Winter plum cake...in summer
This is another of the things I took to Ballarat with me last weekend. A friend of mine has been making Nigella's Winter Plum Cake from Domestic Goddess, for the last few months and bringing in pieces for us to have in between classes at uni. It's an excellent cake - moist and not too rich, with a fantastic icing made of unrefined icing sugar. This type of icing sugar really makes the cake; it gives a completely different flavour, quite fudgy and nutty. A hint of bitterness and a tang of...hmmm...caramel? We use the Billington's brand of sugar, imported from the UK, and all it takes to make the beautiful coffee-coloured icing is a few teaspoons of water. I never knew plain sugar and water could taste so spectacular!
In my usual tradition of not being able to follow a recipe to the letter, I changed this recipe a bit. As it's summer and I had a lot of fresh plums (as evidenced by my jam making extravaganza) I used fresh, rather than tinned plums. However, I think I'd recommend the tinned. I blanched my fresh plums to remove the skin, and they ended up disintegrating amongst the cake. I prefer the chunks of purple tinned plum studded through the cake, as I've had it when it's been made properly. Additionally, I didn't have any ground almonds on hand, and was too lazy to go to the shops. I did have a lot of pistachios, however, so I ground up equal weight of them in my food processor. It worked extremely well, although I do acknowledge it was not the cheapest option!! I also had a bottle of extremely good hazelnut essence, instead of almond essence, and used that. I love hazelnut, so for me, that worked well. So, yeah....Nigella's or my winter plum cake? Who knows? I say it's hers. A laughs at me and says it's anything but hers.
As a special bonus, you can witness my APPALLING cake decorating skills below. I mean, seriously, how old am I? How artistic do I think I am? From looking at that piece of atrociousness below, anyone would think I was 4 years old! Ok - I was lazy and impatient and didn't bother putting a nozzle on my tube of cake decorating icing, so it's all my fault. But geez, it's harder than you think to pipe something goey onto a cake with any neatness! In the event, on the trip up to Ballarat the icing melted and my "beautifully" rendered letters turned into something even more childlike.
But the photo below does show my wonderful, funky, red Italian kitchen scales A. bought as a surprise for me on a sick day last year. A sick day he spent drinking coffee and buying books in Lygon St...yes, the great Australian tradition of "chucking a sickie". (In our defence, we have far fewer public holidays here than other countries!) He had heard me complaining about my cheap, nasty and innacurate 5 kg kitchen scales (the lines were so close together I couldn't judge anything) and came over that evening with these for me. They only measure up to 1 kilogram, so each gradation on the dial is clear and makes it much easier to measure things with greater accuracy. I smile each time I lift them down, not only with anticipation that I'm going to make something tasty, but also with fondness that A. gave me such a thoughtful and useful present.
Winter Plum cake
for the cake:
567 gram tin red plums
125 grams self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
75 grams ground almonds
125 grams butter, softened
125 grams light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 scant teaspoon almond essence
20 cm Springform cake tin.
For the icing:
160 grams unrefined icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons hot water
Preheat oven to 170 c.
Drain plums, then chop and leave in a sieve to drain once more. Mix the flour, baking powder and ground almonds. Cream the butter and sugar, then beeat in the eggs, adding a tavlespoon of the flour mixture afte reach one. Beat in the almond essence, then fold in the rest of the flour mixture and the drained, chopped plums. Turn into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 - 1 1/4 hours. Remove from ove, cool in its tin for about 10 minutes, then turn onto the rack.
When cool, ice with brown-sugar icing, which you make by mixing the sieved icing sugar with water till you have a caramel-coloured shiny paste. Pour over the top of the cake to cover thinly, and leave to drip down the sides.