-y enough. But only because I’ve since fallen for this. (To everyone else, we’re discussing Dorie Greenspan’s Dimply Plum Cake in the archives.)

      Karin — I recommend ripe plums. Firm fruit never softens as much in the oven, which is fine for some things but I think less ideal for a cake like this, where you’re hoping for jammy puddles.

      Catherine — Victoria plums would be great (I had one while I was there — delicious). Mostly, I wanted to recommend one of the oval-shaped varieties of plums as a first choice as they tend to be juicier and soft, so they bake well. But really, any variety should work.

      Larger springform — Go for it; the cake will just be thinner. You could theoretically increase the plum-to-cake ratio, too, if you fully cover a larger pan.

      Regular 9-inch cake pan — I didn’t try it, but it sounds from others here that it works.

      Finally, Did I miss your comment? — I’m sorry, I’m usually on top of this but I fell behind/stopped and started too many times reading and responding to comments this weekend and sort of lost my place. (I read them backwards, it’s confusing. I won’t bore you.) Anyway, if I’ve missed your question on a recent post, including this one, just leave me a comment that says “Ahem, #__” (whatever comment # it was) and I’ll get to it, I promise. Don’t I always? Wait, don’t answer that… (FWIW, I do try to respond to all questions/concerns. B for effort?)

  119. Bree, not sure if it answers your question exactly, but Deb answered ‘skip the cinnamon if it wont be enjoyed’ to a previous poster. Perhaps that helps.

    1. Bree, Alexandra — Thanks. Yes, it can be skipped. There’s no cinnamon-like spice, but I know there are people who like things like nutmeg or cardamon or even ground ginger with plums. You could beat a little lemon zest or vanilla into the batter. But you don’t need to. I think you’ll be happy with just a plum-flavored plum cake.

  120. This looks amazing. I have never made a torte and generally shy away from anything baking (just not my forte though I love sweets). The description made it sound seemimgly simple so I’m feeling the courage to give this a try. I am also excited about using plums- they seem to be so underused in baking/cooking as compared to blueberries, strawberries, apples, etc. Thanks for posting!!

  121. Deb, this looks lovely and I’ll definitely try! I must tell you that I made your “Mom’s Apple Cake” today and it is divine! My daughter, Ree Drummond, gave me your cookbook and the exploration through it’s pages is such a treat. I also made the pasta shells with peas and light alfredo sauce using Half ‘n Half due to no cream in the house. Still delicious!

  122. Lovely cake, my father used to make one just like it. Beeing german (in Germany) he used damson plums (Zwetschgen) which look a lot like tose you use in this recipe.
    Is there a difference between Italian (what makes them italian?) and damson plums? If so do, you think substituting the damson variety would work here?

    1. doro — Damson plums would be just fine; they look similar too. I am not sure why we call the variety I used here Italian, but I wanted to make sure I used the descriptors people would most often see at stores and greenmarkets here to remove any confusion.

      Suzy — Sorry I missed that. The blooming apple sounds beautiful; I’d love to try it. I’ve never made rumptopf but just did some reading on it and it sounds wonderful. It’s hard for me to say if it will work here as I’ve never made fruitcake either (boo, Deb!) but if the crumb seems similar to that of fruitcake, I see no reason not to try it.

      Nicki — Noooo! Okay, you win for dedication. I hope it at least tastes like victory. If it doesn’t, brush it with dark rum. That will fix it. ;)

  123. Hi Deb
    I love this dessert. I made it for our Thanksgiving dinner this weekend. Unfortunately I managed to slice my finger as I was preparing that one last plum that I thought I could just squeeze in. As I went out the door to get stitched up, I called to my son to lightly cover the assembled torte. Three hours and a few stitches later I added the lemon juice etc and baked it. Turned out beautifully so I am adding a note that the assembled torte can be made ahead to that point – although I’m not sure why anyone would want to as it tastes so wonderfully plum gooey the day after baking (but just in case)

  124. Deb! I just ate my last Italian purple Plum from my CSA this week…agh! I am now on the hunt for more or perhaps I will turn to some apples or cranberries. Thanks for bringing this recipe to the forefront again…It is a winner!

  125. Love it!
    I made this last night and the even no-sweet-tooth hubs was sold instantly :)
    It seems my mixture was somewhat more runny than yours in the picture, so my plums sank a bit to the bottom while baking. It left me with a plum soaked bottom and a more solid, cripsy top, which was yummy al the same :)

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

  126. I loved this. The Italian plums are out of season in Phoenix Arizona. I shop at a specialty grocery store that focuses on produce called “Sprouts”. It has changed my life. Sprouts did not have them. AJ’s fine Foods did not have them. Whole Foods did not have them. I used bigger plums (cannot remember the name)and they seemed to work fine. My Bible Study Group loved it. On to the graham cracker recipe, which I am struggling with.

  127. I made this last night and got it to work today. Got lots of compliments for it. A co-worker said I outdid myself :)

    Thanks Deb! You rock!

  128. I ran out to union square on Saturday after seeing this post, found the ONE vendor left who was selling these plums and made this cake that same afternoon! Even though the plums didn’t look or taste so good raw, they were fantastic in the cake. As always, thanks for the recipe!

    Oh, and I am working on getting a Napolean cake recipe from some family members in case you need any more sources for inspiration

  129. Thank you for giving me something to do with the plums (exactly this kind — I live in Germany and the Germans are obsessed with this type) that have been sitting in my fridge! I just can’t do plum kuchen, not sweet enough for my taste. :)

  130. This came out of my oven a little while ago; it was almost TOO easy to throw together! After tasting the batter, I thought next time I would go with 3/4 c. sugar instead of the full cup, but we’ll see how it turns out when the baked cake is sampled. It smells incredible… thus making it extremely difficult (as you mentioned) to allow a proper rest. Must. Resist. Devouring. (For now). Thanks for the recipe!

  131. #199 Tucker: The AJ’s on Lincoln/Scottsdale Rd. still has Italian prune plums- I bought them there the other day for 1.99/lb.

  132. Made it with half ripe italian plum & some less than perfectly ripe. Had a handful of leftover streusel in the freezer so threw that on top, too. Managed to wait 24 hours per Deb’s instructions and am so glad we did. Really delicious. Even my not-a-plum loving guy said, “That’s a keeper. Make it with peaches, next time.”

  133. I used pears cut in large chunks and substituted 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla for the cinnamon. It was delicous the next day as advertised but honestly I thought it was extraordinary still warm from the oven. Maybe that’s because ripe pears are softer and juicier than plums.

  134. I’ve loved this cake for years – it’s also delicious topped with fresh apricot halves and sliced almonds – and I add 1/2 tsp. almond extract to the batter.

  135. This looks divine! I grew up thinking these fruits were called prunes… Ripening in early Fall, with a dark purple color with slightly greenish to golden flesh. They are oblong in shape and are the fruit used to make dried prunes. I think every body who can should plant one of these trees! I now know people also call them Italian Plums… any way you call it, delicious!

