plum torte, springform pans, and new york city.

September 14, 2015

purple plum torte | reading my tea leavesSeptember means plums and finally being able to turn your oven on. Except of course that this September has been all kinds of ungodly hot and so turning the oven up to 350° feels like a bit of a stretch even as we inch toward the middle of the month. But a plum dessert needed to be made and sooner rather than later, and so turn on the oven in my oven of an apartment, I did. purple plum torte | reading my tea leaves Marion Burros’s storied plum torte recipe was printed in the New York Times every September for years without end and with very good reason. It’s a masterpiece of tart and sweet and rich, cakey goodness. The plums get all melty with the baking and eating a slice the morning after baking is not only a delicious way to start your day, it’s practically a requirement.  The recipe itself demands little, but it does call for a springform pan, which may or may not be a thing you have.

purple plum torte | reading my tea leaves

We came into our own springform only recently. After 92 years as a New Yorker, my cousin Mildred packed up her Manhattan apartment this winter, and headed for the hills, otherwise known as the town that I grew up in, where my parents still live. As Mildred packed her worldly belongings, she made small piles of things that she thought we might like: newspaper clippings on sea turtles and other subjects of interest, one of the two or three books she decided she wouldn’t box up and take with her, and a pair of pinking shears. The springform pan was reserved specially for James.
purple plum torte | reading my tea leaves Mildred had it wrapped up in that special style particular to women of her generation—tiny parcels made from doubling then tripling plastic grocery bags. Hers, always, from the Associated Supermarket on 14th Street between First and Avenue A. purple plum torte | reading my tea leaves I’m not quite sure what her opinion on plums or torte might be, but I’m thinking of this torte as a little tribute to the decades Mildred spent in this city anyway. Like the recipe that appeared in New York paper September after September, Mildred was a constant in this place too. She spent nearly a century in this city and for half of that she watched the light shift across the same apartment walls with each passing season. In a city where sky-high-and-climbing rents seem to be constantly chasing people we know from one apartment to the next and right on out, Mildred’s stick-to-itiveness itself feels like a vestiage of another time. purple plum torte | reading my tea leaves I don’t imagine that New York City will be a place that James and I and our tiny family will be able to stay for a century, but I do hope that in September there will always be plums and in our cabinets a well-loved springform pan for turning them into everyday magic.purple plum torte | reading my tea leaves Purple Plum Torte 
Adapted from the New York Times original by Marion Burros

What you need:

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
12 plums, halved with the pit removed*
Sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon for topping.

*This number will depend on size of plums and pan! I managed to only fit 9 plums—18 halves—into my pan. My springform pan is 10 inches in diameter, but the original recipe suggests that you can use an 8-, 9-, or 10-inch pan without needing to alter the quanities!

What you need to do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs and beat well. (I used our stand mixer for these steps.)
3. Spoon the batter into your springform pan. Place the plums skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle with lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon according to taste. (I positively did not measure any of these ingredients, but I’d guess I used a half teaspoon or so of cinnamon and sugar and a teaspoon or two of lemon juice.)
4. Bake for about an hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving. Even better if you serve on day two, but zero guarantees it’ll last that long.

And if you still have a hankering, more plums.

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23 Comments

  • Reply Sophia September 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Lord, I love your blog, Erin. Beautiful.

  • Reply Rachel Quednau September 14, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    What a sweet story to start off with on Monday morning. My grandparents always save newspaper clippings for me too. I used to find it outdated and annoying, but now I think it's pretty charming and endearing. I need to make this tart asap.

  • Reply Emily S. September 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I just made this for the first time last week with Italian Prune Plums from the farmer's market. It was definitely a recipe I will make again. Happy to see others are enjoying it too 🙂

  • Reply jocelyn September 14, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    My family loves this recipe. I make it with Italian prune plums. It is on my list of things to this morning after I finish my tea.

