While the NHS and other key workers selflessly dedicate themselves to the fight against Covid-19, we’re doing our best to support them by staying at home.
It’s uncertain how long this period will last, but thankfully society is pulling together to get everyone through the pandemic – from hotels offering their rooms to key workers to virtual pub quizzes and free screenings of theatre performances.
I’ve always found cooking particularly therapeutic, especially if you’ve got an uplifting playlist to sing along to – I recommend dancing around the kitchen to a bit of Whitney Houston and Destiny’s Child. And it seems that it’s a pretty good coping mechanism for the rest of the family too, who get to indulge in the baked goods.
While the world’s gone a bit mad with banana bread in this time of lockdown, I thought I’d jazz things up a bit with a juicy plum cake. It’s more like a pudding and so you should treat it that way, serving it warm on the day it’s cooked, with a dollop of greek yoghurt or a super simple stewed plum topping. In times like this, you’ll be wanting a generous slice so don’t skimp when dishing it out.
Ingredients (serves 6-8 slices)
- 250g self raising flour
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 100g unsalted butter
- 50g dark muscovado sugar
- 30g caster sugar
- 2 medium eggs (Clarence Court are the best)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 30ml orange juice (without pulp)
- 30ml semi-skimmed milk
- 400g plums
- Greek yoghurt (optional)
- Heat a fan oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Sieve the self raising flour and cinnamon into a large bowl, and mix in the softened butter with a wooden spoon. I always forget to take it out of the fridge until the last minute so tend to melt it in a bowl in the oven for a couple of minutes before adding to the mixture. At this point, the mixture will be quite breadcrumb-like.
- Add all of the dark muscovado sugar, which gives it a gorgeous treacly caramel taste, and 20g of caster sugar. Mix with a wooden spoon. The reason I combine two kinds of sugar is that the former clumps together quite a lot so it’s handy to have another which is more evenly distributed throughout the mixture. You can break up the muscovado sugar by pressing down on it with the back of a spoon, but don’t worry if there are lumps because it melts in the oven anyway. If there are a few leftover lumps then it just adds a nice sweet crunch for some of the slices!
- Whisk the two eggs in a separate bowl and add to the mixture along with the vanilla extract. Swap the wooden spoon for an electric whisk and blend thoroughly.
- It will start to get quite dense at this point, so add the orange juice and milk (yes it sounds like a weird combo but, trust me, it works!) and whisk again.
- Transfer to a round cake tin (I just make use of whatever tin is around) and spread evenly using a spatula.
- Cut the plums into quarters and save the uneven slices for the stewed fruit accompaniment (more on this later!)
- Press the plums into the top of the cake mixture with the skin facing upwards and continue until you have pretty much covered the cake. This doesn’t have to be even, I tend to do it in circles until I reach the centre and then fill in any large gaps with some off-cuts.
- At this point, sprinkle the top of the cake with a teaspoon of caster sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon and place it in the centre of the oven for 45-50 minutes.
- Ten minutes before it’s ready, chop up the leftover plum into small cubes and add to a saucepan with some water and a teaspoon of sugar. Simmer until it’s soft and has created a bit of a coulis.
- Remove the cake from the oven and test it with a knife – if there’s mixture on the knife then put it back in the oven but don’t worry if there’s some plum on it because these will always be juicy! The cake should be crispy on top, with biscuit-like edges, but soft inside.
- Serve with a spoonful of the stewed plum sauce, along with a dollop of greek yoghurt if you fancy.
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