  136. I made the cake yesterday with half of the sugar and two rather tart apples, cut into slices and pushed standing up into the batter, so that the cake rose around them. Tried it today as per instruction. Very tasty, nicely non-dry (lush, succulent or juicy does somehow not convey the right picture) and non too sweet. Thank you, that recipe is a keeper and seems to lend itself to a whole host of fruits.

  137. I made this and loved it but the plums I got at Union Square farmers market were quite ripe and had tough skins, which detracted from the ease of eating. I imagine that peeling them would drastically reduce flavor?

  138. Went to the farmers market Saturday — bought a basket of plums. Made this Saturday afternoon — but took your advice and let it sit overnight. I couldn’t wait on Sunday morning — and decided it was enough like a coffee cake to serve with breakfast! Tart, jammy, sweet, cakey, wonderful goodness! Thank you!

  139. Made this last night after an after-work plum run! It was delicious! I used just regular plums (black, I think) and they weren’t super-ripe either. I thought that there wasn’t enough batter, but I spread it thin in the spring-form and placed the halved plums on top. Also, I thought that maybe 24 halves was a bit much so I only used about 15, but I really wish I had just squeezed the rest in there, because the batter rose right up and I almost felt like it wasn’t plummy enough. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  140. Wow, this looks divine! I will be making it tonight. My go-to plum cake for late-summer/fall is Flo Braker’s plum (non-yeasted) kuchen from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. Her’s is a very dense cake featuring purple figs and a sprinkling of walnuts in addition to these divine puddle-y Italian plums, and cloves instead of cinnamon. I’ll try yours tonight, but might add a dash of cloves to the cinnamon sugar because the clove/plum pairing has become irresistible to me, and so evocative of fall.

  141. Great recipe & incredibly quick. The greenmarket was out of plums so I made it with very ordinary black plums from the supermarket & it was still excellent. They were larger so I quartered them instead of halving, and used 6. I’d probably cut the sugar to 3/4 next time; it was a little sweet for my taste. But excellent.

  142. Just what I had been looking for. A vehicle for my small brown turkey figs. I added 1 tab. of lemon peel to the batter, (leaving out amy mention of cinnamon or vanilla), drenched the halved figs in 3 tab. honey and 2 tab lemon juice, and applied them cut side up very snugly together over the batter. I drizzeled a small amount of the marinade over the top. Voila Thanks for the inspiration.

  143. This was so good! I am so glad you added the sprinkled lemon juice on top. I could only find the large purple plums so this is what I used. I can not see where this cake could have been any yummier! Next time though I will not wait 24 hours. I will eat a piece warm right out of the oven and have leftovers the next day if I can keep my husband out of it. Thank you for sharing such goodness.

  144. Delicious! I’m not a baker and it turned out great. I questioned the amount of cinnamon too, but still used 1 tbsp. It absorbed well. The divine smell hung around the kitchen the next day. My husband enjoyed it immensely. Neither one of us had ever had a plum torte/cake/dessert before. Thanks for sharing.

  145. A friend of mine told me about your blog and also “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. I look forward to looking at both of your blogs. Denise

  146. Two weeks ago I spent a good few hours digging through folders and folders of clipped recipes frantically trying to find my copy of this recipe, which I had saved when it originally appeared in the NY Times. Many thanks for posting it. I’ll always know where to find it now!

  147. Hi Deb,
    This looks great :) On a different note though, I have noticed that you seem to be posting recipes a bit less often lately, I was thinking about it today, and then I thought… Maybe Deb is working on her second book :D!??
    That would be great! The pages on my copy of your first one are so caked/jammed/sauced/floured and spiced up that its a little embarrassing, but that just means, 1: It gets used ALOT! And 2: You will have to write a new one for all of us to delight in again :D

  148. OMG this is my mom’s High Holidays cake recipe. She stocks up on plums as soon as they are in season and immediately makes and freezes several of these tortes. I directed her here, so she can witness you (and your readers) going gaga over the same torte we all love!

    1. Ashby — :( I know. I’d intended the post for the last week of September, but got off schedule when I was in the UK. Then I saw plums at the Greenmarkets here and decided it was still relevant. How about apples instead?

      kate — Thank you. I’m not working on a second book, not even a little. I *try* to post twice a week. Unfortunately, I was totally too busy to post while I was in the UK the second half of September, and this week the excuse is that I was working on easily the hugest post in a year (2,200 words! 22 photos! I need a nap.) which is up now. Sometimes when a post is that much work/research/writing, I only can update once in a week. However, now that that’s done, and the book touring, I can finally get back to my usual routine, which makes me very happy. :)

  149. Somehow I’ve actually never heard of this recipe before, so thank you for sharing! I used the larger amount of cinnamon, definitely pronounced, but delicious, and I thought that was just the flavour it was supposed to be. And I just want to say how awesome this blog is, and how handy it is for company. My (soon to be) inlaws are always impressed by our cooking, and it’s usually a SK recipe, not to mention the fact I got my guy’s mom your cookbook for christmas and she absolutely loved it! So thank you, as always!

  150. Made this last night with a mess o’ plums that were passing their prime in my fruit bowl. The aroma was heavenly! But I think next time I’ll try to use smaller plums. Mine were large enough that the top of the cake was covered with only 10 halves; the larger fruit size meant that the top of the cake formed big plum craters rather than little plum puddles, and the sides of the cake rose up much higher than the comparably sunken middle. I haven’t gotten any complaints about the taste, though, so it’s mostly a cosmetic issue.

  151. This was dessert for Canadian Thanksgiving at my place on Monday. Delicious! I also used larger plums, but I am keen to try it with Italian plums the next time I see them in the store.

  152. Is it bad that my family has made this cake 4 times in the last 5 days? Sadly it doesn’t make it past the hour before it’s gone. We keep telling ourselves that since it has so much fruit it must be healthy… Absolutely delicious! Thanks for another amazing recipe!

  153. Yay! What a great recipe for a rainy fall night after a long day. Ours would have worked with half the sugar (closer to 1/3-1/2 cup), but that may be partly because I used a mix of regular granulated and turbinado sugar? I used black plums for lack of Italian-plum options at the market — these should be cut into smaller pieces so there’s more plum coverage throughout the torte. I also added 1 tsp of almond extract and a mix of regular and almond flour. Next time I’ll add 1/2-1 tsp of cardamom. Couldn’t resist eating a little for breakfast today :)

  154. Made this for a picnic last weekend. Easy. Delicious. Many compliments received. Leftover made great breakfast treat. Thank you.

  155. Hi Deb,
    This recipe turned out beautifully! I used the full amount of sugar and a mix of regular black and red plums cut into smaller wedges.

