It may surprise you to know that Figs actually do grow on the East End of Long Island And when they are briefly in season they are a treat we look forward to. But move fast or you’ll miss them. Which is exactly what happened when Andrew went to bake David Tanis’ recipe for Fig and Almond Cake. Fortunately, Mr. Tanis of The New York Times, owed as how you can substitute plums for the figs. And at our Farm stand, the dark blue Italian plums, pictured at left, looked juicy and beautiful. And when the finished, the rustic Cake, which he swears is a snap to bake, looked as good as the Fig version he’d made the summer before. But before we get to the recipe, how about a little Plum Primer.
Plums are related to peaches, nectarines and surprisingly to me, to almonds as well. There are three key varieties and tons of variations of the three differing in color from yellow to red to purple. Color is actually one the main differences between Plums. The second difference is the level of sweetness. And that is what determines how they’re used. In our part of the country, we’ve been seeing plums since June. The first of the three varieties are European plums. These are best for eating fresh off the tree and for canning. They’re oval in shape and often called Prunes because they can be dried without removing their pits. A sub species is the Damson plum, so tart they are used in cooking to make jams and jellies. The second variety is the Japanese plum. These are the ones you see in a profusion of colors from yellow to dark reddish purple. They’re larger, firmer than European plums and have a heart shape. Japanese plums are versatile and can be eaten fresh, and for cooking, canning and preserves. But the most versatile of all plums are the Italian plums used in this recipe.
Italian plums, often called prune plums, come by their name honestly. They were first grown in the Mediterranean coastal regions of Italy. They are the last of the season’s plums. They’re quite tiny, oval and a dark blue color. And when they come to market, they mark the end of the season for plums. Their high fruit sugar content makes them appetizing to eat fresh but they also ideal for home canning, freezing and drying for the same reason. So grab some this weekend and put together this very easy-to-make cake. You first make a very simple almond batter, pit and halve the plums and place them on top of the batter. That’s it! Put it in the tart pan in the oven and what emerges is a rustic cake that just needs a little whipped cream and it’s ready to serve. Here is the recipe:
Italian Plum and Almond Cake
Luscious plums and a great almond cake come together to make a wonderful flavor experience with every bite.
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
- 1 cup natural raw almonds (not blanched)
- ¼ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 12 to 14 ripe Italian plums
- Step 1 Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan or pie pan
- Step 2 set aside. Put almonds and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor and grind to a coarse powder. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt
- Step 3 pulse to combine.
- Step 4 In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, honey and almond extract. Add almond mixture and beat for a minute until batter is just mixed. Pour batter into pan.
- Step 5 Remove stem from each fig and cut in half. Arrange fig halves cut-side up over the batter. Sprinkle figs with sugar and bake for 30 minutes, until golden outside and dry at center when probed with a cake tester. Cool before serving.