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Baking with Dorie: Dimply Plum Cake

We bakers must be a lot alike. Last week, when plums were inching berries off farm stand tables, I got messages from people around the country who were making plum cakes, custards, and tarts. And that was just what I was doing. I made a plum clafouti, (kind of like a custard, kind of like a cake), individual plum tartlets (puff pastry rounds brushed with jam, topped with plums, sprinkled with sugar, dotted with butter, baked, and served warm with ice cream), and this Dimply Plum Cake, a favorite.

The base of this treat is a brown sugar cake flavored with cardamom and orange zest, a combination I really like with plums. The cake itself is a simple beat-the-butter-with-the-sugar affair, in other words, a snap in the technique department; the baked fruit is really what makes it special. I love the way the way the plum juices seep into the batter and add their own tangy sweetness to the mix. (Of course, you can mix things up and make this cake with other fruits and other spices; see "Playing Around," below.)

When I originally came up with the cake, my idea was for it to be a morning sweet, something to serve at brunch, to have as a mid-morning pick-me-up or even something to enjoy with that first early-morning coffee. But the cake is really so good with tea that it’s an easy grab in the afternoon and it’s not bad at night either. I know, no surprise, right?

Oddly—you don’t expect this with fruit sweets—the cake is a pretty good keeper. Its texture is kind of firm, crumbly and cornbreadish when it’s first baked, then, after being covered for a day or two, it gets softer and moister. I like it both ways and hope you will too.

Playing Around: Feel free to use a different spice or citrus zest in the cake and feel just as free to swap the plums for another soft, juicy fruit. Here are some of my other favorite combinations: apricots with orange zest and a pinch of ground star anise; peaches with lemon zest and a little finely chopped fresh basil; nectarines with orange zest; and cherries with lime zest. I’ve never made this cake with berries, but as I was writing this list, it occurred to be that it could be great with blackberries with lemon, lime or orange zest, or with a combination of blackberries and raspberries.

About the author: Dorie Greenspan is the author of several books on dessert, most recently Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie can also be found at DorieGreenspan.com and on the Bon Appétit website, where she is a special correspondent.

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