There was a time in my 20s when I found myself crashing at my sister’s San Francisco apartment, with her very gracious husband, sleeping in a cozy nook in the dining room created just for me. It was a very OK place to hang out for a handful of months while I figured out my next steps in life.
While they were both at work, I walked practically every inch of the city. And baked. A lot. Part of it was general passion. Part of it was squatters guilt. My offering was fresh-baked goods to come home to. And, being a true baker at heart, I would make recipes on repeat, analyzing the difference a tablespoon measurement would make.
This is one of those recipes. The greatest gratification coming from a dinner party we hosted, when one of the guests, upon first bite, actually closed his eyes, savoring the sweet ecstasy.
Over the years, I’ve (surprise, surprise) tweaked the recipe ever so slightly, adding almond flour for additional moistness and a subtle, complementary flavor alongside the plums.Print
You will need a 12-inch ovenproof skillet for this recipe. You will also need both a handheld and a stand mixer, or, just be prepared to wash the beaters/bowl while assembling the recipe.
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened, divided (6 oz)
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar (160 g)
- 2 pounds medium plums - halved, pitted and cut into ½-inch-thick wedges (about 8 plums)
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (150 g)
- ½ cup almond flour (56 g)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp fine-grain salt (like table or sea salt)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 g)
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup whole milk, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the melted butter. Turn off the heat and arrange the plum wedges in the skillet in 2 pretty, concentric circles. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining stick (8 TB) of softened butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy. Be sure to cream well for the cake to achieve optimal volume. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated, then beat in the vanilla. On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk, just until everything is combined. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with a handheld mixer until they hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then *gently* fold in the remaining whites.
- Spread the batter over the plums and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the top (which will actually be the bottom once flipped) is deeply bronzed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, run a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the cake, then flip over onto a flat serving plate with a wide rim (the top of the cake can get deliciously juicy). This cake definitely holds its own, but is also lovely served with lightly-sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- Baking Tip: It's easiest to separate the eggs while still cold, and best to beat the egg whites when at room temperature (they'll increase in volume better).
- Although not as pretty as when first turned out of the pan, I think this cake tastes even better on day 2, and even day 3, after the caramelized plums and all their juices have had time to settle into the cake.
- If you don't have almond flour on hand and don't feel like purchasing it just for this recipe (it can be costly), you can omit it, and just use a total of 1 ½ cups (180 g) all-purpose flour, instead.
- Recipe adapted from the September 2003 issue of Food & Wine.