    You mentioned only using 1 tsp of cinnamon in your intro, but not in the recipe itself — I wonder if you might want to include your tip there as well? In the panic to get this cake (along with dinner) ready before company arrived, I didn’t have time to read things through carefully. I happened to have added 1 tsp on my own intuition but was half-anxious about under-spicing until it was time for dessert! Wondering if you might spare other lazy readers like me out there from some pre-entertaining stress.
    Thanks again for the recipe, just delish.

    1. Hi Racheltee — Glad you enjoyed it. Sorry for the confusion. I did use the 1 tablespoon listed. It was after I published this that I learned that although the original recipe had been for 1T, it was most likely an error because all of the versions thereafter only had 1 teaspoon. But I will add a note on the cinnamon line too.

  156. I made this cake yesterday, and resisted eating it until today, as advised (which was super difficult given how fragrant it was. It is flavorful, moist, AMAZING. I followed the recipe, except used one teaspoon of cinnamon, and not the tablespoon. It was plenty cinnamony. I also added one teaspoon of almond extract to the batter. The almond flavor blended wonderfully with the plum. If anyone wants a small variation, I strongly recommend it!

  157. Made these last night with regular black plums! Used 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract instead of cinnamon. Would say 1/2 cup would work too as it’s a sweet cake b/c of the plums & sugar combo. Next time will try with blueberries or apples. Very easy to bake and DELISH!!

  158. Mmmmmmmm. Well. I made this tonight. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it this year because of the lateness if the season for plums, but alas, I found some. So I brought them home and waited until very late in the evening to begin, because, you know, there’s no way in hell that all the menfolk who hang around my house are going to let this alone til the next day, if they’re here and the aroma is lingering. No way. So they had to be gone for the night. Once they were, I got busy. I don’t have a springform pan anymore, why I don’t know, but it’s gone. And my casserole dishes were already busy with leftovers. So I used a bundt pan. Bad idea? I dunno, you tell me. Honestly the only bad part about it was that I listened, against my inner doubt, to the direction about using an untreated pan. I made the batter and spread it around and then added a dozen healthy plums on top. Baked it for almost an hour. And when it was done, my home felt like Christmas had arrived. Mmmmmmmmm. The aroma of baked plums is simply divine. I tried to rescue the conglomeration from the trappings of the bundt pan, with disastrous result. But itts almost beautiful. Definitely delicious. And I’m so glad I’m the only one up to be able to cheat and taste it RIGHT NOW. Mmm mm mm. Yum :)

  159. Re Bree’s comment 166: I too have a friend deathly allergic to cinnamon and use ground allspice (the real stuff, made from the Jamaican pepper berry, not the fake stuff made by mixing cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) as a substitute. I usually adjust the quantity down as the flavour is slightly different, but it works quite well in most baking (especially in pumpkin-themed foods).

  160. My hat is off to anyone who can make this delicious cake, and the LEAVE IT UNTOUCHED OVERNIGHT! All these years of yoga did not prepare me for the inner strength required to resist the instant gratification. So good. I forgot the lemon juice, duh, but otherwise made it as written (using black plums). Big winner!

  161. Delicious! I had the same problem with the batter in the middle not being totally cooked even though I did the toothpick test and it came out clean. Will do as you suggest and poke in several places next time. My oven may be due for a new thermometer as well. I will make this again Deb!

  162. I only had 6 plums so I made 12 muffins with no other alterations. They freeze beautifully after baking and I just reheat them in the microwave. Everybody loves them. A lot!

  163. Delish! I have a 10 inch springform pan and I decreased cooking time to 30 minutes, but had to increase the number of plums to cover the top. It is amazing! I did add a little almond extract to the batter too. This is better than my summer all purpose cake covered in fruit, this will be my new go to!

  164. this is my kind of cake, a buttery batter with fruit baked right in. rustic and simple. but where do you find plums in october? i live in los angeles, the land of eternal summer where, seemingly, everything grows all the time, and i’ve been to 4 supermarkets, including two whole foods and 1 natural grocer who supports local farmers and not a plum in sight.

  165. Italian plums were $1/lb at the farmers’ market! So there is plum jam in my future. And the ones that halved prettily ended up in this cake. I don’t have a springform pan, but I did have two mini loaf pans. I might have dig them out of their pans with a spoon, but the capacities worked out beautifully.

  166. made it! I didn’t have purple plums but yellow ones and blueberries to fill in the gaps – and holy cow, it was soo good! the top of the cake was crispy the inside cakey, and the cinnamon made my house smell so good!

  167. Hello Deb,
    Thank you for this recipe and the glorious photos that motivate and guide us.
    I made the plum torte yesterday and we enjoyed it; tasted it this morning, the magic had happened. Letting it “age” overnight is the way to go!

  168. I jumped for joy when I found some prune plums at my farmers market, and was SO excited to try this recipe. Thank you for another solid recipe I’ll make again and again. I was trying to explain to my husband how I felt as though I was connecting with decades of cooks in NY through a shared recipe – that it is somehow a shared life experience or something. He smiled and nodded. Regardless, this recipe was satisfying on so many levels.

  169. This is definitely becoming one of my classics !

    I’ve made it twice already, and it was a huge success both times :) For the second try, I’ve increased the amount of flour to 200gr, and butter to 190gr, and put 2 layers of plums for even more fruit goodness ! (I’ve also added some sliced almonds to the dough each time, it brings a nice contrasty texture to the plums)

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe :)

  170. I made this for a dinner party on Sunday. omg. Fabulous. I added some grapefruit zest because it sounded like a good idea(added a bright bitter note). My plums were just the run-of-the-mill grocery variety and not particularly ripe, so I was worried it would be less than spectacular. Silly concern. It was simply divine. Not too sweet, just right, fruity and juicy. It. is. everything. Thanks for another winning recipe.

  171. followup: Making this for my first time in totally different containers yielded a delicious tea cake that was not too much like the one you describe.

    Okay, so just how much batter ends up being in the bottom of the pan? I had 4 small bread tins because that seemed roughly equivalent, but then only used two because it looked like hardly any batter. And they didn’t overflow. But also I could only fit half as many plums on top as the recipe called for and the plum juice only penetrated about halfway down. So it is really only about 3/4″ of batter by the time it is all spread out and ready for the plums? That’s terrifyingly thin (to someone who mostly bakes quickbreads, instead of cakes or more complicated things)!

    On the other hand, the resulting baked good was DELICIOUS. I would make this recipe again. I love how flexible it clearly is. (Something very appealing to a nervous baker like me)

  172. i have a tin of plums in the pantry at the moment, just wondering what should be reduced/omitted if substituting canned for fresh and will the resulting cake suffer..please say no!

  173. Deb, I made this gluten free over the weekend and it came out great. I substituted the cup of flour with Trader Joes GF APF (King Arthur would work well too) and added 1 teaspoon of corn starch and a pinch of guar gum. It rose over the plums well and tasted delicious!

