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 but also 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 the idea, particularly in cake baking, that if you want something to turn out looking anything like the photo of it in the recipe, 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. Or maybe you won’t mind having a cake fail because at least you’ll have cake.
This summer, I tried a slightly different variation of this cinnamon and sugar plum cake recipe nearly every week. I used many different kinds of plums, even peaches once. I mixed in almond flour I had lying around. I tried to develop a good vegan version of the recipe by using vegan butter (which I continue to use because it works great). I tried out various egg substitutes (which I’ve given up on because the results were 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 high school days 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 health, climate, and political crises?
For now, with the last plums of the season, I’m going to continue to make this cake. Once the plums have gone, I’m curious to see how it turns out with apples instead. Maybe I’ll muster up the courage to try another vegan egg substitute. At least the repetition has me efficiently preparing this cake in 15 minutes flat, and I’m pretty happy about that!
Cinnamon and Sugar Plum Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen purple plum torte
- 1 lb. (500 gr.) any kind of plums
- 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, butter and flour an 8 or 9-inch (20-22 cm) cake pan.
- Wash the plums. Don’t forget about the butter that’s melting in the oven. 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 into the whipping. You could use an electric mixer instead. 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 plums (flesh side down, skin side up) onto the batter. You can place them in concentric circles or create a haphazard array, again, channel your feelings. Pack in as many plums 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.
- October 21, 2020 update: I baked this cake with apples instead of plums and it turned out great! I recommend using apple that don’t stay firm after baking, that way the flesh will melt into the cake and you won’t be able to tell where one ends and other begins. Here in Berlin, I liked the result with Boskoop apples and I kept the skin on.