Autumn Plum Cake

When I started this blog, I boldly vowed to myself that it would be a place for my culinary triumphs as well as those times when it all goes awry. I’d write about things that went wrong, and provide photographic evidence too! Well, I think it took me about a day-and-a-half to realise that actually no-one really wants to see pictures of cake gone wrong (for that, of course, we have the amazing Cake Wrecks).

I’m telling you all this because I had just such a cake disaster at the weekend. I had a glut of pears in my kitchen which had been sitting on the windowsill for a while, and had therefore reached a state of perfect ripeness. Now, what I should have done was to just eat them and enjoy them. But no, I decided to make a cake. Spiced pear and ginger struck me as a good combination, so I set off on my merry way. Ripe pears, mace, preserved ginger and a dash of cinnamon and allspice seemed good in theory, but something went wrong. It might have been my decision to use less sugar than I would normally use in cake, or it might have been that I used far more chopped pear than I ought to have done (three large, juicy pears in one loaf cake). Whatever it was, the cake seemed to start baking just fine, but then it developed a big dip, and when it came out and cooled down, it was worryingly soft. Okay, so not the end of the world, but then I sliced into it, and I was faced with the full reality of my failure – the pear pieces had sunk (and yes, I had tried coating the pieces in flour before baking!) and the lower part of the loaf was not fully baked. It was a small crumb of comfort that at least this problem affected the whole loaf – at least I’m consistent!

So…back to the drawing board. All the pears were gone, but I also had a big tray of purple plums. This time, I was not going to get too creative – I used a more traditional cake batter (not playing around with the sugar!) and rather than chopping the plums, I just cut them into quarters. They would be artfully arranged on top, and – so the theory goes – the cake batter would puff up between the plums.



And as you can see, the resulting cake looks pretty good! It is actually a complete doddle to make – it is just a simple sponge mixture that you spread in a pan, then add chopped fruit and bake. To flavour the cake, I added a little vanilla and almond extract to the sponge, which I think works nicely with the tartness of the fruit. The plums became lovely and soft during baking, and their sweet-sharp flavour pairs very well with the sweetness of the cake. I finished it off with a simple glaze of apricot jam, which adds a golden glow to the cake and helps to keep everything moist. If you want something more spicy (or nut-free), then skip the almonds in the cake and the almond extract, and add a bit of cinnamon or allspice, and sprinkle the top of the cake with a sugar-cinnamon mixture before baking.

This would be a perfect cake to make if you’ve got surprise visitors on the way, as it really looks like it took a lot more work than it actually does (but keep that part to yourself). I think the could also be easily adapted to use apples or cherries, or perhaps – if I ended up with another glut – a few ripe pears!



To make Autumn Plum Cake:

• 140g butter
• 70g white caster sugar
• 70g soft brown sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• 165g self-raising flour
• 25g ground almonds
• 1 tablespoon milk
• 5-6 large plums
• 2 tablespoons apricot jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F) and line a 22cm cake tin with greaseproof paper.

2. Cut the plums into quarters, and discard the stones.

3. Make the cake batter. Beat the butter and sugars until creamy. Mix in the almond and vanilla extract. Beat in the eggs, then fold in the flour and ground almonds and mix well. Finally, stir in the milk and beat well until the mixture is smooth and soft.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Level the top and then arrange the plums on top. Make sure to leave some gaps between the plums for the cake mixture to puff up during baking, but don’t worry about leaving big gaps – the fruit will shrink and sink a bit during baking, so be generous!

5. Bake the cake for around 45 minutes until golden. If the top is browning too quickly, cover loosely with tin foil. When done, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

6. Finish the cake with the glaze – heat the apricot jam with 2 tablespoons of water until runny, then pass through a sieve. Brush the sieved jam all over the top of the cake. You’re done!


Filed under Afternoon Tea, Recipe, Sweet Things

29 responses to “Autumn Plum Cake

  1. It’s refreshing to hear about a cake fail as it happens to the best of us! The best way to learn right?

    • Yes, I thought I had to be honest! Fails happen…usually they are tasty, but the pear loaf was so wrong it had to go in the bin (the cooked bits went out for the birds, so not a complete loss!).

  2. I just baked cupcakes this weekend and was so scared to create my own recipe. It is so nice to hear about your fails, as I have had many!! The plum cake looks delicious!

    • Thanks – glad my “sharing” helps! I do have some wobbles in the kitchen, but it is also a good way to learn. I actually had a suspicion that my pear cake wasn’t going to work – I should perhaps have skipped one egg, and mashed one of the pears to equalise the liquid. Hey ho…onwards and upwards! At least now I’ve got plum cake to keep my happy 🙂

  3. that is gorgeous. i realize i am more of a cook than pastry chef…throwing dinner together? no sweat. create my own dessert? no thanks! i’ve had my fair share of fails, too!

    • Thanks Michal. I enjoy both cooking and baking, but what I find really hard is the fancy high-end patisserie. I’ve dabbled, but so much can (and for me has!) gone wrong in the past.

  4. CC

    I guess I’m in good company as this has happened to me (more than once), however you more than made up for it with that plum cake! It’s gorgeous and looks like a piece of art! I love plums, in fact my favorite muffins are made with plums! Love your posts!

    • Thanks Christina – I just felt it was time to share a story that was not about a picture-perfect recipe. So I actually felt particularly lucky when the plum cake came out of the oven as it did! I’m probably going to make the same but with pears next week.

  5. Danny Andrews

    Practice makes a man perfect and you proved it….nice cake btw

  6. I have soooo many failures in the kitchen, I’m glad I’m not the only one! Your plum cake looks gorgeous though, you have definitely redeemed the pear incident haha. Very autumnal!

  7. Stunning cake… the pics look delicious! So glad you didn’t throw in the towel after the first attempt. 🙂

  8. Willemijn

    That looks soooo delicious!!! I think i can learn a lot from you! 🙂

  9. eye candy!! and i bet it tastes great too,

    • Thanks Chika! I posted this on facebook too – it has had more likes from my friends than anything else I’ve ever posted. I’m also on the hook to make this quite a few times in the coming weeks… 😉

  10. looks really nice 🙂 yummy!!

  11. Well done, giving up is never an option. Glad you didn’t!

  12. Well, I love that the pear cake failed because you made this beauty! I often wonder what else to do with the plums from the garden other than jams or pies. Now I know. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Your plum cake looks fabulous! Love the colors. I am going to try your recipe since its plum season👍

  14. Hmmm very delicious!!!!! I love sweet dishes with any kind of fruit and plums are especially good in baking!!!

    Thank you for the recipe!
    Love Katie

  15. What a lovely recipe! Definitely trying!

  16. Shannon

    I made this this morning, halved the recipe and swapped the plums for pears. It turned out the perfect small cake, just right to cut into four pieces for afternoon tea! Thanks!

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