  174. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I live in Germany where every fall I am surrounded by plum cakes that I hate (sorry, German friends and family, but there are some ways in which I will never assimilate). Now I finally have a recipe that I like. I made this twice in one week and my kids loved it, too.

  175. This cake has been a favorite in my family since it was first published. I remember that my mom even made it for my younger brother’s birthday party when I was about 6. I loved the cake but I did not think it was appropriate for a birthday cake and I remember thinking that I would not have stood for such a cake for my birthday. We still make today! Thanks for sharing!

  176. I am German and this IS officially the best Zwetschenkuchen i’ve ever had full stop. We made it for the first time at the weekend and unsurprisingly couldn’t wait and gobbled have of it up. Then I finished the other half in modest ‘slivers’ over the next day and couldn’t believe how the flavour and texture had developed .. beautiful … moistly almondy and not soggy at all. I just pulled another from the oven which i’ll bring on the plane to England tomorrow to give to our friends who’ll be hosting us for the weekend ..

  177. I made the cake this weekend and it was a big hit with my family. I had to buy plums from the supermarket (rather than the farmstand) & I was disappointed with the texture of the plums after I cut them open, but I went ahead. Cooking them improved them, and the cake was delicious! I will make it again.

  178. I agree with everyone else: this torte is so simple and so good. Made this past weekend and we loved it. I love it because it’s so easy to put together. After making the batter, I thought my pan might be too big because there really isn’t a lot of batter. However, the finished product was so beautiful and perfect. Our dinner guest thought I bought it from a patisserie. I wish I had taken a picture.

  179. This is truly a case where the whole is more than the sum of it’s parts. A-MA-ZING. It’s comforting, elegant, embarrassingly easy, and addictive. It’s sweet enough without being cloying. The fruit really does melt into “jammy puddles” like you say! It took almost 4 minutes to make it. And only a few more minutes to eat it all. At first, it doesn’t look like there’s enough batter…but it rises around the fruit just perfectly to create a really stunning dessert. I couldn’t find the Italian plums….so I used normal ones and they were fabulous. I will make this again and again. Thank you!!

  180. Deb, I’ve been aware of this recipe for so many years (and I’m sure I must have made it a few times, but at 62 there’s a lot of baking under my particular bridge, and I don’t recall everything I’ve ever tried). But I’m commenting because I can’t think of any other recipe–for baked goods or anything else–that has been as lasting and recurs as often as this one. Are you aware of any other classics like this, the kind that make you say “Oh , of course, that’s the _____ recipe!” as soon as you see it? The kind that thrills each new generation as they encounter it? Because if there are, I want to know about them! (I hope you realize I’m not talking about anything that involves a can of cream soup or Jello, though they have their place…)

  181. This is a terrific dessert, but mine did stick to the pan. I took this to a potluck and I saw people not taking a slice because they couldn’t get it to come off. I will probably use parchment next time, but there will definitely be a next time!

  182. This is one of my go-to classics, and everyone looks forward to it when those Italian Prune Plums are in the stores. It is spectacular and so easy. It also freezes beautifully. Now that my college age daughter is baking, we have officially been making and loving this cake in my family for 3 generations! Thank you for sharing the (not so) secret recipe with people who have missed it.

  183. I scoured my grocery store and could only find canned plums – planning on draining them and rinsing them of the syrup before using them here – would that be okay? Please say yes.

    1. Rachel — I haven’t tried it with canned plums but why not give it a spin? You’ll probably want to drain them really, really, really well (like, even on towels) and also to reduce the sugar here.

  184. Fabulous simple recipe! I have made this three times since you posted it. One caveat: it looks much better if you place the plums cut side up. It’s the more classic way to do it.

  185. I’ll be making my 4th (and possibly 5th, if I decide to freeze #4) cake since you posted today – there are still plums at our markets in Buffalo, NY! I haven’t been able to pass them by since the first cake. The only downside? My boyfriend eats it ALL while I’m at work! Thanks for bringing this recipe to light for those of us who didn’t yet have it in our recipe boxes, Deb.

  186. Made this last weekend for a dinner party with my sister in law, after searching and searching for Italian plums, to no avail. Made it instead with black plums that were a little bigger than a golf ball. It smelled heavenly as it baked, and everyone had two pieces. We got 7 slices out of a 9″ springform pan. My husband hates fruit, and won’t eat it EVER, but he had seconds on this cake, and ate the remaining slice a day or so later. Will keep an eye out for Italian plums next year.

    Ps: I also lived in Alsace for a while and remember the tarte aux quetches fondly.

  187. Made this cake today and it is terrific! I was traveling when this recipe was posted and seemed I had missed prune plum season on Oregon when I got home. Made me so sad, I couldn’t focus on baking with apples or pears or anything else. Found a few very ripe plums at a farm stand this week, so happy to see them!

    Anyway, I used whole wheat pastry flour and sucanat (used the whole cup) and generous sprinklings of Penzey’s Baking Spice instead of cinnamon. My cake is a lovely golden brown with a tender crumb. Looking forward to seeing how it tastes in the morning!

  188. Delicious! Made this three days ago and it was incredible. I used red plums that I froze a few weeks ago (I cut them into thinner slices, but next time I will leave them thicker, and maybe add more), part brown sugar, and accidentally mixed the cinnamon into the batter. It looked darker than yours because of the sugar & cinnamon, but was SO GOOD. Even better the next day, just like you said!

  189. Here to comment before I forget – as the cake is baking in the oven right now! I didn’t have plums, so I followed one of your earlier reader comments and added orange zest, and topped it with sliced pears and cranberries. It smells amazing already. The batter is one of the best cake batters I’ve ever tasted! Can’t wait to eat it tomorrow. (Yes, I’m forcing myself to wait!) Thanks so much :-)

  190. Oh, my! I made this once already, the weekend after you posted it. I bought MORE plums today. I’m so excited. This is a fantastic cake, and so easy. :)

  191. I’ve got your cookbook (which you signed at Waterstone’s in London for me- it was great to meet you!) and have yet to have time to read it.

    BUT I did find time to make this cake. Like your fabulous Mom’s Apple Cake, this is a beauty that I’ll be pulling out down the track again and again. It was delicious served with some lemon curd flavoured Green yoghurt.

    My Mum always has masses of surplus nectarines and peaches come (Australian) Summer, and I think this would be beautiful with them.

  192. Just made this (still warm!) with 130g sugar and an extra tablespoon sprinkled on top (I routinely halve the sugar on most recipes). Not one bit less delicious than the 150g sugar version we destroyed in half an hour yesterday.

  193. I made a pretty similar cake a short while ago with plums and figs, when figs were still in season. I also added sour cream and ground hazelnuts to the batter, reduced the amount of sugar and glazed the fruit with plum jam once the cake was baked. It tasted great – moist, tender and nutty! But I like the golden colour of your cake, contrasting with the violet purple of the plums, and the grainy effect of the sprinkled sugar on top.

