This is a quiet little cake, a simple one-layer affair with a buttery, coarse-grained crumb from almond meal and walnuts, moistened with tart-sweet plums. It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Kitchen Diaries, a year-in-the-life chronicle of an affable home cook. Nigel Slater writes beautifully, with warmth and ease, and his recipes are brought to gorgeous life by Jonathan Lovekin’s serenely vibrant photographs. It’s exactly the sort of book you might page through on a rainy day with a cup of tea and a slice of this plum cake, actually.
Slater writes about cooking for the right time, not only for seasonality but for the occasion or the weather or the mood you’re in, and I get that. This cake feels just right for this time of year, those weeks when it’s not quite summer and not yet fall, something to indulge the back-to-school feeling in the air when the market’s still bursting with summer produce. To adapt the recipe from the metric standard, I weighed out my ingredients (in some cases rounding up or down, ever so slightly) but I’ve included Slater’s original measurements as well.
Plum Walnut Cake
adapted from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries, 2011; makes one 8″ cake
- 10 tablespoons butter (150 g), room temperature
- 1/2 C + 2 Tbsp brown sugar (150 g)
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 C + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour (75 g)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 C finely ground almonds or almond meal (100 g)
- 1/2 cup shelled walnuts (50 g)
- about 6-7 medium plums, ripened but still firm
- powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C/Gas mark 4). Lightly grease an 8″ cake pan and line with parchment. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium until lightened and fluffy. Meanwhile, halve the plums and remove their pits. Halve again and set aside. Finely chop the walnuts and reserve.
Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula in between additions. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold into the butter mixture. Fold in the almonds and the chopped walnuts. Scrape the batter into the tin. Place the quartered plums in concentric circles, without overlapping, on top of the batter. (Don’t fuss too much with how you arrange them, since they’ll sink anyway.) Bake about 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan 15-20 minutes; serve warm or room temperature, dusting the top with powdered sugar if desired.
Note: when measuring out the flour and almond meal, use a spoon to transfer the ingredient to your measuring cup (versus scooping). Slater called for 16 plums, probably the small Italian variety, but I used what was available in my market. Use whatever will fit in your cake pan.