It’s prime stone fruit season, so that means I can’t get anywhere near Union Square without stopping by Red Jacket Orchards for a basket of super-sweet apricots, plums, peaches, you get the idea…
You may see ripe, jammy fruit and think PIE (and I don’t blame you), but I’m here with a reality check. Do you really want to stand over a bowl, working tiny pieces of “pea-sized” butter into flour, running back and forth between the freezer and the counter, praying your butter stays cold, therefore ensuring perfectly flaky pie dough?
Oh, what’s that? You have a big, fancy food processor? Your kitchen has fallen below 80 degrees this summer? By all means, then, make your pie dough.
As for the rest of us “servantless, American cooks,” this cake comes together in a few minutes, requires no pesky chopping up of fruit, and bakes up into one very impressive looking dessert, if I do say so myself. Bonus points for homemade ice cream.
Dimply Plum & Apricot Cake
Adapted, slightly, from Deb Perelman over at Smitten Kitchen (could there be a more fitting first recipe source?)
Deb’s version had a hint of cinnamon and orange, and was made with all plums. This cake is so versatile and I made it with what I had on hand, drizzling in some good maple syrup, throwing in a few apricots, and topping the fruit with a sprinkling of maple sugar.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon maple syrup, I used Noble’s Bourbon Maple Syrup that I got at one of my favorite kitchen shops in D.C.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8-12 purple or red plums, apricots, what have you, halved and pitted
1/2 teaspoons maple sugar, or any coarse or flavored sugar you have around
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with powdered sugar, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet. Substituting powdered sugar for flour in the classic butter-flour technique is one of my favorite baking tricks – it gives the exterior edges of the cake a crisped, caramelized sugar shell.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.
Working with a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until it’s soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each egg goes in. Still working on medium speed, beat in the oil, maple syrup and vanilla; the batter will look smooth and creamy, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the fruit cut side up in the batter, nestling them in so they settle comfortably into the batter. Sprinkle with maple sugar.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes (Mine, like Deb’s, was done in 30), or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes during which time the fruits’ juices will seep back into the cake then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.
I like to store mine wrapped in plastic in the fridge, where you can snack from it for the next few days. It’s just as good for breakfast with a little yogurt as it is served warm with ice cream.