Now which plum cake shall I make?


"Plums are rather the forgotten member of the stone fruit member. Not as sexy as peaches, as expensive as cherries, or as tartly exotic as apricots, at least they aren’t nectarines, which are undoubtedly the dull bloke at the stone fruit party who’d probably want to talk about how he’s just got his car windows tinted."

Matt Preston


It's that time of year again, and I know I've talked about plums before, and probably plum cake too, but I have yet again been given a few kilos of them - the dreaded - to Matt Preston anyway - nectarines as well, so my thoughts are turning to what to do with them all. Now do I need any more jam?


In fact I have just made a very small batch of nectarine jam, which I attempted to tart up with a small amount of plum brandy that I had made last year. It's used up the nectarines, which is very satisfying, but I only got a jar and a half out of them. The plums are a bigger challenge.


Currently I have a small batch of plum chutney bubbling away on the stove, but chutney is one of those things that sounds great, indeed tastes great, but which never gets used. I hopefully put it out with cheese but it rarely gets discovered by anyone. We don't do sandwiches in this house, so it doesn't get put in them. Hamburgers neither. We are really a very, very conventional household. Nevertheless I keep trying. I sometimes give it away as a gift, but suspect it either gets thrown out or put in the back of a cupboard somewhere where it dies a slow death. I guess I should really make an effort to use it in my cooking - an extra tantalising flavour in a stew perhaps.


I am also going to try Yotam Ottolenghi's Sticky sweet and sour plums and sausages for dinner, but I confess I am very nervous about this. It looks magnificent and sounds really interesting with other ingredients such as pomegranate molasses - yes I have some at the back of my shelves, and sumac - ditto. But I'm really not sure how David is going to react, and I'm also not sure about the sausages which have come from the freezer. Indeed I should do a double-check on those, to see how really old they are. Then maybe it will be a quick dash to the supermarket, because I'm committed to this meal now. Yes it was - which just shows the danger of freezers. Supermarket here I come.


But I am here to talk about plum cake. When we went to our friends' to collect the plums we were treated to some plum cake, although I deliberately did not ask whose recipe it was, and anyway it was probably gluten free. But I do intend to make a plum cake, though who we shall share it with I don't know. Plum cakes generally keep a while though because they make it moist.


Just to make it clear I am not talking about plum pudding or indeed what is sometimes referred to as plum cake but is really fruit cake. Plum is a term that, in Britain anyway, has been used to refer to dried fruit of any kind, which is how come plum pudding is called plum pudding even though it contains no plums - and not generally any prunes either. No I am talking about cakes (and a few sort of tarts) that use fresh plums. The Brits do other things.


"we have a serious dearth of recipes for the glorious annual glut. Crumble, jam and pie just about covers it, as far as I can tell " Felicity Cloake


Which explains why her perfect plum cake at the top of the page is a German cake - zwetschgendatschi, zwetschgenkuchen, quetschekuche or pflaumenkuchen. Which I fear I may also have done before. And I have to say that of all those that I found, it's the juiciest looking one. So whilst we are on the German version, let's also consider some more Eastern/Cental European ones: a Classic plum torte which the New York Times has been publishing once every year for decades - and when they decided not to continue doing this there was such outrage that they succumbed and agreed to continue into the dim and distant future. So it must be good. Stephanie Alexander offers Mieze's plum cake recipe, which is from an Austrian friend, and according to Stephanie is "guaranteed to bring rave responses." Now I'm pretty sure I have made this, but although it was nice I won't say it was memorable. The Poles have something they call Placek z sliwkami and The Spruce Eats offers a version. Not enough plums for me I think. I think of these three the New York Times might look the most tempting, though, so far I'm still going with Felicity Cloake.

The there are the offerings of various cooks - well-known and otherwise. Nigel Slater's Plum and rosemary cake; Plum, lemon, polenta and almond cake from a Guardian reader, which sounds sort of Italian, as do Limoncello plum tart from Gino di Campo on the BBC website and yes it's a tart not a cake, but the limoncello was tempting. I have lots of homemade limoncello. Also Italian are Chocolate plum puddings with frangelico sauce - and these do use real plums.

And finally, to continue showing how the words plum and cake can mean so many different things there are Leftover breadcrumb plum cake from The Guardian's Tamal Ray; Sunken plum, spelt and ginger cake from Meera Sodha and a Plum and custard strudel slice from Sarah Hobbs.

And this is just a selection. There are hundreds more choices out there from the quick and easy versions using tinned plums, to really sophisticated stuff. How to choose?


I think for me, it will come down to a toss up between Felicity Cloake's perfect German plum cake and the limoncello tart. I have a vague feeling I may have made the German version before, so perhaps, delicious and squidgy though that is the limoncello tart might be more experimental. And I am in an experimental mood with these sausages of Yotam Ottolenghi. They have another half an hour to go and I have to say they are looking good so far. He's a bit unclear what to do with the garlic bulb which has been cut into two though.



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