Rusty’s Italian Plum Cake

A slice of Rusty\'s Italian Plum Cake

Vanille teased me for being in an “upside-down” baking mood (and she should know – being “down under” in New Zealand) because I blogged back-to-back about Tomato Tatin and then about Upside Down Plum Spiced Cake. I felt like I had to make a post that was not upside down. Well, not really… but I am still working through my 4 gallons of Italian plums, and nobody ever – ever – complains in the house when I make dessert. So, here! ANOTHER Italian Plum Cake.

The recipe comes through courtesy of my mother-in-law. She wrote that it’s from a newspaper clipping dated 9/13/89 that’s in her recipe box. Although the clipped recipe calls for plums, Rusty informed me that she never made it with plums, but has tried it with other fruit – mainly apples (in which case she adds nutmeg because she likes nutmeg) and pears. She says it’s good even cold, great for a snack or for breakfast (her son agrees). I added a little liqueur to the cake, changed the spices used, increased the amount of fruit, and – since I don’t think it’s a torte (which it what the clipping called it), I am renaming it: Rusty’s Italian Plum Cake. I also use white whole wheat flour, which works perfectly fine with this rather rustic (but delicious) dessert.

Although you lay the fruit on top of the dough, as the cake bakes, the dough will rise to encase most of the fruit, leaving just a few plums to peek-a-boo.

Rusty’s Italian Plum Cake


  • ½ Cup (100 g) unsalted butter, soften to room temperature + more for greasing the pan
  • ¾ Cup sugar (150 g)
  • 1 Tablespoon plum liqueur or dark rum (optional). You may replace with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • 1 Cup (115 g) unbleached white whole wheat flour — sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Enough Italian plums to cover the bottom of the pan, pitted & halved. In my case, that was 16 plums/ 32 halves
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla sugar (more or less depending on the fruit sweetness) for the topping – see Note. You may use plain sugar instead

Make the Cake:

  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F (175 C)
  2. Grease a spring form pan – 8, 9 or 10 inches. The larger the pan, the thinner the cake
  3. Cream the ¾ cup sugar and the butter in a bowl. Still beating, add the liqueur, Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan. The batter is sticky and it looks like there won’t be enough. There will be: this is a thin cake. Just use a spoon or spatula to spread the batter to ensure that it covers the bottom of the pan completely.
  5. Place the plum halves, skin side up on top of batter, in a single layer quite snugly together. Sprinkle with the vanilla sugar.
  6. Bake 1 hour. Check after 45 minutes, as the cake may be done sooner depending on your pan size.
  7. Remove and cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream or yogurt.

Note: to make vanilla sugar. In a jar, put two cups sugar and two vanilla beans, split open. Shake well. Let rest at least two weeks before using. When you have used up all the sugar, you can reuse the beans for another batch of vanilla sugar or in other preparation.

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