A German Jewish tradition.
Something about this cake makes people nostalgic. My guests always tell me it reminds them of cakes their Bubbes from the old country make, and that fits nicely with the Central European roots of the recipe. I call the cake plumkuchen, though its proper German name is Pflaumenkuchen (Pflaumen=plums, kuchen=cake). The recipe, from my maternal great grandmother, uses a dough called muerbteig, which is one of the staples of German-Jewish baking, and the basis of many tarts.
For plumkuchen, I like to use “Italian plums” also known as “prune plums,” that ripen at the very end of summer and the beginning of fall. Italian plums are slightly smaller than the ones that you might be accustomed to, but any plum will do. If you use bigger plums, you may want to cut them into quarters. The ones that bake best are slightly under-ripe.
In my family, this cake must be served with plain yogurt (for breakfast) or whipped cream (for dessert). It can be made ahead to eat on Shabbat afternoon after a dairy lunch. The plums introduce moisture to the cake, so it keeps well for up to three or four days.
1 1/4 cup sugar (reserve 1/4 cup)
1/2 lb butter, room temperature
zest of 3 lemons
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 cup breadcrumbs
3 lbs plums
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in a medium bowl.
In a separate large bowl cream the butter and one cup of the sugar, either by hand or with an electric mixer. Then add the eggs one at a time, and add all the dry ingredients a little bit at a time. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
When the cake batter is smooth, pour it into a 9″x12″ glass baking dish. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs, then place the plum halves on top of the batter. I place them to cover the whole top of the cake. Breadcrumbs can help keep the plums from sinking into the cake. But don’t fret if your plums fall. If this happens to you, as it often does to me, the cake will still be delicious!
Sprinkle cake with the reserved 1/4 cup of sugar. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a knife comes out clean.