Our Elma’s Special and Imperial Epineuse plum trees set a lot of plums this spring and now in late-July the small, sweet, dark purple plums are ripening. After years of trying to deter birds and raccoons with netting and traps while the plums approached perfect ripeness, I discovered that I can harvest these plums before they are fully ripe, and before they attract predators, and they will ripen to near perfection in a cool pantry. Raccoons still occasionally stage nighttime raids and birds peck at fruit now and then, but we get the bulk of the harvest to enjoy fresh, transformed into desserts or preserved for winter.
A bowl of fresh plums to share at breakfast, lunch or dinner is the easiest way to serve these summer treats, but a plum cake is almost as easy. I use a recipe first published in the New York Times in 1982. It goes together easily, bakes for about an hour, and disappears so quickly that I make one every few days this time of year. It makes a lovely dinner dessert but is also great for breakfast or lunch.
Original Plum Torte
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 24 halves pitted purple plums (or enough to cover the top of the cake closely spaced)
- Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
- Spoon the batter into a spring form 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 one 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 degrees.
I like this torte plain but for really special occasions I will double the plum experience and make plum ice cream. Years ago my friend Kathy told me about the plum ice cream she was making from a recipe in David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop (2007). I bought the book for my husband and we started making this and many other amazing ice creams following Lebovitz’s excellent and imaginative recipes.
This particular recipe couldn’t be easier and the flavor, texture and color are perfect. Plums, sugar, cream and a bit of kirsch are the only ingredients. We use a Cuisinart ice cream maker that is easy to use and to clean.
David Lebovitz’s Plum Ice Cream
Makes 1 Quart
1 pound plums
⅓ cup water
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon kirsch
Halve and pit the plums, cut them into 8ths and put them in a medium saucepan with the water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
Once cool, puree in a blender or food processor with the cream and kirsch until smooth.
Chill thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Though some in this household might disagree, we can really eat only so much cake and ice cream. For the rest of the plums ripening in the pantry, I’ve found that while drying plums is easy even with the long drying time in the dehydrator, the quickest way for me to preserve plums is to cut them in half, remove the pits, arrange them closely, skin side down, on parchment paper-lined sheet plans and roast them at 300 degrees for about an hour.
At this point, they’ve softened and the juices have concentrated. When they are completely cool, I slide them into pint canning jars, screw on lids and freeze them. Thawed months from now, they are delicious with yogurt and granola. They aren’t the same as a ripe, fresh plum, but on a dark winter morning they bring back welcome memories of warm summer days.
PS: see Karen’s comment about skin-side up or skin-side down in the Original Plum Torte. I’ve been doing skin-side down lately as in the photo above. Here’s a version of skin side up. Pretty too! Thanks for noticing Karen!