Tuesday, September 23, 2008

{TWD} dimply plum cake


This week I was ambushed. By something called a Dimply Plum Cake. I never would have predicted that I'd like this cake, but it was the best thing I have ever put into my mouth! Yes, indeed, let's shout that from the housetops!

This is what makes TWD so great! Stepping outside the comfort zone can lead to surprising, even earthshaking, results. So forget the chocolate in this one, people! Try it with fruit. Heck, TRY IT WITH PLUMS. You might love it.

Part A:

I'm not really a "plum person". I don't buy them. I don't eat them. (But I don't dislike them either.) From the moment this recipe was chosen, I just *knew* that I'd be using peaches. I had a lot of beautifully ripe local peaches, and Dorie's suggestion of peach/lemon zest/chopped basil sounded intriguing. It was a foregone conclusion.

In truth, I wasn't really that excited about making this recipe. Well, I was happy to have a break from chocolate. and cookies! But plums? In a cake? What about those skins? Good thing I'd be using peeled peaches. It was with a sense of duty that I set about my baking preparations, planning for a half recipe (or less, depending what I might find in my drawer of baking pans)

I'd seen this cake on my jaunts out and about in the cooking blogosphere. I decided to check out some of the posts*. The plum ones really stood out. hmm. And every time I looked at the picture of Dorie's cake in the book, I was captivated. Those wonderful little plum halves dotted regularly in their pan beckoned me. hmmm. Then I went to the grocery store and found myself lingering at the plum display. I brought home 4 red plums...


I got to exercise the internet’s math skills as I calculated which of my pans would be equivalent in size to a half recipe. No, make that a quarter recipe. Yes, a quarter would be great. I had just the pan. Wait, it’s a better size for a third. So I did all the conversions of quantities to make 1/3 recipe, tied on my apron and began to measure butter. At that moment my husband wandered into the kitchen and said, “I love plum cake.” So I made 2/3 recipe.


Cooking Notes:

I...

- used part King Arthur white whole wheat flour and part AP flour

-used part dark brown sugar and part light brown sugar

-used zest of 1 lemon for 2/3 recipe

-used red plums. my plums were perfectly ripe - their skins were just about to get crinkly

-used Egg Beaters (my digital scale helped my get 1 1/3 egg's worth)

-used cardamom

-used 7 3/4 inch tart pan with removable bottom - perfect for 2/3 recipe

-pitted the plums by cutting them in half lengthwise (along the midline) and then twisting. This freed one half from the pit. Then I used a spoon to coax out the pit from the other half. I noticed that Deb of Smitten Kitchen just sliced the plums alongside the pit, so she ended up using pieces smaller than half the plum. I actually prefer seeing that indentation where the pit was, and enjoyed that extra bit of plum goodness.

-did not crowd my plum halves. I'd say based on my experience: go ahead and line your plums up close to each other. The plum flavor does not overpower the cake, and I think the cake would puff around the halves even if they were nearly touching.

-pushed the plums down a bit more about half way through the cooking time so that the cake would be sure to be dimply.

- forgot to add the sugar (although it was measured and sitting on the counter) until the cake was in the pan. I had to scrape the batter back into the mixing bowl and stir the sugar in. I was wary of overmixing the batter. You can see from the pictures that the batter was not fully mixed as it would have been had I added the sugar at the proper time. I think this ended up being a lucky accident.

- decided that this would be a great time to test out the new thermometer I'd bought to see if my oven temperature was properly calibrated. If you do this, be sure that you buy an oven thermometer and not a refrigerator/freezer thermometer. Otherwise you might discover your mistake after the freezer thermometer has been in the 350 degree oven for an hour...

The Verdict:

I loved the way the cake looked coming out of the oven. And with our first bites, my husband and I looked at each other and laughed. It was love. Love for Dorie. Love for TWD. And most of all, love for Dimply Plum Cake!

We were eating the very food of the gods. This rustic cake is indescribably delicious. The flavor is generally open and honest but the cardamom and lemon lend it just a touch of mystery. Of the dozen or so recipes that I've baked from Dorie's book, this one is our favorite! My husband said he didn't want to swallow each bite - it just tasted TOO good. He had two pieces the evening I baked it, accompanied by our homemade vanilla frozen yogurt.

1st day (pictures of the cake slices garnished with herbs): the brown sugar/cardamom flavor paired perfectly with the soft juicy sweetness of the plums. The white whole wheat flour and the darker sugar made my cake a bit more earthy and rustic. The cake had a delightful sandy texture, which I think came from the whole wheat flour and the unusual order in which I added the ingredients.

2nd day (pictures of the cake slices garnished with fanned plum slices): just as Dorie said - the cake softened but was still quite good. My cake stayed nice and moist.

