Marian Burros’ Plum Torte recipe, which first appeared in the pages of The New York Times in September of 1983, is the stuff of legend. With a basket of beautiful Italian plums from this week’s greenmarket haul I decided to take a stab at a gluten-free adaptation using olive oil in place of butter and golden coconut sugar in place of the original recipe’s granulated white sugar. It took a few attempts to get it right, but the third time was a charm.
Coconut sugar gives the cake a deeper color and rich, brown-sugary flavor, and using my usual baking blend of half blanched almond flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill brand) and half all-purpose GF flour (Bob’s GF all-purpose baking flour) creates a moist, springy crumb that’s light and not too dense or soggy. After an earlier version using all olive oil yielded a batter that was a bit too runny, I reduced the amount of olive oil and added in some Greek yogurt to thicken it up.
The original recipe calls for placing halved plums on top of the thick, butter-based batter. Since the olive oil batter has a thinner consistency I sliced the plums into quarters to improve their odds of staying afloat in the cake as it baked. (In a previous attempt I used halved plums and they sank right to the bottom of the pan during baking, creating more of a plum upside down cake — delicious but aesthetically not exactly what I was going for.)
Quartering the plums did the trick — although some of the slices did sink into the cake, creating delightfully jammy little pockets, enough of them stayed up top that they were visible in the finished cake.
I am planning to make this simple classic a couple more times while plums are in season. Although it is hard to believe that autumn is on the way — temps have been hovering around 90F for the last few days in the NYC area — soon it will be time for apple and pear versions with lots of warming spices and accompanied by steaming cups of coffee or tea.
Italian plum olive oil cake
Makes one 9-inch cake; serves 6 to 8
Adapted from NYT Cooking
I have only tested this recipe using drier Italian (prune) plums; other plum varieties would likely work in their place, but keep in mind that very juicy plums will release more liquid, resulting in a wetter cake.
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut sugar
2 extra large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt
zest of 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
12 small Italian plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise (about 2 cups)
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate large bowl whisk together sugar and eggs until smooth. Add vanilla, olive oil, yogurt, and lemon zest and whisk again until incorporated. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until smooth, but do not overmix.
Pour batter into prepared pan. In a small bowl toss together plum slices with turbinado sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Arrange plums evenly over batter.
Bake until cake is lightly browned around the edges and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Cook on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing sides of pan. Cool cake completely on rack and dust with powdered sugar before serving.