Hello, autumn! Today’s feature is a gluten-free plum cake, a lesser-known but nonetheless quintessential harbinger of fall.
Maybe you’ve heard of Marian Burros’ famous plum torte via the New York Times. A longstanding tradition, the recipe has appeared in the Times every September since 1983, and no one is tired of it yet. After a month of baking plum pies at work, I’m just now getting around to experimenting with the last of the stone fruit at home. If I baked one thing with plums this year, I reasoned, a simple gluten-free plum cake would be the best use of my time.
Admittedly, it would have made sense to adapt the NYT recipe for Plum Torte, but I chose not to because I’m still stuck on the idea of Big Crumb Coffee Cake. Lauded as the best thing that’s ever happened by both Melissa Clark and Smitten Kitchen, I made it in the spring with some beautiful rhubarb and was shocked to find it inedibly, cloyingly sweet. Who am I to question the baking judgment of the greats? But there I was, doing just that.
But then plum torte season rolled around and I thought, ah, you know what, let’s just do the Big Crumb Coffee Cake without the egregious quantity of streusel topping. It really was gorgeous underneath: buttery, tangy, and tender, perfect for cradling plum halves. Brainstorming gluten-free plum cake possibilities brought to mind the plum cake from Amelie, a fictional confection likely based on a yeasted kouign amann. While fussing with yeast seemed like overkill for solving my streusel problem, the simple combination of butter, sugar, plums, and okay, maybe a little cardamom, was just the ticket.
The best gluten-free flour for the job was clearly oat, with its sweet butterscotch undertones and soft crumb. I poured in a little sweet rice flour and a teaspoon of psyllium husk to give the cake some structure so we could eat it out of hand. After all, coffee cake without streusel is snacking cake, to be picked up and munched with minimal crumbs.
And while we’re talking specifics, be sure to seek out Italian prunes for this recipe instead of red plums or pluots. The former separates beautifully from the pit when sliced in half, and avoids the pulpy mess that plums often create.
After putting all these considerations into action, the resulting undulations of golden cake dimpled with puddling plums was very, very edible. Like sprinkling salt on peanut butter cookies, I like to dust lightly sweetened cakes with a little powdered sugar to ensure you taste the sweetness right off. But just as quickly, the sugar yields to jammy plums and cardamom, an invitation to appreciate the simple pleasure of a good cake.
- 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 120g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 100g (1/2 cup) sour cream or plain thick yogurt
- 160g gluten-free flour blend of your choice*
- 1 teaspoon psyllium husk
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 6-8 ripe Italian prunes, halved and pitted
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Beat butter and sugar with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer until thick and pale, 4-5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and then beat in eggs, vanilla, and sour cream, beating 20 seconds and scraping between additions. Add flour blend and guar gum, if using, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cardamom. Beat until combined, scraping down the bowl once to ensure all butter is combined.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan and use a silicone spatula to nudge into the corners of the pan and spread into an even layer. Press plum halves cut side down into the batter.
- Bake 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan 10 minutes. Grasping the edges of the parchment, lift the cake out of the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store covered, at room temperature, no longer than one day after baking.
- 100g (scant 1 cup) certified gluten-free oat flour (grind your own in a coffee grinder if you like!)
- 60g sweet rice flour