My husband ate some for breakfast. After dinner that evening we polished off the rest of the cake and the frozen yogurt. And then it was gone. So I have no report of how the cake would have fared on a hypothetical third day.


The recipe's somewhat modest amounts of butter and oil, (and the EggBeaters I used) made it a relatively healthy dessert, at least by Dorie standards. And a fabulous choice to go with coffee in the morning. My husband commented at breakfast that the taste sensation of this cake is on the same level as some home-smoked kippered herrings we had at a fantastic inn in Scotland. Which is high praise indeed. But it not the same as saying the cake tastes like fish!

All three times my husband ate this cake with his eyes closed, just savoring the flavor. I am sure it was the cardamom that really gave this cake its edge. The thing I was most worried about - the plum skins - turned out not to be an issue at all. We could easily cut our bites with our forks.


Michelle of Bake-en selected this recipe, and I will always be in her debt. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Michelle!!! You can find the recipe on Michelle's post, or on page 41 of Dorie's book, of Baking From My Home to Yours. As always, go check out the cakes baked by the hundreds of other bakers on the TWD blogroll.

Part B:


I wasn't planning to make multiple variations of this recipe this week, but we loved it SO much, and I had ripe peaches that needed to be eaten, so a few days later I baked the peach/lemon zest/basil variation.

Cooking Notes:
I...

- baked just a half recipe.

- used 1 T. of chopped fresh basil for 1/2 recipe of the cake. We found that the flavor was barely detectable.

- used the white whole wheat for half the flour again, and dark brown sugar for half the sugar (again).

- substituted plain yogurt for half the oil. I do this with nearly everything I bake, and have always had good results.

- cut the peaches in eighths, and tried to space them as closely together as possible.

- this time I had more trouble figuring out when the cake was cooked through. I use a broom straw cake tester bundle, and it tested clean long before the cake was done.

The Verdict:

The peach cake was delicious, but didn't quite match the perfection of the cardamom/plum edition. The peaches and basil tasted nice together in the batter, but the basil flavor was not detectable enough in the finished cake to make a difference. I used fragrant basil from my herb garden, so I don't know what the story was.

I was able to follow directions this time, and I mixed everything in the correct order for the correct amount of time. (Yay!) The cake was not as rustic, and didn't have the delightful sandy texture. I think next time I make this, I will stir the sugar in at the end again, and see if I can replicate the coarse rusticity.

The moral of this story: I have recommitted to baking the challenges in this book. I've been pleasantly surprised, both minorly and now majorly. Plus, I've learned a bunch of great baking techniques.

*Palachinka (who made a chocolate version) lists a bunch of food bloggers who have made this cake (starting with Dorie herself):Dorie for Serious Eats, No Special Effects, Slow Like Honey, Smitten Kitchen, Tartlette, The Wednesday Chef, Vegan Diva, My Feasts, Cupcake Project, The Biscuit Pusher, TP, Cookie journey, Music and Cats, My Kitchen In Half Cups, Iz moje kuhinje, La cucina di Cristina, La Collina delle Fate...also, the Wednesday Chef

64 comments:

Erin said...

I love that you used your tart pan. It made the cake look so pretty, and it helps with taking it out of the pan. I was scared about that so I used a square spring form pan. Great job :)

Deb said...

Oh my gosh, wash your mouth out, Nancy! Are you saying this cake is better than the World Peace Cookies? lol.

And thank you so much for the blog award. Not a lot of internet time at the moment but will acknowledge it on my blog soon.

PheMom said...

I'm glad you loved it! I think I would like it with peaches better myself. The tart pan makes this look so pretty!

Marthe said...

I'm glad you liked it, I was also pleasantly surprised by this recipe!

HoneyB said...

Love that you made this two ways! The cake is very photogenic!

Lori said...

what a great post! so much useful information, and great photos. if i were to try this again, i'd use peaches. it's so nice that your family enjoyed it so much!

Cathy said...

Alright, alright, you've made me want to try it again! We didn't love it quite as much as you did, but now I'm convinced that it was because of my notsohot plums. Your post made me laugh over and over again -- there is just nothing I love more than a happy food blogger. We went into this with similar plum feelings, but it sound like you achieved the complete reconciliation that I was hoping to achieve. It was also great to hear the side-by-side comparison of the plum cake and the peach cake. Glad you loved this, Nancy, and your pictures look beautiful!

Audrey said...

Once again, you've done an amazing job! The fluted edge is gorgeous and I love the idea of using some whole wheat flour. I'm also more and more intriiqued by cardamom (I'm not familiar with it and couldn't find it last week) - but I know I'll be making this again so I'll taste it soon.
Audrey

Andrea said...

