Winter Plum Cake
I have actually made this before and posted about it, but not to the correct specifications. It the Winter Plum Cake from Nigella's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess', and it's something I flicked over when I first got my own copy. However, my friend Beck received a copy a few months later and I think this was the first recipe she made in it. She saw something more appealing in the recipe than I did (I was probably focusing on the chocolate recipes...) and I'm glad she did because it's really excellent.
It's a 'winter' plum cake in the sense that it uses tinned plums rather than fresh, and this means you get big chunks of sweet, tangy plum in almost every mouthful. The cake itself is made with brown sugar and some ground almonds, so it's very soft and moist, but still light rather than heavy. It's dead easy to make and it fills your house with the most wonderful aroma of almonds and general cakiness when it's baking.
But the absolute star of this cake is the icing, made with unrefined icing sugar and I have to say, I'm sorry, but if you can't get unrefined icing sugar you cannot substitute plain icing sugar. It's not the same thing. The unrefined sugar is not as harshly sweet as the white powder and has a very distinctive caramel & molasses taste, a bit like brown sugar. When mixed with just a tablespoon of water it turns into absolute toffee bliss. You would never know that plain sugar and water could have so much flavour. And just look at that colour! That's just sugar & water, folks. I know I've written about this topic on a few occasions, but I'm almost evangelical about it! I use the Billington's brand of unrefined sugars, from the UK, which I admit are not available everywhere; I get mine from a local gourmet/European supermarket. From comments on other blogs, I understand that those in the US can't get unrefined icing sugar, but I do stress that substituting white powdered sugar wouldn't work. A soft brown sugar frosting or buttercream could be a good approximation though.
So, this is another offering for the hen's party this week, for which I had a big weekend of baking. And the flowers? Well, Melbourne smells like jasmine at the moment. Wherever I am, when I walk outside I can smell sweetness. I think every jasmine plant in Melbourne has burst into flower during the last week of warm, humid, springtime weather. I, on the other, hand am thoroughly revelling in the return to cold, wind and rain that is the weather this week!
Read on for the recipe:
Winter Plum Cake
from How To Be A Domestic Goddess - Nigella Lawson
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 beat in the eggs, adding a tablespoon of the flour mixture after each 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.