Italian Prune Plums have a unique flavor when eaten raw, but they are most spectacular when baked. That’s when the color becomes brilliant and the fruit becomes jammy and the flavor intensifies. The small egg-shaped purple plums are hard to find in Maine and are only available in my neck of the woods for a few weeks in September. I usually find them at the Farmer’s Market and at the local grocery story. I love to turn them into prune plum sorbet or caramelize them and serve them in prune plum tart. I also love to add them to a simple coffee cake. There is one coffee cake recipe for prune plums that almost everyone knows and loves. You can find it In The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It is Marian Burros’ Purple Plum Torte recipe first published in 1983. The recipe is so simple and so good that many chefs have tweaked it slightly and then called the cake by a different name. Jody Adams, in her book: In the Hands of a Chef added a few twists to the recipe. She marinated the prune plums in brandy and sugar and she added lemon rind to the dough. She also added chopped, toasted walnuts. I like Jody’s enhancements but I wanted to add my own twist and substituted pistachios for walnuts. I think just about any toasted nut will work in this recipe so choose the one that most delights you. I also want to put in a plug for the Goldtouch non-stick spring form pan that I use whenever I make this recipe. The Goldtouch pan (which you can buy at Williams-Sonoma) is sturdy, beautifully made and you will never have to bother prepping the pan with butter and flour.
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- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 12 prune plums, halved and pitted
- 1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch kosher salt
- 2 extra large eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup ground toasted pistachios (+1/8 cup more for garnish)
- Chantilly cream (see note)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Set aside a 9 inch non-stick springform pan.
- Toss the prune plums with 2 tablespoons of sugar and brandy; set aside.
- Cream (for about 4 minutes) 8 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large bowl with 1 cup of sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
- Sift one cup flour, baking powder and salt and beat into creamed butter.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until they start to foam. Do not over beat, or the cake will be tough.
- Add the eggs and ground pistachios to the flour and butter mixture. Mix well.
- Scrape the batter into the non-stick pan.
- Place the plums on top of the dough (skin side up) in rings around the batter till the batter is completely covered with the plums.
- Sprinkle any remaining brandy-sugar syrup over the plums.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a cake rack for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan and serving. Garnish with Chantilly Cream and a sprinkling of crushed pistachios.
- If your 9 inch springform pan is not non-stick, then you will need to grease your pan with 1 Tablespoon of butter and dust it with 1 Tablespoon of flour.
- To prepare Chantilly Cream, whip until stiff 1 pint of heavy cream with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 heaping Tablespoons of Confectioners Sugar.