Sunday, 9 October 2011

Magical Sugar Plum Crunch Cake

When I say that this is a good one, I mean, this is a seriously good one. I’m not allowed to carry many cook books with me on the boat due to the weight and size of them. Circa 90 odd cook books on a racing yacht would be ridiculous, there’d be no room for the crew and we wouldn’t win anything. However, the joy of this recipe is that it hails from one of those little ‘Good Food’ mini books that I won’t be keel-hauled for. It’s the BBC Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes book. It's about 12cm by 12cm and when it comes to good cakes; it’s a little gem of a book. I know; ‘Good Food’, It’s not exactly cool or writen by some groovy, fashionable ‘Nottinghill-type' patisserie, recently published and going large. Or something I found in some back-street dusty book shop in Marseille. It was £4.99 from WHSmiths I think; can’t remember now. But Since making this cake, I’ve never let it out of my sight.

France has almost as many plums at the markets as you guys in the UK. The early cold snap last Christmas in England followed by the warm spring and then wet summer has been great for the fruit and berry produce and this recipe is a must for using up some of those excess plums you might still have.

It’s soft, it’s moist and so moreish, it’s indulgent, it’s almost better than chocolate and believe me, I’m a chocolate cake kind ‘a gal. I will always go chocolate ice cream over berry ice cream. I will always go for chocolate fondant over an apple tart in a good French restaurant but this cake and the best chocolate brownie in the world would go neck and neck for me in a cake-off.

If you dread the rainy, cloudy days of autumn, really, this cake could turn it all around for you. Have I gone too far? I don’t care. Here it is;

For Sugar Plum Crunch Cake you will need

2 eggs, plus 1 extra egg yolk
140g/5oz butter, softened
140g/5oz golden castor sugar
140g/5oz self-raising flour
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
200g/8oz plums, stoned, half roughly chopped into pieces and half cut into wedges. (I always add a few more plums if I have to and it doesn’t affect the final result)

For the topping

1 ½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
200g/8oz golden castor sugar
25g/1oz rough sugar pieces or sugar cubes roughly crushed


  • Preheat your oven to 160ºC/Gas mark 3/fan oven 140ºC. Grease and line a 1kg/2lb loaf tin.. Lightly beat the eggs and extra egg yolk with a pinch of salt and a few drops of vanilla extract.

  • Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with a handwhisk until light and fluffy. Really, try not to skimp on this part; you really need the butter and sugar to lighten considerably for a good cake. Then, pour in the eggs a little at a time beating well between each addition. If it looks like it’s curdling, add a tbsp of the flour to help bind it. Fold in the flour and orange zest and 2 tbsp of the juice and then fold in the chopped plums.

  • Spoon into your prepared tin and scatter the plum wedges over the top and pop into your oven for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

  • When it has cooked let it cool for a few moments before turning out onto a wire rack. Mix the lemon juice and castor sugar with the remaining orange juice and pour over the cake. Sprinkle over the roughly crushed sugar cubes and set aside.

The roughly crushed sugar cube pieces soak up the lemony, orangey juices and give the cake that magical sugar crunch. Best served still slightly warm with a cup of tea after a long walk kicking leaves in the woods…

Oh stop it.

It’s all starting to happen here in Provence. A few doors down the Renault garage are selling chestnuts as a culinary aside to changing tyres and fixing my habitually returning Clio. They sell them by the kilo in newspaper for a couple of Euros, raw or roasted. The smell is wafting up the road and could be a plan for my lazy Sunday. If I buy enough of them, monsieur Renault might go easy on the bill when I next take my car in. Maybe I should take him some cake.

Thanks for reading