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Famous NY Times Plum Cake (Torte)

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The famous NY Times Marian Burros plum cake recipe.

Summer plums are delicious on their own. But juicy, ripe plums baked into an easy plum cake tastes even better. This lovely plum cake recipe (plum torte) from the New York Times’s Marian Burros is famous for a reason. Here’s the recipe.

NY Times Plum Cake Recipe torte

The Best Plum Cake (Torte) Recipe of All

One of the most all-time popular recipes ever in the New York Times’s collection is the Marian Burros original plum torte recipe in the New York Times.

First published in September 1983, and then every subsequent September thereafter, the annual appearance of the NY Times’s plum cake recipe speaks to both its timelessness, and its success. When stone fruit season (peaches, apricots, plums, you know the drill) rolls around in late summer, this is the cake to bake. It’s easy prep time, simple ingredients, and foolproof method makes this a top summer dessert.

ingredients for plum cake - Italian plums, eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla

What’s the Difference: Plum Torte vs. Plum 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 cake (torte) made from combining a buttery cake batter and fresh seasonal plums.

Note that a torte is not a tart. A tart is a dish baked in a pastry shell.

Call it torte, call it cake. Either way, call it one of the most essential and delicious summer dessert recipes you will make all year.

unbaked nytimes plum torte cake in baking pan with sliced plums

Marian Burros’s Original Plum Torte: Recipe Notes

The New York Times’s 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 and a bit vague. At least it was to me: Which cake pan is best? Which are the right proportions? Will I need the same amount of plums for all the cake pans?

plum cake in cake pan with plums and cinnamon

Adapting The NY Times’s Plum Cake Recipe

My adapted recipe clarifies some common recipe questions into a clear, more precise recipe to follow. See below.

What Type of Plums to Use? How Many?

The plum cake recipe from the NY Times calls for 12 plums. The type of plum is unspecified, but the author means small Italian plums. This is the only way 12 plums, halved, will possibly fit in the cake pan.

If you cannot find Italian plums, you will use about 5 or 6 standard plums. Make sure the plums are ripe for the most flavor.

How to tell if your plums are ripe

A ripe plum will be soft to the touch, but not mushy. Do not use hard plums, which will be drier and tart instead of sweet.

NY Times Plum Torte in cake pan

What ingredients are in the NY Times plum cake recipe?

The ingredients are unchanged from the NY Times Marian Burros, except for the addition of vanilla extract, which rounds out the sweetness of the cake batter. You can easily mix it by hand in a large bowl with a whisk and spatula, but I prefer a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces; 1 stick; 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pitted purple plums, ripe and juicy
  • Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping

What Size Cake Pan to Use for Plum Cake

I prefer an 8- or 9-inch cake pan for this plum cake recipe.

I find that a 10-inch pan makes too flat a cake. A smaller cake pan gives a little more height to the cake. You will also only use about five or 6 standard plums or 10 to 12 Italian plums total.

How to Serve This Cake

Serve this plum cake at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream if you’d like. That said, you can never go wrong with a simple sprinkle of powdered sugar.

The NY Times Plum Torte Cake Recipe

Did you like this easy plum cake recipe? You’ll also like:

NY Times Plum Cake Recipe Torte

The N.Y. Times Plum Cake (Plum Torte)

One of the New York Times's most popular recipes: a sweet, perfect plum cake recipe, originally from Marian Burros, now adapted for your oven. Use an 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan for best results.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, european
Keywords:: cake, dessert, easy, marian burros, nytimes, plums, summer desserts, torte
Servings: 1 8" or 9" torte
Print

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 or 6 ripe plums, pitted and halved, or 12 small, ripe Italian plums
  • Whipped cream to serve (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8" or 9" springform or cake pan, and grease and line the bottom with a parchment paper round if using a cake pan.
  • In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, 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 in the flour mixture just until fully combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the plum halves, skin side up, on top of the cake. Feel free to crowd them in there; the cake will rise around them. Dust with a little sugar and the cinnamon.
  • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the cake, or until a cake tester comes out clean, and the plums are juicy and bubbling.
  • Let cool before releasing the cake from the springform pan or turning out onto a cake dish. Serve with fresh ice cream or whipped cream as you like.
    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.

