Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Plum Torte

LESLIE: I subscribe to the free version of the New York Times newsletter on cooking. Early this fall, there was a reference to Marian Burros’s famous plum torte, but no recipe. Well, I’ve heard of Marian Burros, but the one cookbook I had by her disappeared ages ago, and I didn’t know this famous torte! Then a few weeks ago, columnist Sam Sifton said that they ran the recipe every September for years, then stopped. They got so many complaints that they decided they would run the link every fall. Naturally, I followed up, and am glad I did.

Since we typically cook together, Mr. Right and I debrief after we try a new recipe. His comment was that he thought there was just about no way to mess this up. Of course, he doesn’t bake, but he watched me put this together, and he’s right.

The original recipe didn’t remind readers to grease and flour the pan; do it. It was also a bit vague on the amounts of the sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon for topping, and the baking time. I’ve given you the specifics I used. You won’t think you’ll have enough batter, but you will. (I used a 9 inch pan.) Adjust the amount of sugar in the cake and topping based on how sweet or tart your plums are. The instructions were a bit scant in other ways as well, so I’ve rewritten them.

As I mentioned last time, when I gave you a pair of pear recipes, a patient of his gave us a bag of pears and plums, the small, homegrown plums sometimes called Italian or prune plums. The recipe didn’t specify, but from the picture of the finished torte, I thought that’s what had been used. It was—they work perfectly. I was concerned about placing them too close to the edge of the pan. Turns out I needn’t have been—the batter rises at the edges and pushes them toward the center a bit.

If you like sweetened whipped cream or mascarpone, a dollop would be lovely with a warm slice of tart—and it reheats beautifully in the microwave. Vanilla ice cream was a hit at our house, but honestly, it’s perfect just as it is.

The NY Times recipe says the torte freezes well, double-wrapped and bagged. We didn’t test that theory. Because, well, while we enjoyed it for dessert, we LOVED it for breakfast!

PS -- If you're looking for easy, fun themed recipes for Halloween, here's my Mummy Pizza Puffs made with frozen puff pastry, and my Veggie Skeleton with Brain Dip! Have a spooktacular day!

Plum Torte

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
12-15 purple plums, pitted and halved
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.
In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and sugar, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs, and beat well.

Spoon the batter into the pan, using a knife or spatula to spread the batter evenly to the edges of the pan. Arrange the plum halves on top of the batter, some skin up and some skin down. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit, and cinnamon.

Bake 50-55 minutes, until edges appear golden and a tester stuck in the cake portion comes out clean. Place on a rack and allow to cool a few minutes before releasing the spring. Serve warm or completely cool, plain or with whipped cream, mascarpone, or ice cream.

Serves 8.

"Budewitz's finely drawn characters, sharp ear for dialogue, and well-paced puzzle make Jewel Bay a destination for every cozy fan." --- Kirkus Reviews

From the cover of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #5 (Midnight Ink,  available in trade paper, e-book, and audio):  

In Jewel Bay---Montana's Christmas Village---all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, AKA the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. A past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. I think I have eaten something similar to this when I lived in Germany. Thank you for the recipe and the links to the others.

  2. You know, I believe that I have come across a few recipes for Plum torte but out of sight, out of mind. Thanks for bringing it to mind. Your results look wonderful. And, there is a free NYT cooking newsletter? I am not familiar with it.

  3. You're welcome, Lil! Here's the link to the NYT Food page; the newsletter link is on the right, about half way down. It's a fun conversation about food and cooking with several free recipes a week, and others with access limited to subscribers. I took advantage of the free trial period for broader access to the page and got a lot of fun recipes and read some great articles. https://www.nytimes.com/section/food

  4. Very pretty.
    You say to put some plums cut side up and some cut side down, but the picture appears to show them all one way.

    1. Yes, it does. I discovered when I made it a second time that mixing it up was even better!

    2. Ah, mystery solved!

  5. That looks very good! We used to have a plum tree at the our west place, it's a mile west from our current residence. The plums were so good! But that has died. Recently I have gone to Romania a few times and plums seem to be their national fruit of choice for making alcoholic beverages. I think this is a better use of plums, besides eating them fresh.