Saturday, 12 October 2013

Pudding meets cake

I have been feeling very melancholic lately. It is probably because the summer has definitely ended and fall is here, but also because I have finally time to consider all the recent big changes in my life now that I'm not desperately busy every single waking minute of every single day. I have been contemplating where the line is between appreciating what you have instead of focussing on what you don't have and not settling and giving up on your dreams. I haven't gotten very far with any conclusions yet, but the older you get, the more you realise everything you get in life comes with a price. And it's all well if you know the price you are going to pay, and you can decide to either do that or not, but sometimes it only dawns on you later what you really had to give up to make things happen, that's when it can be hard to accept. Suddenly you realise this wasn't at all what you signed up for. 

On to more mundane things. Such as plums. Lots and lots of plums. We have two plum trees in the garden, and both were heavy with plums. They were a bit raw up until about a week ago, when pretty much every single plum in the bigger tree just turned into over-ripe in a matter of a day or two. So we missed out on a lot of plums because last weekend there just wasn't any time for gardening. The other tree looked promising, but a few weeks ago when I picked a few of the first plums it turned out they all had a disgusting larvae inside, along with weird dark spots which I later learned were larval poo. Yicky!!! So I wasn't too excited about picking any more plums off that tree, until I read online that the most likely culprit was some sort of plum moth, and usually the first plums of the season were the ones affected with the parasite, and later crop should be fine. Luckily, that is what it seems like, lately I haven't run into a single disgusting creature in any of the plums I have used from that tree.

I am desperately trying to come up with plum recipes to use up at least a fraction of our plum crop. Unfortunately our very limited freezer space is occupied to pretty much every square inch, so there is no way of freezing any of those lovely plums. Apparently you can just freeze the plums whole or halved and then use for all sorts of lovely plummy puds later in the year. We should be getting a new, large freezer next weekend, and I'm hoping there will still be a few plums left to pick by then. If not, there is always the pears, the pear tree is so full of fruit, and they all look lovely. I have tried a few pears, but they are not very sweet yet but I can tell they will be really tasty when they ripen a bit more.

I have been googling plum cakes and pies for the last few weeks, and have made a few. For this one, I decided I would peel the plums, as I put them in with the peel on for my last plum dessert and it turned out that the plums were a bit bitter. So although it's an extra step and takes a bit of an effort, for our plums it really was worth the extra effort. Whether or not you need to do it will probably depend on the plums you use. I found this lovely looking Jamie Oliver recipe online, but made a few changes to it. I made the cake in a smaller cake tin (actually a cake silicon) so I halved the recipe for the cake part of the recipe. However, I did not halve the recipe for the topping, as everyone knows the topping is the best part. If you are a fan of really moist and super sweet cakes which have the texture almost like pudding, you will love this version. If you don't like overly sweet and super moist desserts, you should probably go with the original measures for everything. The recipe below contains the measures I used, see the original here if you think that would be more down your alley.

Plum upside down cake by Jamie Oliver (serves 5-6):
125 g butter
150 light brown sugar (I only had dark brown, so I used that)
about 12 plums

120 g butter
120 g caster sugar
2 eggs beaten with 1.5 tbsp milk
50 g ground almonds (I had a little less than that, about 40 g)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75 g plain flour
(25 g unblanched almonds, chopped. I didn't have any, so I skipped this and added 2 tbsp more flour instead)

The howto:
I started by peeling my plums, although you don't have to if you don't want to. I halved the plums and took out the pits, and poured boiling hot water over the plums and let them stand for a minute. Then I rinsed with cold water, and peeled off the skins. Most came off without any problem, although a few required a bit of teasing with a knife. I didn't slice the plums any finer than halves, but the original recipe says cut into about 1cm slices. If you don't have a silicone cake mould, butter your cake tin. Then, prepare the topping. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add sugar and cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is "foamy and pale" according to the instructions. Mine was dark (because of the dark sugar) and not foamy at all. But it worked perfectly anyways, so don't worry too much. Pour the sugar mixture into the cake mould/tin and arrange the plums on top. 
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Cream together butter and caster sugar and then add the eggs in two batches, mixing between additions. Then add the ground almonds, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Mix and then gently fold in the flour. Last, if you are using the chopped almonds, stir them into the mixture. Pour on top of the plums and bake for about 45 minutes (1 hour for the full size cake if you are following the original recipe). Jamie's recipe says to let rest for 2 minutes and then inverting onto a plate. I let it cool for much longer, probably about 45 minutes, and then inverted it and served with custard. 

The verdict:
I realised from the start that not halving the topping while halving the actual cake would change the texture of the cake quite drastically. I think my solution was great, but then again, I love really moist and super sweet puddings. The cake was delicious both warm and cold. I absolutely loved the sweet topping with the plums, and the way the topping had soaked into the cake as well to make it really moist and almost gooey. Between me and the Culinary Consultant, we actually managed to eat half of the cake in one sitting, so I would say it was truly a success. Fortunately, I might have to make it again, as there are so many plums to use up!
Card of the day:
Today's card is a birthday card I made for a friend. I like this simple but nice looking technique of cutting the cardstock into three equally wide sections, inking them up with distress ink and then stamping using the same colour. The colours on the card are Chipped Sapphire, Peeled Paint and Fired Brick. The stamp is a random stamp I bought from eBay. The sentiment is from my Hobbycraft sentiments stamp set, and I used Vintage Photo to ink around the edges of the banner. I matted the coloured strips onto black cardstock and attached everything to a white card. I like this technique, it has so many variations you can do by combining different colours and using different stamps. It's also really quick and easy to do. Next time I think I will leave a bit more of the black cardstock showing though between the panels to add another element to the card.

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