Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

Italian plums featured in a homey cake

Italian plums, also called prune plums, bring a sweet-tart flavor to this buttery skillet cake. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)
Recipe: Easy dessert is baked in a cast-iron skillet

When a windfall of summer fruit comes my way, I typically freeze it if I can't use it all immediately. The trick is remembering to use the frozen fruit so there will be some room in the freezer for the next windfall.

About a month ago I received a bag of Italian plums from a backyard tree. Smaller and less juicy than typical plums, these oval plums freeze very well. They are freestone, too, and so can be halved and pitted easily. I filled a quart bag with the fruit.

This past week I was paging through my
"Bake from Scratch Vol. 3" cookbook and found the perfect recipe for those plums: a skillet cake that could be either a dessert or a brunch cake. We had it with coffee in the morning.

This recipe really could be made with any stone fruit. The easier-to-find black plums would be delicious, though I think I'd try to find the firmest (yet still ripe) ones I could for this, just to avoid adding too much juice to the cake.

If making this for brunch again, I think I'd cut back the sugar just a bit and bump up the spices: The cardamom included here is lovely but I wanted a little more. (Use allspice if you don't have cardamom handy.) The amounts printed here are the original measurements.

Another note: Don't try softening the butter in the microwave -- it'll melt, and you won't be able to cream it with the sugar. Just leave it for a bit on the kitchen counter; with our current weather, it'll soften up right away, even indoors.

Plum Skillet Cake
From a recipe by Kelsey Siemens, in "Bake from Scratch: Vol. 3"
Serves 8

Ingredients :

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for buttering pan
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
The still-frozen plum halves sit on top of the cake batter. Press
them into the batter just a bit before adding the cinnamon-
sugar topping.
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or allspice)
1/3 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup low-fat or full-fat sour cream
12 to 16 Italian plums, halved and pitted (if frozen, don't defrost before baking)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for topping
Powdered sugar for serving, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar until fluffy, a couple of minutes. Add 1 egg at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cardamom or allspice, and salt. Stir about half of this mixture into the butter mixture until thoroughly combined. Beat in the sour cream, then gradually add the rest of the flour mixture until thoroughly incorporated.

Spread batter in the prepared skillet. Arrange the plum halves over the batter, cut side down. You may need more or less, depending on the size of your pan and your plums. (I used 32 halves in a 10-inch pan.)

Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Sprinkle the cooling cake with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.


0 comments have been posted.

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Local News

Ad for California Local

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

Contact Us

Send us a gardening question, a post suggestion or information about an upcoming event.