  • Reply emily September 14, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I love plum desserts! And something I would love to read about – kitchen equipment in a tiny apartment. We just moved to 900sf with our two kids (from 1600 sf), and my little city kitchen is 1/4 the size of my last one, so we minimized a lot and probably could have done more.

  • Reply Amy @ The American-Made Guide to Life September 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I have a family recipe that's quite similar except that it also includes a meringue on top. One of my faves.

  • Reply Suzanne September 14, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Neighbors gifted us loads of their plums a few weeks ago, and I used this exact recipe twice. It's so good! We don't own a spring form pan, but I successfully baked it in our cast iron pan. Now that you've posted this I may have to make again with our few remaining plums.

  • Reply Lissa Snapp September 15, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Wow this looks amazing Erin!

  • Reply jiturka September 15, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Hi! How big is your springform pan? It looks small-ish, and I have bigger one, so I'd need to recalculate the volumes 🙂

    • Reply admin September 15, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Hi there! I think mine is a 10-inch (though I'm away from home at the moment). The original recipe encourages folks to use either an 8-, 9-, or 10-inch pan (no recalculating required). I did forget to note though, that I was able to squeeze only 9 plums (18 halves) into my pan.

      • Reply jiturka November 11, 2015 at 8:02 am

        That’s not small at all 🙂 I also have a 10 inch pan. Then I recon it’s your plums that are bit bigger 🙂 Next time banana for scale?

  • Reply sarahstaebler September 15, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    I just made this and it was amaaaaazing! Thank you!

  • Reply 13bees September 15, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    It's still in the oven, but it smells incredible. I chose my smallest springform pan (isn't there something extra special about a tiny cake?) and could only fit 6 plums/12 halves, but used the recipe as-is above. Hope it works!

  • Reply Beth September 16, 2015 at 1:43 am

    This looks so good. I've been making salads with plum all week…new plan!

  • Reply Charlotte Rigby September 16, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Yum, this looks delicious, will definitely need to try it when plums are in season over here! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Kimberly LaCroix September 16, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I couldn't stop thinking about this recipe from the moment you posted it, so sure enough I made a special trip out to buy plums yesterday and whipped this together last night. It absolutely lived up to my ruminating. I only fit 6 plums (12 halves) just like 13bees commented, but it came out absolutely delectable. I will be adding this to my family recipe book and making it for birthdays, I'm sure!

  • Reply Alexa Arnold September 16, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    This is one of my favorite recipes! I love using a variety of plums, especially the sweet yellow ones.

  • Reply Anne September 17, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    When I read this post I realized I had exactly enough plums languishing in my fridge, so of course a cake was in order. This recipe is fantastic and the cake turned out beautifully. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Reply Stephanie September 20, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Thank you for this lovely recipe, I've just popped mine in the oven! I live in Germany and it's plum season here too, so I decided to make the most of it and buy a new cake tin and try this out. Thank you also for not calling this recipe 'naughty' or a 'guilty treat' because it contains sugar, butter etc. I have a friend coming over for tea later and sometimes life calls for real cake for real friends.

  • Reply crunicorn September 21, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    I was all upset that I wouldn't be able to make this as I didn't have a springform pan – then guess what I spotted hiding under the other kitchen stuff. I now plan on giving it a go (and having a kitchen clear out!!)

  • Reply charlene September 8, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    so well written ~ thanks for sharing! And now off to find a springform pan…..xx

  • Reply Rosi Borgo September 9, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    What a lovely story! I just made this cake using potatoe starch, instead of flour. Omitted the baking soda and added 3 more eggs and 4 plums. Divine!!
    I just love your blog

  • Reply Mo August 30, 2017 at 4:04 am

    I just came upon this recipe again and wanted to add an approximate conversions for people (like me) who use the metric system and don’t own multiple measuring devices:

    1.7 dl or 170 ml sugar
    113 g butter
    2.25 dl or 225 ml flour
    Oven heat: 177 degrees Celcius
    Spring form diameter: 20-25 cm

    That mentioned, I still have some plums left and I see another olum cake in my future as this one was delicious!

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