Sticky upside down plum & Tuica cake
A bit of tuica can leave one feeling a bit “upside down” but this cake makes upsidedowness a virtue. You can have your tuica and eat it indeed. (Tuica is a Romanian plum brandy)
Plums (in Romanian prune) are one of those fruits like quinces that work equally well with savory dishes and sweet. They can be used as the base of stunning sharp sweet sauces and chutneys (think roast pork with plum marinade or plum & cinnamon chutney) and of course the dried plum, the much maligned prune, is a friend indeed to pork, pork pies and terrines. Prunes also work well with chocolate but that is a whole chapter in itself…for now the subject at hand is comfort cake.
Choose slightly under ripe plums or mirabelles (“corcoduse”). On the subject of the mirabelles I feel they are a tad the poor sister of the purple plum in Romania. They are prized in France and Switzerland yet in Romania they seem sidestepped. Perhaps it’s the fact that there simply are so very many plums but still, it pains me every time I see the yellow nuggets falling to waste and rotting on the ground.
This recipe relies on having a deep well buttered dish or cake tin (I have a deep ceramic dish a friend gave me that is perfect for this homely cake). Gravity does the rest, when you invert the cake the caramelized plum juices sink into the cake and may dribble down the sides – Yum! You need to make the syrup and sozzle the plums first. So much the better if you can do this the day before and leave them to soak up the syrup overnight. The tipsy plums make a tempting breakfast compote although you might have some explaining to do to the boss. Hmmmm!
Gadgets & Gizmos
A deep cake tin or ceramic dish, 23 cm diameter and 6cm deep. You can use a spring base tin but cook on a tray as some juices will run out from the plums.
A hand whisk or food mixer to make the cake mixture.
Good saucepan with a thick base capable of boiling sugar syrup without burning
Making the syrup and poaching the plums is best done in advance but not vital. The syrup is wonderful to bottle fruit in, revs up dull pancakes a notch and I am sure it is good for coughs too. In any case it’s a theory worth testing out.
I use a classic “Victoria sponge cake” cake mix as a foolproof recipe. The method is a “creaming method” whereby the sugar and butter are first creamed until light and fluffy. This adds yet more air into the cake.
175 g sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
275g white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
And 1kg of plums, stoned and halved
Butter your dish well. Do this first as there is nothing more annoying than finishing the cake mixture, having the oven ready and realizing you need to prepare the dish!
Assemble all ingredients.
Make the syrup:
Boil all the syrup ingredients GENTLY taking care the Tuica doesn’t flame (if it does don’t panic but try and extinguish the flames as you are burning away alcohol. Or if you want an alcohol free cake do flambé the syrup to burn off the alcohol on purpose). You want the syrup just slightly thickened – approx 5-7 minutes on a low flame.
Poach the plums:
Add the plums to the syrup and poach for 3-5minutes. They should not be totally cooked as you want the syrup to penetrate them not create plum mush on top of the cake.
Make the cake mixture:
If using a hand mixer make sure the butter is softened (when you can press a fork through it). If you have a more powerful food mixer, then let the machine take the strain and cream using the “K” shaped attachment. The sugar and butter should change to a paler color and become “fluffy” in texture.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating as you go. With my mixer I have to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure a good mix. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and milk and mix very gently until just combined. Do not over mix as a tough cake will result.
Assemble and Bake:
Place the plums on the base of the cake tin/dish taking care not to drip too much syrup in (reserve excess syrup). Spread the cake mixture over the plums (it should drop by itself from the spatula – if it doesn’t add a little more milk) and bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
When the cake is still warm but not hot, use a palette knife to loosen the edges and just make sure the plum juice has not turned into superglue and bonded your cake to the dish. Put a large plate over the dish and invert it and wait for the cake to plop down. There may be a plum or too left clinging to the dish, simply remove them and arrange them on the cake while still warm.
Finally, with a bamboo kebab stick make holes in the cake. Drizzle over the remaining syrup for the cake to absorb.
Enjoy just as it is with a cup of tea or add smantana (sour cream) and indulge.