The one and only.
One of the most all-time popular recipes ever published in the New York Times Marian Burros’s plum torte recipe. First published in September 1983, and then every following September thereafter, the N.Y. Times’s plum cake recipe’s annual appearance speaks to both its timelessness, and it’s success.
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What’s the Difference: Torte vs. Cake
Wondering what, exactly, is a torte? Definitions vary, but generally, a torte is a short, smallish, usually rich or fancy cake-esque dessert, generally of European origin or inspiration. Food52 did a whole article on it that you can check out. A torte is a cake. But not all cakes are tortes. I know. Hang in there.
For purposes of this recipe, torte and cake can be used interchangeably. This is a smallish, single-layer dessert (torte) made from combining a buttery cake batter and fresh seasonal plums (cake).
Call it torte, call it cake. Either way, call it one of the most essential and delicious dessert recipes you will make all year.
Recipe Notes: The N.Y. Times Plum Cake (or Torte, You Decide)
This plum cake recipe works so well for several reasons. First, the flavor is absolutely delicious. A simple vanilla cake batter bakes around juicy, sweet plums, which bake into sweet, red-purple goodness.
Second, the recipe is flexible. The Times’s version is written as “3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar,” and allows bakers to use an eight-, nine- or 10-inch cake pan. While flexible, I do think that this kind of permissiveness can also be confusing. At least it was to me. Which is best? Which are the right proportions? Will I need the same amount of plums for all the cake pans?
My adapted recipe clarifies some of those questions into a clear, more precise recipe to follow. For example, the N.Y. Times’s recipe calls for 12 plums. Either plums have gotten a lot bigger since 1983, or you actually need a lot less. If you do a 10-inch cake pan, you may be able to squeeeeeze all those plums onto the batter, but probably not. A 10-inch cake will also be a very thin cake.
So I prefer an eight- or nine-inch cake pan. This gives a little more height to the cake. You will also only use about five or 6 plums, total. The ingredients are unchanged, except for the addition of vanilla extract, which rounds out the sweetness of the cake batter.
Did you make this plum cake recipe? How did it turn out? Share below.
The New York Times's Plum Torte
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 5 or 6 ripe plums, pitted and halved
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8" or 9" springform or cake pan, and line the bottom with a parchment round if using a cake pan.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth and light. Scrape the bowl again.
- Add the salt, baking powder, and flour, and mix just until fully combined.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan. Arrange the plum halves, skin side up, on top of the cake. Dust with cinnamon.
- Bake approximately one hour, or until a cake tester comes out of the cake batter portion clean, and the plums are juicy and bubbling.
- Let fully cool before releasing the cake from the springform pan or turning out onto a dish. PRO TIP: A springform pan is preferable because the batter is a bit delicate. But if you are turning this cake out from a regular cake pan, never fear. Place a cooling rack directly over the cake pan, then in one swift, meaningful motion, flip the cake onto the rack. Remove the parchment. Then immediately flip it right side up again onto the serving plate.