Monday, September 6, 2010

Red-Plum Brunch Cake with Cream Cheese Topping . . .

Plums present a quandary for me when it comes to baking.  I enjoy eating them raw, tossed in a fresh fruit salad and so on, but in my view they just don't have the moxie that most other stone fruits seem to possess. They've been known to turn to mush and lose flavor when heated, then they completely surrender their individuality. It's pitiful. (Come to think of it, I know a few people like that.)

I'm always hesitant to use them on their own as the central attraction in a cake, pie, or rustic tart. But, recently, when I hit upon a batch of really tasty bright crimson plums, I decided to put my past prejudice aside and let them take center stage. I think these plums held up rather well here in this dish, all things considered. And, as Aretha Franklin might advise, I have to give them their propers.

Enhanced with a thin topping that's reminiscent of soft cheesecake filling, this cake would be content to make a morning appearance--say, for a special brunch. Or, I can see it happily plated up and shared with your closest friend along with a hot cup of tea on a cool autumn afternoon; it's just that kind of treat.

It won't go down in history as any kind of masterpiece, that much I must admit. It's not exactly unsightly, but it's hardly what I'd call beautiful. The top reminds me of a cheese pizza, and is reminiscent of a cranberry kuchen recipe I posted last fall that also reminded me of a cheese pizza. But despite that cosmetic flaw, it does make a pleasant enough contribution to the ever-growing cavalcade of tea cakes and breakfast sweets. I'd recommend serving it after it's completely cooled, and after the topping has had a chance to kind of firm up.

I adapted this recipe from one in Marcy Goldman's A Passion for Baking. She frequently recommends using a food processor in her recipes, and I did use one for this cake, but I don't think it's always necessary and, in many cases, I can't imagine things would go awry if you just used your mixer instead. I've adapted several items from this book over the last few months, most of which turned out quite well, and there is at least one more that I am looking forward to trying this fall, so stay tuned.

Red-Plum Brunch Cake with Cream Cheese Topping

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9" springform pan with baking spray, or lightly grease and very lightly flour the pan.

Ingredients for the cake:
1/2 cup softened butter, unsalted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, large
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached.)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt (I used kosher; if you're using regular salt, reduce the amount by a generous pinch.)

Ingredients for the filling:
6 medium-size ripe red plums; washed, dried, cut in half, and pitted
5 oz. full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the cake:
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt with a fork or whisk; set aside.

In the large bowl of a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs and the vanilla extract, and pulse to blend until the mixture appears smooth. Take the bowl off the processor, scrape the batter into a medium size mixing bowl, and fold in the dry ingredients. Spread the batter, which will be soft, into the bottom of the prepared springform pan. You may need to lightly wet your hands and pat the batter into shape with your fingers.

To make the filling:
Place the halved plums cut-side down evenly in the pan over the batter. In a small bowl, using a whisk or fork, stir together the softened cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and the three extracts.

Spread all of this over the top of the cake batter, covering the fruit.

Place the pan on a baking sheet or a sheet of foil; this will help the bottom of the cake from over-browning. Bake in a preheated 350 oven until the top begins to look golden, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Let the cake cool in its pan for at least 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides of the cake before attempting to remove the springform. Let the cake finish cooling completely before serving.

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