For years, Marian Burros’ Original Plum Torte has been my go-to “hey plums are at the market and oops I just bought 10 pounds” recipe. I’ve made it a dozen times and there’s a reason for all her five-star reviews. It’s tasty and easy; a cross between a cake and clafoutis with an eggy crumb offset by pockets of sweet-sour fruit. It slices without fuss and concludes a dinner party for six without too much effort. It’s a reliable cake.
But it’s not a perfect plum cake, at least for me. It’s a tiny bit dry and shallow, and I want a cake that will eat well for days, as it sits in my fridge and I shave off slices. I want a cake to sit high on the plate so I can plunge my fork through with aplomb. I want a cake to use up a whole crate of stone fruit, with velvety pockets and layers in each bite. I want a cake that people groan over at the end of a dinner party.
What do you know, I’ve finally made that cake.
The inspiration came from the oil-based cakes of my childhood that Yia-Yia would bake. The oil and milk made the cake tender, even cold from the fridge, and a bit of almond meal ensured a finely textured crumb and further durability. She’d always grate in some lemon zest. Sometimes, she’d use olive oil instead of vegetable oil and it would scent the batter a peppery, floral dream. This, I imagined, would make an excellent base for plums and apricots and all the stone fruits I seem to lug home in July and August.
If that’s you, too, make this cake. Low fuss, high reward and a dinner party darling.
Olive oil almond cake with sunken stone fruit
Makes one 9-inch round cake
I serve this cake with a little sauce made of Greek yogurt, honey and almond extract. Totally optional, but an elegant finish.
- 9-inch round springform pan
- parchment paper
- citrus rasp
- saucepan and metal bowl
For the cake
- 1 cup whole milk (or 2%)
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar, plus 2 Tbsp
- 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tsp real vanilla extract)
- zest of one lemon
- 1 plus 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup almond meal (finely ground almonds)
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 1/3 cup your best olive oil (I like a Greek or Portuguese oil with tons of green bitter notes)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 12 units small stone fruit, pitted and halved (I like a combination of apricots and plums)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1 Tbsp Demerara sugar
- icing sugar, to finish
For the sauce (optional), combine in a bowl:
- 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- pinch salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prep your pan by lining the base with parchment and oiling the sides.
Over medium heat, whisk the milk, lemon zest, vanilla caviar and pods, and granulated sugar. Once the sugar dissolves completely, remove from heat and let the milk and infusions mingle while you prep the next steps.
In metal bowl, combine flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a whisk.
Remove the vanilla pods from the milk mixture. To the bowl of dry ingredients, add milk mixture, eggs and olive oil. Mix gently and combine to a very smooth batter. The batter will be surprisingly thin but worry not!
Transfer the batter to your prepared cake pan. Place the stone fruit “bums up” over the batter, evenly spaced. They will sink into the cake. Sprinkle Demerara sugar and almonds over top.
Bake on centre rack of oven, checking after 40 minutes by inserting a skewer in the centre of the cake (into batter not a fruit pocket). If the middle springs back gently and skewer comes out clean, your cake is done. If not, bake in additional 5-minute increments. Mine took about 45 minutes total to reach this state.
Cool cake in pan for one hour before rimming the edges with a knife and removing from the springform. Finish with sifted powdered sugar, like my Yia-Yia does.
To serve, slice and plate with a dollop of yogurt sauce, if desired.
This keeps like a dream in the fridge. I like it best cold for breakfast.