Two weeks, two coasts. Lobster rolls on the east and Monterey squid, grilled over wood fire on the west. Herkimer County cheddar cheese and the astoundingly addictive Mt. Tam (Mount Tamalpais).
But there is no place like home. And to get us centered and remember who we are, we go back to the almost-autumn favorite, plum torte.
We’ve shared this classic a time or two before, but make no apologies for putting it out there again. The original Marian Burros recipe, first published in the New York Times in the 1983, was so popular and so requested that it became a yearly feature, published again and again.
And even in the days of the "interweb," a plea came our way from someone whose brittled newspaper clipping from our earlier iteration had vanished: “I saw Italian prune plums at the store and can’t find the recipe ... can you please share again?”
This simple, classic, variable recipe bears repeating and sharing. So easy to make non-bakers can puff up with pride. So durable you can bake and freeze many and always have some fruity, cinnamony, tortey wonderfulness on hand. (Line your baking pan with aluminum foil and you’ve got no cleanup and a ready-to-freeze torte.)
Italian prune plums are divine, but other seasonal fruits (even cranberries!) can be placed on top of the basic buttery batter. Canned and frozen fruit can stand in for fresh.
Other more recent Times suggestions for the recipe:
* Experiment with spices, herbs and extracts: vanilla extract, almond extract, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, rosemary, orange or lemon zest.
* Play with the flours. You can add almond or cornmeal flour to the all-purpose flour, or swap in gluten-free flour blends, with excellent results. (Melissa Clark made a version with whole wheat flour.)
* Double, triple, even quadruple it. The batter scales up like a dream, and the baked cake freezes well.
* Change up the pan. The torte can be baked in any dish provided it’s approximately 8 to 10 inches in diameter and oven-safe.
This torte has become the cake of choice for the many August-September family birthdays in our tribe. But whatever the occasion, this sweet, simple torte conveys the taste of home.
¾ to 1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt (optional)
24 halves pitted purple plums
Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping
Heat oven to 350 F. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
Spoon the batter into a springform pan of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
Bake 1 hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream. (To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 F.)