I have a confession to make. I’m incapable of repeating the same recipe twice. That may not sound concerning to you, but eat repeat is kind of premised on the idea that I’m recommending recipes that warrant repeating. Not to mention the implication that I have repeated the recipes I’m publishing, testing them out until I’ve worked out any potential kinks. Well, that’s not really the case. I’m always switching up my recipes, implicitly when I’m missing an ingredient and out of curiosity just to see what happens.
I’m sure some folks are like me, but others don’t like to stray from the safety of recipes. They find comfort in them or simply trust the rules and instructions they provide. Or they fear what could happen if they strayed, unsure if one adjustment could potentially ruin an entire dish. Right now, lots of folks are repeating the same recipes over and over again to create some semblance of regularity and predictability in this otherwise unrelenting year of uncertainty.
I understand that particularly when baking if you want something to turn out as expected, you’ve got to carefully follow the instructions. However, once you get more familiar with the rhythm and rules of baking, you’ll be able to make adjustments and improvisations without fear.
This summer, I tried a slightly different variation of this cinnamon and sugar plum cake recipe nearly every week. I used different kinds of plums and other fruit (apples, rhubarb, and peaches). I mixed in almond flour I had lying around. I tried to develop a good vegan version of the recipe by using vegan butter (works great). I tried out various vegan egg substitutes (all disastrous). At one point, I realized that even though I’ve been tweaking the recipe with every repetition, one aspect has remained the same, the cinnamon and sugar topping—a timeless combo.
I’ve had a slice of this cinnamon and sugar plum cake so many times this summer that I’m sure whenever I make this cake in the future it will remind me of these times. The way listening to a popular song from your adolescence brings up a fluttering of emotions. I can’t decide if this makes me sad. When I eat a piece of this cake five years from now, will I feel the comfort of the cinnamon and sugar, or will I be reminded of the sadness and nerves of the overlapping climate and covid crises?
Cinnamon and Sugar Plum or Apple or Any Fruit Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen purple plum torte
- 1 lb. (500 gr.) plums or other fruit (apple, peaches, rhubarb)
- ½ cup (115 gr.) unsalted butter or vegan butter at room temperature
- ¾ cup (150 gr.) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (120 gr.) flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon mixed with 3 tsp sugar (topping)
- Set oven to 170°C (350°F). If you don’t have room temperature butter, simply cut cold butter into chunks, place in a small, ovenproof bowl and let melt in the oven for a few minutes. Meanwhile, line an 8 or 9-inch (20-22 cm) cake pan with parchment paper.
- Wash the plums or other fruit you are using. (Check the butter in the oven, is it ready?) Cut plums in half and remove the pits. If they are big plums, cut into quarters.
- In a large bowl, whip up the butter and sugar for a minute until light and creamy. I use a spatula and channel my rage at the injustices in the world. Alternatively, use an electric mixer. Then mix in the eggs.
- Dump the flour over the wet mixture, then sprinkle the baking powder and salt on top of the flour. Now carefully mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones, just until combined.
- Pour the batter into the pan and spread it out evenly. Drop the fruit onto the batter (for plums, flesh side down, skin side up). You can place them in concentric circles or create a haphazard array. Pack in as much fruit as possible and snack on the extras.
- In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and sugar and then sprinkle evenly over the cake. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cinnamon and sugar aromas are irresistible.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Also tastes great with a drizzle of heavy cream.
- For the cinnamon and sugar toppping, if you can find large grain cane sugar (such as raw sugar), the crystals will stay intact and lend a delightful crunch.