Meet the perfect transition from summer to fall. The plum. Would you like to hear a secret? I've never baked with a plum before. That's a crime; baking affects fruit the same way roasting does. It intensifies the flavors. It magnifies them. It concentrates them. This lovely cake, with its moist, crumbling texture has pockets of melting, fragrant, jammy plums and I'm officially in love. Perhaps the perfect late-summer breakfast, I'm baking this buckle every week until plums disappear from the markets, because, my friends, this is perfection.
This cake almost didn't happen. You see, I adore peaches. I was going to make a peach pie because it is my favorite pie ever. But we've been to fruit pie territory already here, so I decided to see what kind of recipe I could find in my stash that would include plums. I was a little nervous, actually. What if they get mushy? What if they make the cake soggy? Will this work? Thankfully, the answer was.....oh yes. This works.
And the reason this works for me is because this buckle is scented and structured with almonds. I'm sure there will be someone out there who can tell me if there is a scientific reason why almonds go so well with stone fruits. I can't tell you why, but I'm here to say that they do and it's a beautiful thing. Almonds and cherries. Almonds and peaches. Almonds and apricots. I've just discovered almonds and plums; it's a beautiful thing. It's almost magical, really, how well they complement each other.
Another first for me with this recipe: lining a pan with parchment paper. If I took the time, I could have made an origami paper circle with precise folds and angled snips, but that would have required more time and research and practice than I wanted to invest. I wanted to make this cake and I wanted it done. Now. So I traced and cut the grade-schooler way and it did the job.
So this is the reason that right now is the perfect time to use plums--they are a summer fruit that makes you feel like fall is right around the corner. They look like autumn leaves, but they taste bright and vibrant like a summer morning. Plums are fantastic eaten straight from the refrigerator, but they come into their own after a trip to the oven. Want the taste of homemade jam, but don't want the fuss of peeling and boiling and canning? (Not that there aren't good quick jam recipes out there and I'd like to try them someday...) You have to try this cake. It's quick to put together, yet it looks like it came from a rustic French patisserie. Everybody wins.
Bon Appetit July 2006
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
1/2 c. whole almonds (about 2.5 oz.)
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. plus 4 t. sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract
1 1/4 lb. plums (about 8 medium), halved, pitted, cut
into 1/2"-thick slices
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper round. Finely grind almonds in processor. Transfer to medium bowl; whisk in flour, baking powder and salt. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add I cup sugar; beat until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts, then flour mixture just until incorporated. Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly and smooth top with spatula. Gently press plum slices, flesh side down, into batter in spoke pattern around outer rim and center of cake, placing close together. Mix cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle over plums. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes. Run small knife between cake and pan sides to loosen. Invert cake onto platter; remove parchment paper. Place another platter atop cake. Using both hands, hold platters firmly together and invert cake, plum side up. Cool cake completely. Cut into wedges.