Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Autumnal Upside Down Plum Cake

Some autumns creep up softly, cautiously, with stealth. This year the turn of the seasons here in the westcountry has been much more out and proud. Most early mornings now a mist hangs over the garden, and despite continuing sunshine the wind begins to bring down leaves from trees all around us. Our fruit trees have been heavy with produce, wild boulis plums vying for attention with the large eating and cooking apples. We managed to pick much of the fruit just as it was starting to fall, drooping heavily on the trees ready to be blown down in the rain.

Fresh fruit in the basket means fresh cake for the idle baker. I've focused my attention here on the plums, as they don't keep as well as apples, and the delicate sweet-sharp flavour comes out best of all when they're a little underripe. Our boulis plums were so tiny, I turned them into syrupy compote, using larger ones from the neighbouring farm shop to create the gorgeous top of this upside-down cake. It's a delectable recipe that is best served warm as a dessert cake, and will have those of you that way inclined calling for the double cream.

Serves 8-10
Adapted from the recipe given by Madalene Bonvini-Hamel. See her recipe on her great website here. I just made a few changes to the ingredients and scaled it down to fit my cake tin.

for preparing the cake tin:
about 9 medium sized or 6 large plums, slightly underripe
60g unsalted butter, room temperature
60g light muscovado sugar

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C Fan ovens). To make the upside-down top of the cake, cover the base of a 20cm round springform baking tin with the softened butter, spreading it so that it's evenly covered. Next throw the sugar ontop, again covering the entire base.

2. Prepare the plums by washing, coring and halving them. Carefully lay the plum halves with their cut side face down over the butter and sugar mixture, trying to pack them in close to eachother, and gently pushing them into the mixture. Then cover the baking tin with a plate and leave it to one side while you make the cake base.


for the base:
180g light muscovado sugar
180g unsalted butter, room temperature
140g plain flour
3 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
40g ground almonds
zest of half a lime
half a pinch of salt

3. Mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy and creamed.

4. Next beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.

5. Throw in the lime zest, ground almonds, flour, baking powder and a tiny half pinch of salt, and mix gently into the batter until combined.

6. Pour the cake batter over the prepared plums, sugar and butter in the cake tin. Smooth down the batter with a spatula, and bake in the oven for approx 40-45 minutes. You'll know it's done with the cake base bounces back under your finger and a skewer comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, before very carefully, slowly and gently turning the cake out of the tin and sitting it upside down (plums at the top, base at the bottom) on a wire rack to cool a little more. To prevent staining your work surface it's worth placing a kitchen towel under the cake tin as you turn the cake out, because the buttery sugary plum top will be hot sticky and liable to drip.

for the plum syrup:
3 large plums or approx 9 small boulis plums
70g caster sugar
1 stick of cinnamon

8. Prepare the plums for the syrup by washing, coring and halving them as before. If you're using large plums then cut them further into 8.

9. In a small saucepan, melt the plums, sugar and cinnamon stick over a low heat.When it's melted, let the mixture boil gently for a further 5 minutes before taking off the heat leaving to cool for about 20 minutes.

10. While syrup and cake are still warm, pour generous spoonfuls of the syrup over the plum top of the cake and serve with more of the compote syrup.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Tricky's album Maxinquaye

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