I’ve often claimed in these pages that I don’t bake much, yet in truth, like many people, I started off as a ‘baker’ and there has definitely been a lot of baking in my life, even if less now than years ago. Baking cakes if often where we start with cooking. I used to make cakes with my grandmother and then on my own. My mother wasn’t really a cake-making cook so I took up the baton in my teens and became the family’s cake maker. I frequently made chocolate éclairs and with all due modesty, I can say I was really good at choux pastry. Since starting the blog I’ve often thought I should revisit chocolate éclairs, but have never got round to it. When chocolate comes to mind along with cakes, I always make the family’s favourite Torta Caprese. I’m trying to pass on the baking baton to my 3½-year-old grandson, Freddie, and have even made banana bread muffins with him for the blog, encouraging his early love of food and interest in cooking. For me, there is nothing more wonderful when it comes to cooking than preparing a special meal for the family and now cooking with the next generation – even if he is only three!
During my busy ‘dinner party’ phase in my 30s and 40s I was so into making desserts that I’d often make two or three when one would have been perfectly sufficient. Now a dessert is a rare event and usually nothing more complicated or sophisticated than a simple apple crumble for the family. I’ve branched out a little more since writing the blog and you will find some very nice cake and dessert recipes here, but in truth my heart more closely lies with savoury things these days – unless we’re talking ice cream!
So how did I come to bake this evening? Well, it was the Victoria plums. How can one resist a Victoria plum? I certainly couldn’t when I spied them on Waitrose’s shelves over the weekend; not only Victoria plums, but from Kent. I grew up in Kent and in our garden there was a Victoria plum tree. There is really no plum quite like the Victoria – named, unsurprisingly, after Queen Victoria.
The plums are delicious raw: sweet and juicy. But they’re great cookers too. And frankly, I wasn’t going to get through a 450g punnet on my own! And baking a cake with them took my fancy. I ended up combining a Rick Stein recipe for German Apple Cake (substituting the apples with plums) with the streusel for a plum cake in the Guardian. Rick Stein is becoming my go-to celebrity chef for reliable and easy recipes – he saved me when I made the unexpectedly difficult pasteis de natas a few months ago. He didn’t put a streusel topping on his German apple cake (though some might) and for the life of me, I can’t tell you why this seemed important to me, but once the thought entered my head then I just had to make streusel. So – never trust just one recipe when you could have two. A marriage was born.
Plum Cake with Streusel Topping
- 60g flour
- 45g demerara sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 50g melted butter, cooled
- 30g almond, chopped
- 400g plums
- 125g butter, softened
- 140g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 225g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 75ml full-fat milk
Make the streusel topping first. Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon together. Add the melted butter (I forgot to cool mine; it looked like it might be a disaster, but then after a time in the fridge – as instructed – it crumbled really well and worked!). Add the chopped nuts and mix well. Put in the fridge.
Now make the cake. Heat the oven to 170C/150 Fan/Gas 3. Butter and line a 23cm cake tin.
Wash and dry the plums and cut in half. The Victorias are quite long and oval so I cut them lengthwise so they wouldn’t be too deep in the batter.
In a large bowl beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, a little at a time, and beat well. I like to add a little of the flour at this stage so the mixture doesn’t curdle. Once all the egg is incorporated, sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in carefully to keep the mixture light.
Add the milk and continue to fold in carefully until you have a smooth, fairly soft batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin. Lay the plum halves on top, cut side down, packing in quite tightly.
Remove the streusel topping from the fridge. It will be quite hard and ‘set’ now but just take lumps and crumble over the top with your fingers. I only used about half and put the other half in the freezer – in the hope the cake would be good and I’d want to make another!
Put the cake in the preheated oven. Now … Rick recommends 45 minutes to get it cooked and nicely golden on top. Mine took 1hr 10mins. This may have been my oven … it may have been using a 20cm cake tin because I don’t have a 23cm. Whatever … this is the thing with cakes … cooking times vary so just trust your judgement. When it looks nice and golden, slide in a skewer or slim knife and if it comes out clean, your cake is done.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Then transfer to a cake rack.
Rick recommends it’s nice served warm and as I made it quite late in the afternoon, I did eat it warm. But of course there’s a lot to eat cold another day … It worth bearing in mind the ‘warm’ serving though as a nice dessert for a family meal.
I served mine with some Greek yoghurt but cream or ice cream would be good too.
It was really delicious. It’s not a light sponge, more solid, but not heavy and very tasty. I loved the plums on top and the sweet crunchiness from time to time of the streusel topping, which was wonderful with the plums. It was a great cake and that bag of spare streusel topping in my freezer is definitely going to be used soon to make another one!