Your cake looks beautiful in the tart pan! How funny that we had similar experiences falling for the plum cake, making it twice, isn't it wonderful to find a new recipe that you just love? Your whole wheat addition sounds perfect, I will do that next time, and I predict there will be a next time quite soon :)

Steph said...

The tart pan was a great idea! I enjoyed your review of this cake from day 1 to 2 and the peach variation. Now I'm curious and want to try the original version. I wonder if I should use lemon zest instead of orange? I think it was the combination of the orange zest and brown sugar that totally won me over.. it was amazing! I agree, I just couldn't stop eating this cake!

James said...

Looks like you did a great job, as usual. I made a mango version ... about to post it. I wasn't as neat with the mangos as you were with the peaches (fine packing job).

CB said...

ooohhh love the ridges you get from the tart pan! So purdy. Glad you loved this cake so much. Isn't it great when you find a recipe that makes you contemplate ever thinking you wouldn't? Thats the best kind! Great job!
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

Flourchild said...

Fancy tart pan! I love your cake. So sorry you forgot the sugar.

Peggy said...

I, too, thought about peaches, but ending up using the plums and loved it. Both of yours look delicious.

Karen said...

Beautiful presentation! I love how detailed your post was about your baking experience!

Jamie said...

Your cake was so beautiful in the tart pan!!

Alwayzbakin said...

Wow. Yours looks gorgeous in that tart pan. I know what you mean about plums. I don't dislike them, but I never buy them. I also like this cake.

Teanna said...

Your cake looks absolutely stunning! I missed out this week, but after reading your assessment, I'm going to have to make sure I make it!

Di said...

Both of your versions look wonderful. I'll have to try your white whole wheat substitution. I've been trying that with a number of recipes lately (chocolate chip cookies this past weekend--they were great) and really enjoying the texture it gives. Great job!

Mara said...

your tart pan photos look so fabulous..! i love em. i did a 1/2 recipe and i couldnt quite 'cream' the butter and sugar so my batter was not as satiny as it should have been but 'rustic' is right and it was YUMMY. fab job!

Mary Ann said...

I love that you loved this cake! I was so afraid that people wouldn't try it because of the name or plums. I love it too! I think it is my fave. I agree with you that the plum/cardamom version is the best, but when you have ripe fruit in front of you, it has to work! It looks so pretty in your tart pan!
p.s. Cardamom is my absolute favorite, the smell alone just takes you away.

ostwestwind said...

Glad you liked it. I give the recipe a try if peaches are in season.

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Marie said...

I love that you did two versions of this cake and I adore the one in the fluted tart pan!! It looks so beautiful! I loved this cake as well. I'd say it was my favourite so far!

TeaLady said...

I think it was the cardamom that gives it that great flavor. Love the tart pan. Gives it a pretty outline. Glad you liked it. Great cake.

Bridgett said...

I love the use of the tart pan, it makes it just look all the more elegant. Didn't it smell great while baking?

Natashya said...

That is a great looking plum cake, and a nifty tart pan. I love the tall sides.

Em said...

Wow - yours looks and sounds so good it almost makes me want to hit the market for plums on the way home from work and try it again tonight!

Have a delicious day :)

BAKE-EN said...

Wow, I'm glad you and your husband loved this cake so much!  Don't you love when you get blindsighted with an amazing dessert. I felt that way when I made Dorie's Key Lime Pie.

chocolatechic said...

Wonderful use of the tart pan. I love the way it makes the cake look.

Pamela said...

Thanks for all the links to those who have made the cake before us. This cake would definitely be one that I would not have made if not for TWD. I don't think I would have even looked at the recipe. It was so good, and I'm so glad I tried it. Looks fabulous!

kim said...

yay, awesome that you loved it so much! great idea to use the tart pan, it looks even cuter :)

Laura said...

That tart pan was such a great idea - your cake looks beautiful! I had to laugh at your initial hesitance at using plums and then how much you and your husband ended up liking this cake (you did like it didn't you? ;-)

Great post!

Prudy said...

Oh man, that is really gorgeous and such high praise from a fellow chocolate lover. I feel completely inspired to go back and make it the real way.

Carol Peterman said...

This one surprised me too! The fluted pan makes the cake look so pretty.

Jules Someone said...

What lovely cakes! You put in a serious amount of effort! I will have to try a variation with apples. Thanks for the research!

Melissa said...

I love what you did with the recipe. That first cake is so gorgeous and rustic looking!

Tammie said...

Yours looks amazing! That tart pan you have is perfect! I covet that pan now! :-) I too loved this recipe. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm out of eggs, I'd make this cake again today! Hmmm, looks like a trip to the grocery store is in order for tomorrow. :-P

The Food Librarian said...

