I wrote something in my notes for this week's show, as I often do, quickly and sort of just riffing on whatever is passing through my mind. What I wrote was this: recreate, re-visit, and recommended. It was essentially meant to be a three part direction, something I could come back to every week and fill in with things to try again, things to try to conjure up, and things I've been meaning to make that I've oft heard a certain lore about. Now, other than Marcella Hazan's 3 ingredient Tomato Sauce, there is no recipe I've heard more about than the famed New York Times Plum Torte.
As you can see from the image above, this torte is really more of a cake. You might be thinking, "hey that looks a lot like a cake you make ALL THE TIME", and well, that's very true! The batter is quite similar, minus the buttermilk. This torte has a humble, sturdy and simple batter - as easy as ever to whip together and you probably already have everything you need. Once you've spread the batter across the pan base, you simply plunk down some ripe plum halves and throw it in the oven for an hour. There's an option to add a squeeze of lemon juice on top, plus a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a dusting of sugar - all of which I did and highly recommend. But other than that this is a simple, entirely unassuming cake. It couldn't really be that great, I thought, right? I mean after all, I'd never really even eaten a plum, none the less bought twelve of them to dump on top of what seemed like far too little batter.
Well, happily I could not have been more wrong. There is a reason people wrote in to the NYT when they finally stopped printing Marion Burro's beloved recipe. It is said that two people even mailed in poems about the torte, begging for it to be reprinted. After all the uproar, the NYT has it digitized online, along with a history of the torte, and five suggestions for variations on this recipe. As Marion Burros wrote herself in the original recipe, you can easily switch out the fruit for whatever is in season! I myself am really looking forward to trying this one with apples come apple picking season, or lush summer berries next year, or perhaps even peaches or nectarines.
The real magic of this recipe is the way the plums transform in the oven. While I started out with very sweet, ripe Japanese plums (the smallest and ripest plums I could find locally), when baked for an hour in the cake they transformed into perfectly tart, jammy, deeply purple puddles. I can't quite convey how stunning the sections of sunken fuchsia stained fruit looked peaking out of the golden lidded cake, but the taste was even more gorgeous. I highly recommend you go out and buy whatever fruit is in season near you (plums if you can, certainly!) and make this cake immediately. It was so simple to throw together, the payoff in flavor and satisfaction seems almost impossible, but it's truly delicious. It would pair beautifully with whipped cream or ice cream for an after dinner treat, but I found having a plain slice with my coffee this morning was not overly sweet or at all overwhelming. I promise, this recipe is so satisfying and easy, I am even writing it down from memory below (thanks NYT paywall!).
NYT Plum Torte by Marion Burros
- 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) room temperature butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (my addition)
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 10 to 12 ripe plums (or other seasonal fruit equivalent), pitted, and halved or quartered.
- lemon juice
- sugar for sprinkling
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a mixing bowl cream together the sugar and butter until the mixture pales and looks almost fluffy.
- Add in your vanilla extract. Then add in and incorporate your eggs, one at a time.
- Gently fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt to the batter until fully incorporated.
- Spread the batter into a lightly greased spring form or tarte pan. I used a 10 inch spring form pan, the recipe says you can use an 8 x 10, a 9 inch pan, or anything in a similar realm of space.
- Halve or quarter your fruits, being careful to remove the pits.
- Place the plum halves or quarters skin side up into the batter. It will seem like a lot of fruit, but worry not.
- For a finishing touch you can add a squeeze of lemon juice over the batter (be careful with the seeds), a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a dusting of sugar. I did all three and loved it.
- Place in oven and bake for one hour. When done, removed cake from oven and let stand and cool for 10 minutes before removing spring form edges. Enjoy!