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February 15, 2010

I’ve never been much of a pastry chef. I don’t even have a sweet tooth. I rarely buy sweets. I could happily live without chocolate. I would generally prefer to gorge myself on savoury courses than desserts. And until yesterday, I hadn’t cooked a cake since about nineteen-dickety-three.

Why then, did the proverbial worm turn? For one, I am intrigued by the chemistry of baking and find it endlessly fascinating that just a few simple ingredients, while basically hideous if eaten raw (imagine eating a cup of flour), can turn into an amazingly delicious treat! It’s magic! Also, for weeks I have been drooling over a huge selection of plums at our local Woolies (I know, I know, I need a smack). For me, plums are the quintessential late-summer treat. When the summer crop of nectarines and peaches is looking a bit dodgy, plums are there to get you through. I love their autumnal hues of scarlet, magenta, crimson, indigo and blue, as well as the amazing range of shapes, sizes and flavours from sweet to sour. I realised I needed to find a recipe to showcase the colours and flavours of this beautiful fruit.

As I often do when I’m looking for a seasonal recipe, I turned to Tessa Kiros’s Twelve, a beautiful book of Tuscan recipes arranged by months of the year according to seasonal ingredients. I have several of Kiros’s books, and though she writes about cuisines as disparate as Finnish and South African, I have always had success with her recipes, which are unfailingly simple, flavourful, rustic and showcase the flavours and textures of beautiful produce.

Tucked away in the July chapter was just the recipe for the job. Instead of sticking to one variety of plums, I got a selection, including Amber Jewels, red plums, tiny sugar plums and a variety called Dapple Dandy Pluot, a plum/apricot hybrid.


Torta di susine (from Twelve by Tessa Kiros)

10-12 medium-sized plums, about 900g in total
150g butter melted, plus a little extra for greasing
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
150 caster sugar plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling on top of the cake
250g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Wash the plums and cut them into halves, removing and discarding the pips. Lightly grease a 24cm x 6cm, flattening it onto the bottom and sides of the tin as closely as possible (thank god the head pastry chef Mama Explody was here to help with these essential preparations! Greasing a pan? Why bother doing that?)

Put the eggs into a bowl with the vanilla and the 150g of sugar, and whip until voluminous, pale and fluffy. Add the sifted flour and baking powder, and mix to incorporate. Whisk in the melted butter and the milk. I did this all in our trusty kitchen aid.

Put a few of the plums onto the bottom of the cake tin and scrape out the batter over them. Tip the remaining plums over the batter. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar.

Place an oven tray under yer cake tin to collect any spillage. Bake for about 1 hour, until the top is golden, a skewer inserted comes out clean and some plum juice has begun to caramelise. Remove from the oven and cool before removing from the cake tin.


Now look at that. You don’t have to try it to know it’s delicious (but trying it is preferable). The flavour of the plums was really brought out by the long cooking time, the sour varieties providing a perfect foil to the sweetness of the cake and pleasing to my savoury tooth. The slippery, juicy texture also complemented the moist cake with a crust beautifully caramelised by the plum juice. The only thing I would change for next time would be to use a scraped vanilla bean instead of vanilla essence, which was too strong and didn’t particularly taste like vanilla.

Despite this success, I dearly hope I don’t become too fond of cake, I don’t think my GP would be too impressed. But you know, it’s a fruit cake, so it’s practically health food, yeah?

Let them eat cake!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 13:32

    oooh, that looks like my kinda cake…So should i investigate these Tessa Kiros books? Is she Australian or from overseas? I have never been able to figure that out!

    • felixexplody permalink*
      February 15, 2010 13:56

      I highly recommend Tessa’s books. I actually find myself cooking a lot of her recipes, unlike many of my cookbooks which I tend just to peruse for the gastroporn. Falling Cloudberries is my favourite and has Finnish, Greek, Cypriot, South African and Italian recipes.

      She was born in London to a Finnish mama and Greek-Cypriot father, grew up in South Africa, travelled a lot and now lives in Tuscany. No wonder it’s hard to figure out where she hails from…

  2. Katie permalink
    February 15, 2010 21:15

    Love it lovely!! Mmmm Amber Jewels, so so so yummy straight off the trees at the moment. Sorry, yes, rubbing it in!! Woolies?? I’ll forgive you this once as I am sure the pickings are slim where you are 🙂
    Mmmmm and don’t forget Tessa’s chickpea salad…that is where it all started wasn’t it, our fascination with her cook books 🙂 ?
    Mouth watering……can not wait for your next installment 🙂

    • felixexplody permalink*
      February 15, 2010 21:23

      The selection at Woolworths looked so tasty I couldn’t resist! Like I said in my farmers’ market post though, there isn’t much of a choice in old Grafton! I miss your fruit Katie Farmgate.

      The chickpea salad was where it all started. It’s one of my favourite recipes ever! I even included it in a special little cookbook I made for Mr History as he is acquiring his first ever bbq. Aww.

  3. February 16, 2010 06:59

    That is EXACTLY what I want to eat RIGHT NOW. Looks luscious x

  4. pommiefoodie permalink
    February 16, 2010 11:23

    Fruit cake as a health food. Love it.
    Loving the blog by the way Felix, keep it up!

  5. February 19, 2010 20:47

    Honeychild! There IS an in the middle alternative for vanilla in baking – try vanilla bean paste – I was pleasantly surprised @frombecca xx

    • felixexplody permalink*
      February 19, 2010 22:33

      Funnily enough, I made the cake again today and used vanilla bean paste this time, it worked a treat! We also used it to make some ice cream which was also delish. Thanks Becca! xx

  6. March 7, 2010 23:38

    Mmmm, nice. I never buy plums ‘cos I can never get the damn pip out and I end up with a mess of mangled plums.. Yours look like they have come out easily.

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