  194. I made this cake a few weeks ago… couldn’t find Italian plums but I figured regular would be fine, cut them open and they were mealy. Not a single drop of juice. I made the cake anyway (which took all of 10 minutes) expecting a flop and somehow it turned out amazing. My husband declared it to be his new favourite cake.

  195. I made this yesterday for dessert and it was so easy and so delicious. My plums were slightly past their best but that made no difference. Will definitely be making this again.

  196. I made this a couple of weeks ago and absolutely found it to be heavenly! My husband (who does not have a sweet tooth at all) also enjoyed it very much. Mind you, I had more torte than plum (I only had about 3-4 plums in the fridge at the time). Anyways, lovely recipe, I shared the 2nd-day delicacy with my friend and the moment I handed it over to her, she took a bite and she just couldn’t stop…although we were getting ready for class =P! Thanks for sharing this great recipe, definitely one of my new favorite autumn desserts!

  197. Great recipe! For anyone who’s looking to perk up their sad, out-of-season supermarket plums – I added half a bag of cranberries, basically filling in the spaces between the plums. The tartness was great with the cake, and the red berries looked very pretty and made the cake seem a little more seasonal.

  198. I am so happy to see this recipe here. It has been a go-to staple in my family for generations ( I thought it was a family recipe until I saw the new york times article, lol). Its my favorite summer recipe, especially once the local peaches and plums are over-ripe, this I think is the best. Its also amazing with fresh local blueberries as well as rhubarb. We always add as much fruit that can possibly fit in what always seems like too little batter.

  199. ok, i feel stupid asking this but i can’t figure it out and i’m in the middle of thanksgiving planning and my brain hurts.

    how exactly does one defrost this (i’m going to make the cranberry/apple version)? in the fridge and then warm in the oven? on the counter? help!

  200. A little late to posting this comment, but wanted to say that my husband made this for his work cake day and it went down an absolute treat (plus it was ridiculously easy to make – no stepping in required!). I also managed to sneak a slice and it was really delicious. Thanks for the recipe for those of us not US-based and unfamiliar with the New York Times recipes…

  201. Made this for my mother-in-law’s birthday with sliced pears (2) and 1/2 cup cranberries. No other changes. We love the plum version, but this was delicious too.

  202. I made this last night for a dinner party – usually I would test something before serving to guests, but I’ve learnt to trust you Deb! We can’t get the plums you suggest, here in New Zealand, so mine were a bit tart, but I just added a teeny bit more sugar on top and bingo! SOOO delicious. Thank you!

  203. I can second what Rachel NZ says – before using your site, I never made anything for a dinner party that I hadn’t tried before, but pretty much everything I’ve made from your site has worked out exactly as you said it would! I have this in the oven now for my Game of Thrones party tomorrow night and I *swear* I’m not even going to taste it before taking it over there! I used 6 large plums, so I quartered them and still ended up with about 6 quartered them and ended up with about 6 leftover. It’s startlingly little batter for so much fruit, but i have no worries :)

  204. Donna in Australia I made this today, to take to sewing class for morning tea. Fantastic recipe I just added a cup of yoghurt & lemon juice to the wet mixture before adding it to the dry ingredients. I also glazed the top with with jam straight after it came out of the oven. Thanks for this great recipe.

  205. I cannot get the center of this cake to bake! Its been in the over for 60 minutes now and it’s still all batter! Help!

  206. I’ve made this cake several times.
    It’s my new go to for a quick, simple and impressive dessert.
    Great recipe.

  207. Thank you deb! I forgot to write back but yes they were super ripe. In the end the cake turned out wonderfully. I left it in the over for probably about 70 minutes in total. It was great. My husband loved it (it was a birthday cake for him)!

  208. Hi there,

    Do you think this would work if I used cupcake tins – if I were to cut down the time and slice the plums into quarters (or smaller)?

    Thanks!

  209. I had forgotten how lovely this cake is. Right now the soft red and purple plums are in season. I used them, cutting them into six pieces and fanning them out on top of the batter. Heavenly.

  210. I made this today with Italian plums and my plums sank all the way into the batter… you’d never know they were there from the top… haven’t tasted it yet, of course it smells wonderful, but I’m puzzled about the sinkage.

  211. This cake or torte was one of my late Grandmother’s (born 1896) regulars each season and on of the few recipes somehow got lost. I searched and searched, finally getting some help from a professional and the experts at King Arthur. Why could no one find it? Grandma called it “Prune Cake,” not Plum whatever! Since rediscovering this recipe a few years ago, and tweaking it with a few things from some of the related recipes, I make this cake/torte as often as I find suitable fruit available. Almost any plum will work well, but the smaller, strongly colored Italian Prune Plums (dark purple skin with off-yellow flesh is still the best.) I’ve also made it with blueberries and a combination of blueberries and plums. Baking time is important and one does not want to over-cook it; the usual Clean Knife test works fine. Simply to suit my own taste, I generally use 75% of required sugar and ~150% of required fruit. The extra fruit will extend the baking time by a few minutes. This cake/torte has easily become if not my all-time favorite, certainly in the Top Five. With a scoop of ‘nilla ice cream, I cannot imagine a better, more satisfying dessert and it is fun to relate the story behind my edition of Grandma’s Prune Cake. I’ve never tried to freeze it, but this year I will give it a try. Thank you for including this recipe and for the interesting story about its long history with the New York Times. With 309 other glowing comments, most from 2013, this is obviously a winner.

  212. I’ve made this three times now — good day of or next day. A hit every time, and so simple! Thanks for a great recipe.

  213. Deb, do you – or any of your readers – know if this could translate well into a gluten-free cake? If so, would you/they use almond flour or another gluten free flour mix? I hope that someone has tried.

  214. Hi Ouida — See Comment #260, who used a gluten-free baking flour blend successfully. I suspect you’ll be just fine if you use one, too.

  215. This looks so good. My mom used to make a, I think she called it a conserve, a jam like delicacy. She used prune plums and it had walnuts, a little lemon peel and some golden raisins in it. I loved it, but cannot find her recipe. She used to make it especially for me this time of year. Yum!

  216. Has anyone ever frozen this cake “raw” and then baked from frozen? I make these assembly line fashion, using the food processor, and it would be a lot faster if they could go directly into the freezer and just bake as needed. I have an apple/date cake recipe from the Once A Month cooking book that lets me do that, but I am unsure if the plums would hold up as well

  217. I’ve made this torte twice, once from the NY Times recipe, and once from this one, and each time it’s been a little too dry. With using your recipe, Deb, I waited a day, but still, dry. Any thoughts on the matter? I would love to keep making this, especially since it’s so easy and we have a Italian plum tree in our yard. Thank you!

