You only need to know a few cake formulas to be able to look smart in the kitchen. Because once you understand the recipe, you can tweak it ad infinitum to vary the result: change the fruit, change the flour, change the flavoring or spice, change the filling, change the icing, change the pan shape… and suddenly the three or four basic cake recipes that you can do (almost) in your sleep become 40 different desserts. That’s why I call them “formulas”.
Witness this recipe for Italian plum cake.
In the spring, use cherries or apricots. In summer, replace the plums with slices of yellow peaches or nectarine. Or slices of sauteed apples or roasted quince or pears in early fall. Or a mixture of fruit. In winter, use rehydrated dry fruit or halved bananas. I more and more use less refined flours like whole wheat or spelt – they accentuate the rustic aspect of the cake. I bet any flour would work! When using stone fruit like peach, I also like to add a little cornmeal (or corn flour) as well as a few nuts. Almonds are great but so are pine nuts if you have them or chopped pecans. Or whatever you’ve got! (or none if you don’t have any).
It’s not a sophisticated looking cake, like, oh say, a Reine de Saba, but is a satisfying not-too-filling dessert, moist, with a little crunch and lots of fruit – great for breakfast too. Best of all, it’s an easy recipe to memorize, and by playing with it, it will look like you know 10 different recipes!
End of Summer Cake (with nectarine & almonds)
- ½ Cup (100 g) unsalted butter, soften to room temperature + more for greasing the pan
- ¾ Cup sugar (150 g)
- 1 Tablespoon rum (optional) or 1 teaspoon almond extract.
- 1 Cup (115 g) spelt flour
- 2 Tablespoons corn flour (or very finely ground cornmeal)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 extra large eggs
- Enough sliced nectarines to cover the batter completely.
- 1 Tablespoon sugar (more or less depending on the fruit sweetness) for the topping.
Make the Cake:
- Preheat oven 350 degrees F (175 C)
- Grease a spring form pan – 8, 9 or 10 inches. The larger the pan, the thinner the cake
- Cream the sugar and the butter in a bowl. Still beating, add the liqueur, then flours (spelt & corn), baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.
- 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.
- Arrange the nectarine slices plum on top of batter, in a single layer quite snugly together. Sprinkle with the vanilla sugar and the almonds.
- Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour. Check after 45 minutes, as the cake may be done sooner depending on your pan size.
Locavore log: nectarines from Jenkins Orchard in Woodville; eggs from the hen house