Love the tart pan and all your careful calculations! :) I've been in the "darn, the sugar is on the counter" place before too!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

That tart pan was perfect for this cake. It looks beautiful! Round is definitely prettier than square.

Kayte said...

Oh, this is lovely...just lovely. I think this is just the prettiest thing I have seen so far...you did a great job on this. I love all your little helping bits...I learn something each week from you!

Thanks for your comment on my blog about the loaf pan...I am going to try that for this weekend. Your comments were very helpful!
www.grandmaskitchentable.typepad.com

Anne said...

It looks beautiful in the tart pan! I'm glad you loved the recipe- I did too! It's always nice to be so pleasantly surprised when trying something new. Great job!

Annette said...

I didn't think I was going to like it either, but I did! I'm glad you liked yours. :) It looks and sounds delicious. Great post.

Cristine said...

Looks yummy!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wonderful pan. Beautiful cake. Very thorough write-up...makes me feel like I was in the kitchen with you. Great job, really!

Michelle Ioapo A'etonu said...

LOVELY pictures! I love how you used the round pan! I'm making the plum version as we speak.. I'm anxious to see whether I'll like the plum more!

Marthe said...

Thanks for your comment. I do have a budget for the camera: I don't want to spend more than 200 Euros, which is about 275 US Dollars. I'm looking for a point and shoot, as I'm not a vry experiences photographer

Jen said...

The tart pan makes that cake look so cute! Great idea! I will brave the plums next go round. ;)

Cathy said...

Hey Nancy! I just had to jump back to thank you for referring me to the cardamom crumb cake in Dorie's book! However did you know that I am on the hunt for recipes that call for lots and lots of cardamom? I got my cardamom at a local big-box supermarket (Bruno's) that had two cardamom choices -- one for $14.99 and one for something like $11.99 (I actually bought the less expensive of the two, but you know, writer's embellishment and all . . .) Just out of morbid curiosity, I checked the prices at another, smaller local chain (Western) I happened to be in, and the cardamom was again over $10. I have not checked the prices at my usual haunts, Publix or Wholefoods. I cannot BELIEVE you found this in the $4-$7 range at Whole Paycheck, of all places!! Were they small jars?

In any event, between reading your write-up on this cake, and trying Julie's (of peanut butter and julie fame) pear and cinnamon version at work, I'm convinced that I need to try this again using better fruit.

Jayne said...

Your plum cake came out beautifully!!

27Susans said...

Gorgeous cake and photos. I ended up in a sushi class & that was the heart of my post. But in keeping with the spirit of TWD, I mentioned the plum cake a lot and borrowed your photo giving credit where due. Some bakers weren't impressed but you've inspired me to add the sugar last & bake this morning. So here I go. I will use WW flour & fresh plums.

Thanks Nancy for your enthusiasm and tips.

Engineer Baker said...

I love how your enthusiasm for this cake just shines through - it's always good to find a winner, and your love for it makes me want to try making it again!

Casasailer said...

Thanks for the welcome! I love that you used a fun pan for your cake :)

www.whitneyinchicago.wordpress.com

Madam Chow said...

Yup, that cardamom/plum version was perfection. For once, I actually stuck to a recipe and loved it!
Madam Chow
http://www.mzkitchen.com

dharmagirl said...

oh wow--your cake is gorgeous, a work of art. you've convinced me that i need to try plums next time...i was scared and used peaches:) what a lovely post!

confectiona said...

The tart pan makes it look so pretty! I must try that next time.

Rachel said...

I was also pleasantly surprised by this recipe. I love that you used the tart pan--if (ok when) I make this recipe again, I am going to do that too--it looked beautiful!

Mike Spoodles said...

Glad you went with the plums and with the alternatively shaped pan. This looks awesome!

Shandy said...

I absolutely LOVE your plum cake. The tart pan enhanced the beautiful cake even more! I think finding recipes we fall in love with is why we become so caught up with food and cooking of any type. =D

27Susans said...

Hi Nancy -

I am giving you bake your cake. I borrowed it for my blog because you baked 2. But now I baked my own. I made a few changes like adding ground almonds and almond extract. Yours is still prettier.

bakingwiththeboys said...

The tart pan really elevated the appearance of this one. You are so ambitious to make both!

Sweet Charity said...

Beautiful cake- it turned out so nicely in the fluted pan!!
Glad you liked it!

Zoe said...

That looks so pretty! I totally agree...this was the best plum cake ever. Plus I love eating cake for breakfast...who doesn't ;)

mangomissives said...

Thank you for the welcome! I am in awe @ the beauty of your cake. Like others I love how it looks having been baked in a tart pan.

SiHaN said...

i love the reactions coming from you and your husband.. Must have really felt the love at that instance. The plated cake looks gorgeous! great work.