    1. Jessica — Might you be packing your cups of flour a bit heavily? Regardless, you might try dropping the flour by 2 tablespoons to increase the moisture in the crumb next time. Good luck!

  218. Deb! I’ve never left a comment before though I’ve read your blog for an age. Just wanted to drop you a note to say Thank You! The kids and I have been pulling shiro plums from our ‘plum forest’ and as I often do I googled for a recipe. When I saw you had a plum cake recipe I quit looking. That’s what I so appreciate about your bog– I know you put the effort in to find, tweak, or create beautiful and delicious food that we readers can count on. I have never made a recipe from this site that didn’t turn out– and I’ve made many of them! Thank you so much for being a faithful resource for me and my band of hungry children. They are indebted to you even if they don’t know it yet!

  219. This cake is delicious and so easy! But, like #308, after two tries, my plums sank as well. The first time I used a 8″ pan and figured it was the result of too much batter (used Santa Rosa plums that time — yum!) This time with a 9″, my plums were a tiny bit smaller than italian prunes (used 13 french prunes). Perhaps that is it? It see they do sink a bit based on your pictures, but the batter is coming up completely over the plums on mine. Taste is still wonderful, just not as pretty. Am I handling the batter for too long? Not long enough? Just need to try with larger plums? Anyone else have a tip?

  220. This cake was delicious! I made it in a 24 cm springform pan (we Germans don’t do Inches) and managed to leave it overnight. My in-laws also liked it a lot. The plums sank in almost completely, but it still looked good and tasted even better. Thank you!

  221. My daughter alerted me to this recipe- she has made it twice in the last two weeks because it is that delicious.
    I have to agree with her, the cake looks beautiful and so enticingly yummy, that I want to eat it right now-but I am waiting to slice into it until tomorrow since I have guests for lunch.

  222. I came across Italian plums at the farmers’ market last week, which triggered my memory of seeing this recipe. I had never tried this type of plum before. I tasted a piece before cooking and it was incredibly tart, so I was scared. The cake turned out wonderfully though, and my boyfriend thought I was lying when I told him how easy his birthday cake was. I will be making this cake again and again.

  223. Hi, question as a US baker now in the UK – how can I make this in a fan oven? Any tips on timing/temperature? THANK YOU. We are having a ‘british bake off’ in my office and I’m going to go for plum cake!

  224. Hi Deb, so I have now made two of these in one week. One got eaten as a cake with coffee and the second is going to be eaten as dessert with custard. My husband just loves it. As I am based in the UK I used a very English plum, the Victoria and it worked brilliantly – thank you.

  225. Hi Deb. I had some nice Italian plums, but no real reason to make an entire torte. My daughter discovered a stash of the brown/gold baking papers. I used your recipe ( cut in half) with some tweaks (coconut oil for butter and almond extract added to dough). The result was really wonderful. Thanks for always inspiring me.

  226. This recipe looked so delicious, I had to try it. In my excitement, I thought I would toss in about 90g of ground almonds, because I had some leftover, and a 1/4 TSP of almond extract ( after the eggs, before the dry ingredients.) It may be blasphemous to this well loved recipe, but I have to say it was frangipane-y, and extra moist, and delicious. I don’t know if you would need to up the flour or adjust other ingredients to make it work better, but I have never been so happy to be a bit impulsive. Next time I promise to try the proper recipe!

  227. This is amazing. Made it today, half is already gone. I am gonna save this recipe and try with apples and rubarb and…who knows what else. Plum cake is a tradition in my family but thus one is best. Thank you!

  228. I bought way too many plums at Costco and had an impromptu dinner party this evening so I looked through your plum recipes and found this one – so easy and quick to make and the result was so tasty. I was a bit sad my guests ate it all because I wanted some leftovers for breakfast. I will have to make it again and not invite anyone over…..

  229. I just got big bag of these by trading a big bag of apples. So now the pressures off for apple recipes, but its on for plums – what the heck do you make with plums? This. Thank you! Now I wont feel guilty every time I look in the kitchen fridge. And the ‘beer’ fridge. And the fruit basket… (And thankfully I saved some apples for the sunken apple cake!)

  230. I made this cake last week. Didn’t find italian plums, used round ones. It was de-li-cious!!!
    Thank you for the recipe and giving the measurements in grams, it’s so much easier for us in Europe.

  231. Made this last night with a mix of black and red plums – could only fit 6 plums in the springform, but now I can make a second cake! – and added an extra egg, inspired by your sunken apple honey cake. It was amazing. Next time I’ll make it with just 2 eggs, though, as per your perfect recipe. Definitely adding this to the fall rotation.

  232. I cannot say enough about this lovely cake! I could not find my springform pan, so I baked it in my cast iron skillet last Sunday. It came out just right, with that slightly crunchy yet tender topping formed by the cinnamon sugar. Thank you for sharing this- I have my 2nd cake in the oven now and the house smells heavenly.

  233. This turned out fantastic! I couldn’t be happier with it. I had just picked more super ripe plums than i knew what to do with. As I frantically searched the internet for plum recipes, I stumbled upon this one, and I am very glad I did. I only had a 9×13 baking pan to work with, so I doubled the recipe and it worked well.I will definitely be making this again, as well as coming back to your website for others,

    Thank you for the simple and delicious recipe!!!

  234. Important: where recipe says “cream butter and sugar together,” it would be helpful to say: “cream butter and 1 cup of the sugar together”–and if the sugar listing said “divided,” or the sugar for sprinkling were listed separately, as in Burros’s original.

    The first time I made this, I used all the sugar in the batter and had to add more on top. It was too much, esp. when I looked up the original and saw that the batter contained only 3/4 cup of sugar. With today’s general interest in reducing rather than increasing sugar, the smaller amount may be preferable to some. I’m doing that right now with the cake that’s in the oven, smelling great! (For about half of the 1 cup of sugar I used coconut sugar from Trader Joe’s…we’ll see how that works.)

    The Burros version, as reprinted on the Times website…

    http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/3783-original-plum-tort

    …lists all the toppings/sprinklings (lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon) at the end of the recipe, not even specifying how much to use (although the recipe instructions say “Sprinkle with (about) 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.” I used the typo-1 T. last time and it was ‘way too much; 1 tsp is plenty even for cinnamonvores.

    Also, the Burros version says that you can use an 8-, 9-, or 10-inch springform. I prefer the smallest one because the cake gets a little higher that way and each serving is a little more impressive. Good for a small family or just one person, too!

    And finally, the Burros version says to bake for 1 hour, which is closer to my own experience.

  235. Deb, there’s a lot written here about freezing the torte. I have mine in the freezer from September, and wondering the best way to defrost it. In the fridge, and maybe then in the oven to warm it up?
    Thank you!

    1. Jessica — I would probably do so for a day in the fridge, then move it too room temperature or warm it a little in the oven, as you suggested.

