Italian Sugar Plum Cake


Italian Sugar Plum Cake

Many people in Australia will know the name ‘sugar plum’ from Tchaikovsky’s famous musical score – The Nutcracker Suite and “the dance of the sugar plum fairies”.

Sugar Plums

These heavenly, sweet plums are extra delicious fresh because of their extremely high sugar content and very low tartness when compared to regular plums. They are perfect eaten fresh, used in baking or turned into scrumptious sugar plum jam but are rarely found fresh in general supermarkets or greengrocers. Having said this, most people will have eaten a sugar plum at some stage in their life as in their semi-dried state they are commonly known as prunes.

If you hunt around at your local grower’s market from late February to early March, you may be lucky and find them … if you do, be certain to give them a try – they are a special treat.

This Italian Cake recipe comes from north-eastern area of Italy near the Austrian Border, it is specifically intended for sugar plums but is just as good made with regular plums if sugar plums are unavailable or out of season.

Italian Sugar Plum Cake

Makes 10 – 12 slices

Ingredients – streusel topping

40 grams plain flour
40 grams softened butter
40 grams sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients – cake

125 grams softened butter
185 grams brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (bitter is best, if available)
160 ml thickened cream, sour cream or full fat yogurt (all will work)
1 cup plain flour
½ cup almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
8 sugar plums
¼ cup of flaked almonds

Preparation

1. Prepare the topping first – place all the topping ingredients into a bowl and rub the butter into the other ingredients so it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
2. Once combined, place into the fringe until needed so the mixture hardens a little.
3. Next, grease a 20 cm spring-form cake tin with a little butter and sprinkle the surface with some plain flour to prevent the cake from sticking to the tin whilst it cooks. Then set it aside and commence making the cake.
4. Place the softened butter and brown sugar into a bowl and whisk together until light and fluffy (approximately 4 minutes).
5. Add the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture and whisk together until well combined.
6. Next add the vanilla and almond extracts as well as the cream/yogurt and gently mix through with a spoon until a smooth even batter is created.
7. Add the sifted plain flour, almond meal, baking powder and cinnamon to the batter and again gently fold them into the batter until combined.
8. Cut the plums in half lengthways, remove the seed and then cut 4 or 5 slits into each half so when pressed it will open into a fan shape.

TIP
It is important to only cut the bottom ¾ of the plum half, otherwise the fan will break apart.

9. Pour the batter into the cake tin and arrange the plum fans across the surface.
10. Remove the streusel topping from the refrigerator and break into pieces. Some pieces will be large whilst others will be small and even crumbly dust.
11. Sprinkle the topping around the arranged plums on the surface of the cake and then add the flaked almonds.
12. Place into a pre-heated oven at 190ᵒ C and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
13. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before attempting to release the cake from the tin.
14. Slice and serve with a good dusting of icing sugar and a dollop of thickened cream or ice-cream.

HINT
If making this cake with normal plums (not sugar plums), then it is best to line the cake tin with baking paper as the normal plums will create more moisture and make the cake stick to the bottom and sides of the tin.

If the normal plums are very ripe and soft add an extra ¼ cup of almond meal to the mixture, to absorb some of the extra moisture.