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Sep 2, 2008 04:48 PM

It's plum torte season...start your engines...

It's that most wonderful time of year, when those lowly black-green Italian prune plums get their moment to shine like glorious rubies after the crucible of the oven.

Yes, the fabled Marian Burros plum torte recipe. Make it, love it, make more, share.

I made up and froze many last September, and gave my parents a couple when they finally moved in December after 55 years in their home. We had the first for Christmas dessert. The second we had on Father's Day - and it was still great. I sandwich mine between cake boards before wrapping like a mummy for freezing - it works well.

Anyway, my paraphrased and annotated version of the recipe for the few of you out there who might never have encountered it:

The New York Times’ Plum Torte
(originally from Marian Burros and Lois Levine's "The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook") – I would note that this “torte” is in reality a variation on the classic American dessert, the buckle – it’s just not so deep that the batter “buckles” so much that the fruit sinks completely beneath the top.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50-60 minutes
8 Servings

• 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
• 3/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
• 1 teaspoon baking powder∗
• 2 eggs
• Pinch salt
• 24 halves pitted Italian prune plums
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon or more, to taste∗∗
• [Optional: if warm, vanilla ice cream; if not, whipped cream or crème fraiche sweetened to taste with superfine (caster) sugar]

1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream the butter and the 3/4 cup of sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch springform pan.∗∗∗ Cover the top with the plums, skin sides down. Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle over the top.
3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.
4. To serve, let the torte return to room temperature and reheat at 300 degrees until warm, if desired. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream.

∗ Instead of AP flour & baking powder, you could use 1 cup of self-rising flour, sifted. That will give a very soft, biscuit like crumb that will dissolve in the mouth. The fruit will sink deeper into it, however, so consider lining the pan bottom with parchment paper (grease the bottom of the paper a bit to stick to the pan bottom, but leave the top ungreased).
∗∗ Perhaps a quarter teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg or cardamom in addition.
∗∗∗ The 9-inch pan presents less risk of the fruit touching and sticking to the bottom of the pan. If using a 10-inch pan, consider using parchment paper as described in the preceding note.

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  1. fantastic recipe. thanks for reposting it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      Alice Medrich has the NYTimes "Rustic Plum Tart" as well as a more sophisticated one made with ground almonds that is fantastic. The almond one is not very difficult either.

      I think that Bert Greene also has a good plum cake recipe in his Kitchen Bouquet cookbook - Bolzano Plum Cake. Greene's recipe calls for a batter to be baked for a few minutes, the plums and another layer of batter added, then baked for almost an hour. I have made all of these and they are great.

      I agree about plums and tarts/cakes/tortes. They are my all-time faves. Now is a great time for plums, and, I might add, pluots, which make a delicious alternate.

      Medrich has a great tip (IMNSHO) about the plums. In both the NYTimes and the other recipe, she cooks the plums in their skins and removes them after baking. That way they don't dry out or bleed all over the cake. It's pretty easy with a tweezers or small tongs. I did it with my fingers, but that's pretty painful when the plums are HOTTTTTTT.

      1. re: oakjoan

        Well, the Marian Burros recipe does not involve removing the skins. Even simpler.

        I should note a couple of things from variations I have tried:

        1. You can try using plums other than prune plums, but they tend to be more watery and result in a messier torte that is not as desirable.

        2. If you use pastry flour rather than AP flour, the effect is similar to self-rising flour (which tends to be softer than AP flour): the batter is less stiff, and thus the plums sink below the batter when it puffs up over them. The cake dissolves in the mouth more. It can be easier to freeze these tortes because the cake is on top rather than the sugared plums. Still, be sure to use parchment paper on the bottom if you don't want to finely slice it off the bottom, because it will stick more.

        Prune plums are just so wonderful for cooking.

    2. So yummy; I saw some fresh Italian prunes at the market, but didn't know what to do with them so I didn't buy them. Then I read this post and went and got some (maybe too many) and made the plum cake and plum tarts and LOVED it. So beautiful, tart, well-textured and perfect for baking. Thank you!

      4 Replies
      1. re: oryza

        It freezes exceptionally well if well wrapped - so make many and enjoy at your leisure. It's a wonderful thing to pull out at the last minute.

        1. re: Karl S

          How do I wrap it well for freezing? Should I use parchment layers, plastic wrap, freezer bags, or combinations of these things? And as for defrosting, does it go into the oven or sit at room temp overnight? Thanks in advance

          1. re: oryza

            I put it between cake boards, wrap tightly in foil, then freezer cling wrap, then seal as free of air as possible in a bag.

            Do not defrost; reheat directly in a 300F oven.

            1. re: Karl S

              For about how long do you reheat the frozen tortes?

      2. I love baked plums in every form.

        This is also a lovely recipe. Very easy and fast to make and the cornmeal compliments the plums nicely. (I prefer much less sugar than that recommended in the recipe.)

        Rustic Plum Tart

        1. Hi Karl, I'm a little late to this party, but I just took a plum torte out of the oven. It took the 60 minutes. It's beautiful. I used a 9" pan and the plums are nestled down, but not sunken. I used AP flour. Can't wait to cut into it once it's cool. Thanks and to everyone else who posted along. Nice addition to my meager baking collection!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Pat Hammond

            It tasted as good as it looked. It was the star of my little dinner party. The edges had a texture that reminded me of macaroons. Thanks so much. I'll be making this again.

            1. re: Pat Hammond


              I am glad you enjoyed this. I have 4 sitting in my freezer, waiting to be pulled out over the next few months. I make them 2 at a time.

              I typically flavor a container of creme fraiche with some superfine sugar (I always have superfine rather than granulated; though it's more expensive, it's just so much more versatile, and I don't want to run granulated sugar through my food processor. I also sometimes add a little almond extract, which is a good flavor for all drupe fruits.)

              1. re: Karl S

                Last night my son-in-law asked if it was almond he was tasting, and I said thought it was probably the nutmeg. But I thought at the time that a hint of almond would be really nice.