  236. Deb, just wanted to let you know that the torte came out perfect this time, with using 2 T less flour and letting it sit a day before freezing. Finally! Can’t wait to make it again. Thanks for your suggestions.

  237. I made this cake last week, the day before it was to be eaten – as per your suggestion – and it was delicious! So simple and so spectacular! Just the sort of cake I love. I’m going to have another go at it tomorrow but instead of plums I’m going to try nectarines. Or cherries. Can’t decide, maybe both, depending on what’s at the market. Love your blog.

  238. Deb, this recipe looks wonderful. Everyone’s comments really have me excited to make it for my wife for Valentine’s Day. Do you think that seedless red grapes would work? I have a whole bunch of them that are on the verge of going bad. Or maybe a combination of grapes and peaches? Thanks!

  239. I made this and took it into work to share. It absolutely brought the house down and was so pretty people initially thought I bought it from the local boutique bakery. I have an abundance of plums from a couple of trees in my backyard and this was the best use for them EVER :) Thank you – I will make this many, many times again.

  240. Francis — I haven’t tried but I suppose as long as they bake until they’re totally collapsed and juicy, it could work. And use a lot. This cake is almost as much plums as cake batter, as I hope the photos show.

  241. For those wondering if frozen plums work, they do. I just made it with plums that I halved and froze in the summer. I thawed them because I figured they’d give off a lot of liquid. And they did. They also turned pretty mushy, and I wasn’t sure this was going to work. But I forged ahead, since when you use them fresh they turn very soft and mushy in the final cake. It turned out very tasty!

  242. I love this cake made with the Italian plums so when I realized that I had 2 1/2 gallon bags of pitted tart cherries left over from last summer, I thought why not? It’s every bit as good with the sour cherries. So good that over the weekend I made 7 tortes to deliver to lucky friends and will now make more for both DH and my work places. A classic recipe that keeps on giving!

  243. In my 80 years of enjoying desserts, I must say I never had one I enjoyed as much as this Plum Torte. I used 12 quite small Santa Rosa plums, because that’s what came in my CSA box this week, and used my only spring form pan, which is 8 inches. Santa Rosa plums are clings, not so easy to cut precisely in half, but the flavor was outstanding and everything else about the adventure was so easy, I will be making this again and again. I don’t think there is a way to improve upon this perfection, but I will try to find the Italian plums anyway and see which I need to buy in quantity so I can freeze a bunch for Winter.

    Many thanks for your dedication…..I was a terrible cook until you came into my life!

  244. Just in case anyone cares, this torte made with peaches is good, but not as great as with plums. It freezes but flattens out so needs whipped cream or ice cream to bulk it up some. Adding an extra teaspoon of baking powder to a doubled recipe and baking it in a 9X13 pan yielded 9 servings that were a tiny-bit more like cake than torte.

    I’ve also made it with Pluots, every bit as fabulous as the Santa Rosa plums. I’ve “combed the earth” for Italian Plums and am quite surprised that California is famous for all kinds of unique produce but doesn’t have Italian Plums.

  245. I grew up in Sunnyvale, and we had a plum tree in the back yard that produced plums like no others I’ve ever had. The flesh was a deep, dark purple, and I’ve been looking for them ever since I moved out at 18. I’ll try this recipe with Italian plums, but someday…..

  246. i will make this tomorrow with pluots I bought at the farmers’ market. I also have some husk tomatoes/ground cherries I am considering sprinkling around on top. Could be interesting. ;)

  247. Made this yesterday and it was everything promised and more! So delicious. One question, this took 20 to 25 minutes more in cooking time. My oven is (generally) very reliable as far as baking times go(within 5 minutes) . Has anyone else experienced this?

  248. If I forgot the lemon juice (!) and it is baking (right now) (!) do you think adding some lemon zest to the top when it comes out of the oven would be a nice alternative? :/

  249. I just made this cake with apriums (cross between an apricot and a plum) and it turned out delicious. I sprinkled a bit of delmarva sugar and fresh cinnamon that I brought from Turkey and whoa! the few parts where you can actually have a piece of cake without apriums were a bit caramelized. Very interesting cake indeed. Thanks for the recipe :)

  250. Just made this–IT IS AMAZING! My daughter thinks this is the best cake I’ve ever made. I had bigger black plums so cut them in half then thirds (so sixths), so I think the were closer together than the halves and the cake took longer to cook (1 hour). But OMG, so crazy good! Hopefully we’ll have some left tomorrow!

  251. I rarely bake, but I bought a bunch of Italian plums and the bag had a prune plum cake recipe in the back and I decided to do an online search to see if there was a better recipe! Voila. Smitten Kitchen. I do have a minor question hopefully someone can answer soon since I am baking it in a bit. When I cook the cake on the rack, so I first take off the side of the springform or just cool it as is and then take the side out? Very basic question for bakers. I have only used a springform pan to make cheesecake and I think it cooler with the sides on. I don’t remember. Thanks.

    1. Crystal — For springforms, at the point when a standard cake pan recipe says to flip it out of the pan, I just spring open the sides. And, if there is parchment lining the pan, you can usually then slide it onto a cooling rack.

  252. Just made this and loved it!
    And I just wanted to tell you I’ve made many of your recipes and they never failed, were always tasty and always easy to make.
    Keep up the good work!
    Greetings from the Netherlands :)

  253. I just made it last weekend and it was delicious!
    Because I’m trying to make my toddler eat as much tasty fiber as possible, I made it with almost 100% whole wheat. I used a 10 inch spring form, and increased the amount of batter and prune plums. I used 1 cup of white whole wheat flour and a little less than 1/2 cup of almond flour. I also added 1/4 cup of sour cream, a splash of milk, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, 3 eggs, little less than 1 cup of sugar and substituted the additional butter with apple sauce. Baked it according to recipe instructions (roughly 60 minutes), and let it stand overnight. It was gone within a few hours. Thank you, Deb!

  254. This is my all time favourite cake. And I love that it is so easy. I also tried freezing it (I cut it up and wrapped individual pieces so I could have a treat every now and then). It freezes beautifully. I made another and froze it. And I am thinking of making another…and another…until plums are gone!

  255. Nancy: I’ve had the same issue – I’ve made this cake twice this week, the second time with a thermometer in the oven to make sure the temp was accurate, and both times it needed to cook for about 65-70 minutes. Regardless, the end result still tasted FANTASTIC (thanks Deb – this is being filed away as a ‘go-to’ for potlucks, dinner parties, and plum season in general).

  256. I’m also wondering about fresh figs. Made this recipe tonight as written, and the torte is cooling on the counter right now and I already know this recipe’s another keeper.

  257. Keeper! Awesome and dead easy. The plums I had at home were large so I needed to give the cake a little extra time in the oven. Next time I’ll likely get the smaller plums Deb suggests as I found the edge was, how shall I say it, a little extra firm. Delicious in any case. Thanks Deb.