Notes

Marian Burros's easy plum torte recipe, originally featured in the New York Times, is an absolutely essential late-summer dessert.
Ms. Burros's original cake recipe says you can bake this in an 8-, 9-, or 10-inch cake pan. But I prefer an 8-inch or 9-inch pan to give the cake a little more height. Baking times will vary slightly depending on which you choose. 

37 comments

  • 5 stars
    Perennial favorite of mine. Thank you for the clarification of the cake pan size and plums as I always thought the NYT recipe was unclear to inexperienced bakers.

  • 5 stars
    Fresh, easy. A favorite of friends and family.

  • Steve K.

    5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe dozens of times, almost never with plums. I tend to use berries: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. It also works extremely well with peaches, nectarines and apricots. (I’ve tried them all.) The only thing it does it work well with the strawberries, because strawberries throw off too much moisture. I like the whole idea that, as the cake bakes, the batter rises, the fruit sinks and gets crushed in the middle.
    I typically replace some of the white flour with whole wheat flour and with perhaps 10 or 15% almond meal. I also go 50% 50% with white and light brown sugar.
    It all works. This is an amazingly forgiving recipe. There is a reason why this is perhaps the most popular recipe that the New York Times ever published

  • Hi, can I make this without the plums, and just add a fruit sauce on top? Or do the plums/fruit in the cake effect how the cake sets/bakes? Thanks.

  • Hi. Just for clarification, do you bake it for 45 minutes or 60 minutes. There are two places in the recipe where it says 45 minutes and another says 1 hour. Thanks!

    Bob

  • Greta Linton

    Would it be possible to use less sugar?

    • Unpeeled

      I think that you could definitely cut things down a bit. Skip the dusting of sugar on top and just dust lightly with plain cinnamon. And I think removing up to 2 tbsp. sugar from the batter quantity would work. I worry that any more than that could make the batter taste too bland. Please let me know what you decide!

  • 5 stars
    I love the dough and will try it with different fruits.!! Thank you!!!

    • 5 stars
      I love this recipe. I make the batter in a food processor which is quick and easy. It is great made with grapes but has been good with all the fruits i have tried. I add almond extract. I’m also partial to a generous sprinkling of sugar on top. I like the idea of using half almond flour as someone suggested here. This is a simple cake to make but it is very flavorful. Moorish!

      • Unpeeled

        So glad you enjoyed and you are very right–it’s such a nice batter to swap in different fruits as you like.

    • Unpeeled

      That’s a great idea! This could be delicious with chopped apples this fall, or berries any time of year. Enjoy, and thanks for writing.

  • Katherine

    5 stars
    Great recipe! I made one and it was so easy I made another with plums and nectarines. I made brown butter and cooked it before using and added 1/2 tsp almond flavoring. Fantastic! This will be my go to recipe whenever local appropriate fruit is perfectly ripe.

  • I’ve tried this recipe several times trying to get it to look like the pictures. My plums sink to the bottom and get covered by the batter everytime. It does not have that cake look that I see in pictures online. It’s also soggy even though I bake it as instructed. I use a 9″ springform. Any suggestions? It is really delicious though, but soggy and not as pretty as the ones my German mother-in-law’s. She used the same recipe.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Cora. Ugh, sorry to hear that! Hmm…I am trying to think of a couple of diagnoses. One thought is that your cake pan is too deep. Try using a cake pan where the plums are not fully covered in batter. As for the sogginess, depending on how juicy your fruit is, you may need to bake the cake for a few extra minutes. Fruit can vary so wildly by type, moisture content, and size. Use your instinct, and keep me posted.

  • 5 stars
    A perfect little cake!

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