When you talk to me about plums, my mind immediately races to the Santa Monica farmers market, to Greengages and Santa Rosas and Elephant Hearts. There are no plums anywhere else like them. To be really fair, when you talk to me about fruit my mind usually races to this California farmers market. I have a bias like no other, a bias for this amazing fruit that I was spoiled on while living in L.A., working as a pastry chef there, earning my keep by transforming fruit into life’s sweet surprises.
My love affair with fruit may feel rooted in L.A.’s farmers markets but it’s been a life long passion. I loved the continental breakfast at hotels growing up because of the side of cantaloupe and I’d easily eat the whole container of strawberries my mother would buy when I was younger, so I’ve known other fruit and I’m happy with it too. Getting back to those plums: we’ve had an amazing haul of mirabelle plums this year from the CSA. They may not be Santa Monica’s finest, but they were a lovely treat to find each week in our farm share pick-up. If you’re not familiar, mirabelle are a small variety of sweet, somewhat tart plums often grown in the northern areas of Germany. About a month ago we received several pounds of yellow and orange plums, which I turned into a nice tangy jam; in the middle of the month a bundle of redder and orange plums came along; and this week we received this dark red batch, which are a bit sweeter.
From the first bite of plum, I wanted to make this cake. It’s one of my favorite recipes, a cake I started making when I was working at Bastide in West Hollywood. Every week our ragtag team of cooks would go to the Santa Monica’s farmers market and for at least a month I bought a case of sweet, deep red Santa Rosa plums for sorbet and this wonderful cake. Combined with dark chocolate, whipped up egg yolks, and just a tiny bit of flour, this cake is lightly tart, rich, and oh-so-fudgey. It’s amazing!
I topped this version off with a layer of the plum jam, although a thin ganache would make a nice frosting, or a simpler touch would be a light dusting of powdered sugar. If you don’t have fresh plums on hand to make the purée, it’s also possible to use plum jam. The cake is absolutely perfect for a celebration, although it was also a wonderful indulgence on the rainy Berlin day we had yesterday, just as a nice for-the-heck-of-it treat. Some days you just need a bite of something sweet, and this does the trick.
Plum Sacher Torte
Yield: 1 8-inch cake
200 grams plum purée
100 grams sugar
200 grams butter
210 grams chocolate
160 grams sugar
85 grams flour
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter an 8-inch springform pan and dust lightly with sugar.
Combine the plum purée and the sugar in a bowl. In a separate heat-proof bowl, combine the butter and chocolate. Heat chocolate mixture slowly over a water bath, stirring occasionally, until both the butter and chocolate are melted.
While the chocolate is melting, add the eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Begin whipping on medium speed and slowly rain in the sugar. Continue gradually adding the sugar, allowing the eggs to become light and fluffy and triple in volume. Increase speed and whip until the eggs are firm. When chocolate is melted, slowly fold 1/3 of the mixture into the egg yolks. Add the rest of the chocolate mixture and carefully fold it in. Next carefully fold in the plum mixture. Sift the flour into the mixture and fold it in. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.
Bake cake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top and sides are fully set and starting to brown. Remove from oven and place pan on a cooling rack for 40 minutes. Remove cake from springform pan and place on cooling rack to cool completely. Top cake with jam, frosting, or powdered sugar and serve.