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Aug 3, 2005 11:11 AM

Sir Gawain ultra-simple fruit cake--a report from the kitchen

  • s

So, last week at the farmers market, my favorite farmer had plums. I've never much cared for plums (I think I ate too many green ones in one sitting as a kid), but I love this guy, so bought a pint (or quart, or something). The SO has been chewing away on them. But, after reading Sir Gawain's post and reading a Marian Burros cookbook I checked out of the library with her plum torte recipe, I decided I needed to act.

So, last night I used Sir Gawain's recipe, with my farmer's market plums, and her plum variation, plus my own variation on her variation--I used cardmamom instead of cinnamon. I added a drop or two of lemon extract as well (on Sir Gawain's advice).

Wow. I really, really liked it. I'm totally rethinking the plum and its worth in my life. I'm trying to think of other opportunities to cook with plums. And, I'm trying to buy more fruit to make more of this cake. And I'm trying to think of how I can get more exercise, so all of this cake doesn't congeal around my middle.

It's a really yummy cake. I wholeheartedly recommend it. I think it would be great to serve to weekend guests for dessert on Saturday night, and then for breakfast the next morning with a cup of coffee. It's sweet enough, but not too sweet (SO disagreed, but he likes things so sweet that they make your teeth ache). Mmmm, I can't wait to go home and have another slice.


P.S. thanks for the post, sir gawain!


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  1. great report. i am so all over this cake just as soon as the temp goes below 90. i asked on the other thread whether it's possible to use buttermilk instead of milk in this cake (because i STILL have buttermilk i need to use up). sir gawain didn't know, and he suggested that i repost and ask the serious bakers: can you sub buttermilk for milk in this kind of cake?

    3 Replies
    1. re: queue

      Seems like the main issue is how the acid in the buttermilk might affect leavening, and I'm not well-versed enough to know exactly. Doesn't call for much so I myself wouldn't hesitate to sub in. Buttermilk lends such a wonderful texture to cakes and goes well w/ berries, but you might want to compensate for the sourness by adding a wee bit more sugar. If your fruit is pretty sweet though, a tart counterpoint might be very effective.

      1. re: Carb Lover

        I think this cake is sweet enough that you don't need to add more sugar even with buttermilk. I also agree that the tartness would make the cake go even better with the plums. Unfortunately, I can't be of help when it comes to texture. I would say that in general, I think there's so little milk required that you should go ahead and try it.

      2. re: queue
        Marcia M. D'A.

        I'm not exactly a serious baker but I do have some experience, and if you are going to use buttermilk in the cake you need to add a bit of baking soda along with the baking powder...say about 1/2 teaspoon, or it won't rise properly.
        That's my understanding, anyway.

      3. Cardammon...what a great idea! Wish I'd thought of it. I made the cake this weekend too, with a few changes:

        -added some almond extract to the cake
        -cut the sugar down to 3/4 cup
        -used Grand Marnier in addition to the cinnamon, sugar, and lemon oil
        -substituted in half a cup of cake flour

        But all in all, great! Sir Gawain, could you plese tell me if this is the what the cake's supposed to look like? There's nothing "wrong" with mine, but I get the sneaking suspicion I should have pressed the fruit in more.

        Note: I used pluots and green plums, and the green plums were a lot sweeter and more in harmony with the cake. The pink and white pluots were much, much prettier though. If you really want a tangy contrast to the cake, the plouts are the ones that will retain that after baking.


        9 Replies
        1. re: nooodles

          This is beautiful! I'm going to try the cake this weekend.

          Did you use a springform pan?

          1. re: doctor_mama

            But of course! But I do think the cake is solid enough that you could unmold it from a regular pan with the help of some plastic wrap and a few plates.

          2. re: nooodles

            Beautiful! Yes, pluot skins are quite tart after baking, but I like pluots mixed w/ other plums like you did. Did you cover loosely midway through so that the plums wouldn't burn? I don't see much caramelization on the plums so you could uncover during the last 10 min. or blowtorch if you have one.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              I know, I really want a blowtorch. My stupid oven doesn't heat from above, and the broiler's broken. Awful.

              1. re: Carb Lover

                I don't cover this cake durimng baking, and sometimes even up the temperature to 375 for the last 10 minutes or so... and I do bake it in the top 1/3 of the oven, precisely so there's caramelization at the top. The cinnamon (or cardamom) sugar sprinkled on top makes a thin caramel-y crust... but the cake is definitely more golden than brown when finished. Baking it for much longer than 60 minutes browns it, but then it gets too dry inside.

                But everyone's oven is different...

              2. re: nooodles

                Wow Nooodles, that looks perfect!

                1. re: nooodles

                  That looks so good. I love plum cakes.

                  1. re: nooodles

                    wow, noodles, you and I went for a totally different 'aesthetic', but I love your's. I cut the plums in half and jammed them skin side up. All of these red domes of plum peeking out of cake. The juice from the plums was really good in the cakes, no?!

                    I like the cake flour idea. It's definitely not a fine crumb cake the way I made it (which is probably ok for the purpose of delivering fruit). The almond extract sounds really good. I also was fairly light on the sugar (and wished I had tried it with brown sugar instead of white). Hmmm, plum cake...

                    Thanks for taking a photo of yours. I'll admit, I was too hungry to do that, and we just dove in.


                    1. re: nooodles

                      Wowza! I'm so happy you guys like it! Yes, this is exactly what mine looks like most of the time. I guess you could press the fruit in more, or even put a layer of batter on the bottom, add fruit, and top with batter, but it wouldn't be so purty...