It was Sue‘s birthday this week. (She was born on the fourth of July, and her Dad jokingly told relatives they thus named her Martha Washington. A few believed them and the name stuck for longer than it should have.) She came for the weekend to do some cooking shows at the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre at the Calgary Stampede, and so after two back to back shows this afternoon, we came back here for an impromptu birthday dinner. This morning I baked a cake.
What kind of cake was dictated by time (as in not enough to bother with frosting and decorating), temperature (any buttercream would melt right off in today’s heat) and season (anything other than a fruit-laced cake seemed hardly summery enough). I had a few plums in the fruit bowl. and so decided on a big crumb cake, made with a thin batter on the bottom, just enough to act as a sort of cakey crust for the fruit, which then supported a layer of jumbo crumbs on top.
One of my five plums, once cut open, was a dud – and so I tucked raspberries in to fill the gaps. It was almost as if I planned it that way – the two are a delicious pairing. As are most summer fruits, really – the great thing about this sort of a cake – besides its ease and deliciousness – is that it can be called into service with any sort of fruit; peaches, berries, apples, pears – anything will do. It’s a perfect recipe to go with the seasons – what you have, what’s best, or what needs to be used up.
A big crumb cake can transform a wrinkly or sub-par fruit into something sublime. Imagine what it does to the great ones? The only problem with this one was that I had to turn the oven on to make it.
So. Hot. Fortunately, this is a great cake to eat on the back porch, on your lap. Happy summering!
Plum Crumb Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, Sept. 1995
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla or the grated zest of a lemon
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
5-8 plums, pitted and cut into wedges
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2-1 cup walnuts
1/3 cup butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 9-inch round baking pan with high sides, or a 10-inch quiche dish, or whatever you have that will accommodate such a cake.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla or lemon zest and beat until thick and pale yellow. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat on low speed or stir by hand just until combined.
Spread the batter in the pan, smoothing the top, and arrange the plum slices (or other fruit) over it in slightly overlapping concentric circles. Or whatever.
In a food processor, pulse together all the crumb ingredients until well blended. If you don’t have a food processor, chop the walnuts and blend everything with a fork or your fingers. Sprinkle the crumbs over the fruit, squeezing as you go to create big clumps, and bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the cake part is springy to the touch, or a tester comes out or or less clean (with some fruit on it).
July 09 2012 11:01 am | cake