Archive for September, 2011

Basking In The Light Of This Perfect Plum Cake

I have been remiss lately, not stopping by to share anything or say hello to all of you lovely folks. And to be honest it was due to the hectic schedule I have kept with work and some west coast visiting between and after jobs. Since my last real entry I have been to (and deep breath for effect, imagine this as a staccato) San Jose/Bay Area, Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon, Napa, Orlando, San Francisco, Salinas, Big Sur, and Brooklyn. Whew, anyone else tired?

But I have thought of this space often, of the people in my life, and of the adventures we all find ourselves apart of. I have also found time to invite myself into the kitchens of a few friends and have made a delicious one-pot pasta eggplant dish that I promise to share very shortly, and two of these perfect for this season plum cakes.

I am a fool for plums, always have been and I imagine I always will be. I love them in every variety. I love the taut purple, pink, yellow, and almost midnight skins. I love the ripe tartness as you break through to the sweet and supple flesh and the translucent shine of their lush interior. I love the juice when it slips between my lips and falls stickily along my chin and down my hand. And above all, I love the famous German specialty–the Plum Cake or Plum Kuchen.

On my first visit to Germany in the summer of 2008 my friends introduced me to this fantastic dessert, and I have been a bit of a repeat addict each year in late summer/early fall to bake this at least a few times. At the worst, one year I made two in one day – one to share at a friend’s house and one for myself for the week. The cake is perfect because it is neither too sweet nor does any part of it detract from the star of the show, the season’s harvest of plums!

The cake can be enjoyed as part of a brunch, after dinner with some home made whip cream (mit schlag), you might say a little vanilla ice cream would perfect it (and it probably would), or as the Germans have it around 4 in the afternoon with a cup of coffee. Whatever way you choose to bask in the simple joy of this season of gold light before the real days of fall begin, I hope you find relaxation, enjoyment, and a little bit of perfect sweetness in your life.



This recipe is an adaptation from the original recipe I found in the New York Times in 2008. I do reduce how much sugar I use to what is listed below.

Plum Cake or Plum Kuchen

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter room temperature

½ cup plus ¼ cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ cup sour cream

5 large plums pitted, each cut into 8 wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt until well blended. Using electric mixer beat 6 tablespoons of butter with ½ cup of sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then extracts. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with sour cream in 2 additions. Mix until well blended and smooth. Spread batter in pan.

Arrange plum wedges on their sides in 4 long rows on top of batter. Mix ½ teaspoon cinnamon with remaining ¼ cup sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle over plums. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over cake.

Bake until knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Cool until just warm or room temperature. Cut and enjoy. This cake keeps best a few days in a refrigerator.


09 2011

A Beautiful Book About A Tragic Crisis

Upon returning from Kenya a wonderful family friend in San Francisco sent me a book by one of her friends. The book is a stunning photo account along with the remarkable stories I became too accustomed to while spending my time in Kenya.

Face To Face Children Of The Aids Crisis In Africa is the stunning story and images of life in its hopeful persistence in the face of heartbreaking sadness. It looks at the effects of an ongoing epidemic that has taken too many lives and left too many children to grow up before their time and in unthinkable circumstances. The images take me back and the stories resound with the truth of what I experienced during my time at the orphanage. But beyond anything the book, along with what I saw in every face and with every handshake in my small town, is the inspiring testament of the human spirit, of resilience, and of the amazing people doing what they can to make a difference in a myriad of ways.

The end of the book has an enlightening chronology of Aids in Africa that left me devastated by its 30 year history and more strikingly its enormous and continuing devastation on a personal and global level.

I encourage everyone to get a copy of this book – to read the stories, to see the faces of the children, and to do some good while you turn the pages. All proceeds from the book go to organizations dedicated to helping Africa Aids Children.

Thank you Iris for thinking of me, and for sharing this incredible book, and for the compassion you show so openly to those in your life.



09 2011