  258. I just have to share – I made this cake on Friday for a family dinner. My dad, who is 75 years old, took one bite and said – “This is the cake my grandmother used to make!”
    Thank you for helping me give him those memories.

  259. This is one of my all-time favorite cakes. I snagged some prune plums the day they hit the store and made this delightful torte for a family get-together. Big hit. Everyone wanted a second piece and the 6 of us devoured it all. Whenever I make this torte, people always tell me it’s the best cake they’ve ever had. It’s hard to believe that plums could trump chocolate, but this dessert makes a strong argument.

  260. Hi Deb,
    My daughter just had a slice and says the cake is delicious but my plums also sank to the bottom……Any idea why? I am a seasoned baker but I have no idea what happened. Thanks!

  261. I’ve been making this for years and just today realized you have included it on your site. It’s truly delicious. Good job for spreading the word about this deceptively simple but fantastic dessert. It deserves all the admiration it gets.

  262. I made this for the hubby this week. He said I should have made it when we were dating, I’d have probably gotten a bigger ring. :) It was that good!

  263. I’m reporting back on the figs – they tasted good, but were not as juicy as the plums. I baked one with half mission figs and half plums to do a comparison. The plums tasted much richer, too. I prefer the plum version.

  264. I can’t believe it took this long, but I’m so glad I finally made this! It is, of course, incredible. Thanks for sharing with all your personal touches.

  265. This cake is surprisingly delicious because I thought it would be too simple to be interesting. I waited too long in the season so had to use regular plums but it was so easy and great texture, can’t wait to make it again. Thanks Deb!

  266. Hi Deb, just made this cake for the first time and it is deliciious. It is like the plums were transformed in the baking to something better! Mine sank to the bottom, but flavor was not compromised. My question is whether you think other fruits would work in this recipe–peaches? Blueberries? Apples if pre-cooked or somehow softened up first? Thanks so much–just found your blog (LOVE IT) and have already made the marsala mushroom pasta and the dill tuna –both delicious! Thank you!!

  267. The plums are at the ready but I had apples to use first. I chopped some into dice and stirred in then laid some slices on top.. Yum. Or so I gather as it was devoured before I got a look in!

  268. I’ve made this cake twice in the last three days (because it is soo good, and because the stone fruit in Ontario this year has been phenomenal). I’m finding it very sticky on the bottom so that it’s hard to remove from the pan. It’s cooked through and the side pops off no problem… Do you just leave it on the bottom of the springform, or does it normally form a bit more of a crust on the bottom? Maybe I should leave it in the oven a bit longer next time (which may or may not be tomorrow).

  269. I served this to a party of 8 for Rash Hashanah last night. It’s sweet, tart, soft, jammy and a bit crispy. On day 2 we very carefully moved it to a cake plate with the use of 3 wide spatulas. I was a little nervous that it hadn’t cooked all the way because the spatulas did not come out clean, but when I finally cut into the cake it was perfect. The juices of the plums had soaked into the cake making it very moist. Next year I’ll need to make at least 2, people were going back for 2nd, 3rd and 4th helpings.

  270. I was given a big bag of plums from my friend’s tree and I knew just how to use them after seeing this recipe a few weeks ago – thank you thank you thank you!!! It turned out beautifully and my family of 5 polished it right off.

  271. Hi, I first tried this a few weeks ago and my fifth cake is in the oven now.
    Anya, I have been buttering the bottom of the pan lightly as Deb suggest as an option but I also add a round of parchment to the bottom of the pan. Once cooled I shuffle the cake to a cake plate or disposable cake board for presentation and pull out the parchment. Love this recipe! Thanks again Deb.

  272. I have made this cake four times previously, to great acclaim. Tonight I made it again, and it is a wonderfully-smelling, bubbling mess. All the additional baking time in the world will never turn this into a cake. Even if my plums were especially juicy, this time the recipe let me down. Has anyone else experienced this problem?

  273. I made this cake last weekend, doubling the quantities, for a bbq we were invited to. It disappeared in a matter of minutes! Definitely a keeper :-)

  274. Since I can’t delete my Sept. 18 comment above, let me add, that I’ve made this again, and as all times before except for once, it was both easy and wonderful. People ask me to make this again. I must have been half asleep when I had the failure. Trust this recipe!

  275. Deb, thank you for featuring this recipe on your blog! It really is a great recipe — so lovely in the Fall. You are the best!

  276. I made a second one, using the full tablespoon of cinnamon again, froze it and then served it a week later. It was as great as the one I made earlier. This cake has received more compliments than any thing I ever baked!
    I will remember this recipe come next fall for sure.

  277. I’ve made this as written, using red plums from the grocery, and it is divine! My husband and I both love it, and it was a hit at a Rosh Hashanah dinner last month. My one change is that I bake it in a 10 inch pie pan and it’s done in under 45 minutes. Thanks Deb for this wonderful recipe!

  278. I recently found the SK blog and I AM completely smitten! Have tried several recipes, including this plum torte, and all have been terrific. My husband is a frustrated farmer and has planted over 100 fruit trees and is now raising bees in our suburban yard. I was looking for a recipe for the Italian plums and love this one so much I’ve made it three times. It does freeze extremely well. I wrapped it in foil and a freezer bag and even my picky husband who does not like baked goods that have been frozen was impressed.

  279. Oh wow! I made this for this about a month ago when I could still find plums at the supermarket and it was a definite winner. So easy and so incredibly tasty. I completely failed to follow your excellent advice and tucked right in after it came out of the oven (though you are totally right, it was *even* better the next day).

    I recently tried making it with blueberries as I couldn’t find any more plums for sale. That cake was also very good, but not as amazing as the plummy version. I can’t want until next plum season so I can make this again!

  280. Hello! Love your work. I have a question – my tortes turn out with a perpetually soggy base. It’s still delicious , but it’s impossible to lift it out of the springform in neat slices and I see from your photos, a nicely browned and crunchy looking base.

    Any tips on what I might be doing wrong?

  281. This has become my go-to party/dinner invite bring along dessert! I use frozen plums from last summer, make it the day before, and bask in the praise heaped upon me at the gathering. It’s so easy to make and so deal lions. I also share the recipe with all who inquire.

  282. i easily double this recipe. its a good cake. i initially found it online when i visited a friend with a plum tree and every year she asks me to make it when i spend a weekend during plum season. she is dairy free so i did it alwasy with olive oil and coconut oils, but now i make this at home with butter. i cut the sugar in half and its not missing a bit of sweetness. i now understand the big deal over this recipe!

  283. I’m getting a lot of plums in my delivery veggie/fruit box, googled and found this plum cake. it was amazing and so easy! I’m making it again with the next batch of plums I get. thank you!

  284. I always use this recipe when opting for non vegan option, with apricots, plums any kind, pears and apples:). Plum version is a winner but all are good. Thanks.