It’s been over 100 degrees in my neck of the woods this past week, so if you’ve been wondering where in tarnation I’ve been, and why the heck I haven’t been posting, it’s because I’ve been sprawled in front of the fan, trying to keep my cool…and attempting to channel inspiration for the perfect dinner (when all I desire is a box of strawberry popsicles).
Which is why it will sound doubly crazy when I tell you I had the urge to bake a cake the other night. And that’s exactly what I did. The cake in question: a plum upside down cake, flavored with a bit of basil.
Using plums in an upside down cake may sound unusual—unless you grew up with a plum tree in your backyard, as I did.
Our plums were exquisitely delicious; the skins were tart and delicate, yielding to gossamer flesh and juice with the most tender nibble.
But to my family’s chagrin (especially my mother), the plums came all at once (in about a 2-week period), so despite stuffing ourselves silly with fresh plums morning, noon, and night, my mother had to crank into uber-creative plum mode to use up the bounty before they rotted in the grass.
She made jars of plum jam by the dozen, plum cake, plum pie, plum crumble, plum clafouti, plum jell-o, plum salads (they are great with spicy greens like arugula), even a few batches of plum chutney, if I’m not mistaken.
And while I can’t remember her ever making plum upside down cake, her creative uses of our backyard plums has inspired me to use plums in less-than-usual ways over the years.
I don’t have a plum tree of my own here in Texas, but I’ve found that a quick cook in a nonstick pan, followed by baking upside down beneath a layer of tender cake transforms supermarket plums (even the rock-hard ones) to tender, sweet-tart perfection.
The pairing of plums with upside down cake is additionally sentimental for me because upside down cake was one of my mother’s go-to desserts, one she’d whip together in minutes with a bit of flour, butter, and canned pineapple slices (no special occasion required).
As for the basil…I have heaps and heaps of basil growing in the backyard—it (and mint) are my favorite herbs, and I love to experiment with it in sweet as well as savory dishes. Basil has so many familiar dessert flavors (e.g., mint, cinnamon, and pepper); it’s easy to make it work in a wide range of desserts.
Plum & Basil Upside Down Cake
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoon butter, divided use
1 pound large plums (red, black or purple, or a mix), pitted and quartered (about 6 plums)
1 and 1/4 cups sugar, divided use
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 and 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
Melt the 2 teaspoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add plums, and cook 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar, basil, and dash of salt. Cook 10 minutes or until plums are tender, stirring frequently. Remove plums from pan using a slotted spoon. Bring cooking liquid to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid is very thick (consistency of jam). Strain liquid through mesh sieve to remove basil.
While the basil liquid reduces, arrange plums in bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray. Pour strained basil liquid over plums. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat the remaining 1/4 cup butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter over plums, spreading batter evenly.
Bake 47-50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around outside edge. Place a plate upside down on top of cake. Invert cake onto plate; cool. Makes 8 servings
Nutrition per Serving (1 slice, 1/8 of cake):Calories 310; Fat 8.1g (poly 0.5g, mono 3.3g, sat 3.7g); Protein 5.4g; Cholesterol 40mg; Carbohydrate 357.2g; Sodium 270mg)
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)