This year mamma’s plum trees did not fare very well. Regular readers may remember that she broke her wrist and lived with my sister for a month towards the end of winter. This coincided with the time that the plum trees should have been pruned back. By the time her wrist had healed and she had settled back in to her own house and called Ben the gardener, the trees were in full bloom but they were desperately in need of pruning. So Ben cut back the branches and all the buds and flowers with them. So this year she harvested a total of 12 blood plums where they were usually hundreds. There weren’t many but they were simply enormous, at least twice the size that they usually are, and deliciously sweet.
Mamma gave several of them to me and I made a beautiful rustic cake with four of them for a work lunch I was hosting, using a fig cake recipe I had posted last year. As it was a work function, I couldn’t take more than a couple of rushed photos (that I posted on my instagram feed). So I decided to make it again, as it had worked out so well, though with a different variety of plums as I could not find any large blood red plums. The cake has a cup of hazelnuts in the batter and the plums are halved and put cut side up on the cake and pushed down slightly so that as the cake rises, it comes up to the same level as the plums. I actually pushed them a bit too far in the batter (as you can see from the photos) – when the cake was ready, a couple of half plums were partially submerged. And as long as you call the cake ‘rustic’, a submerged plum here and there is fine I think!
In spite of the slightly submerged plums, the cake looked quite beautiful. You could serve it with some mascarpone on the side but I liked it on its own, as did mamma when I took her a slice of the first one I made with the blood plums from her garden. Large pieces of fruit in a cake give it a special moist texture. We had it for morning tea with a cup of coffee. This cake keeps for around 3 days covered with cling film in the fridge.
And now some exciting news: I have been short-listed in the 2014 ITALY Magazine Food Blog of the Year competition. This is the same competition I won last year (much to my huge surprise) and I am thrilled to have been included again. I follow many of the other short-listed blogs so I am in great company. If you would like to vote for me, please click this link. Voting is open until 27 February 2015 and the winner will be announced in early March.
Torta rustica con prugne e nocciole - rustic plum and hazelnut cake
140g (1 cup) plain flour
125g (one stick) butter, at room temperature
160g (just over 3/4 cup) caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of baking powder
60ml (1/4 cup) milk (optional – replace 1/3 of the milk with brandy)
125g (1 cup) hazelnuts, ground
4 large plums, halved (or more or less depending on the size)
Preheat oven to 170 (340F) degrees. Grease and line a 20cm (8 inch) diameter cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar in a food processor until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Place the mixture in a bowl and add half the flour, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Add the milk (or milk and brandy!). Mix until incorporated, then add the rest of the flour and the baking powder. Make sure it is all evenly mixed and finally incorporate the hazelnuts.
Place the mixture in the prepared cake tin. Press the plum halves a few centimetres into the cake to any pattern you like, cut surface of the plum side up. As the cake rises in the oven, the plums will sink a bit into the cake, so don’t push them all the way down. Bake for around 60 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer placed in the centre comes out clean. Rest for 15 minutes before turning out the tin. Dust with some extra icing sugar if desired.