Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming: Crunchy-Topped Whole-Wheat Plum Cake

I took the last week off from work and from baking, as I was busy entertaining my parents while they were in town for a visit. (One minor exception: at my mother's request, I baked her a batch of madeleines. She wanted to know how my madeleines compare to those she recently had at Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas. I would not pretend for a second that my cakes could hope to compare to those from one of Robuchon's restaurants -- the man has not been declared France's Chef of the Century and awarded 26 Michelin stars for nothing. But I was happy to go through the exercise to satisfy her curiosity!)

It's good to get back to baking. Recently, I've been seeing a lot of coverage of recipes for Rosh Hashanah, so I decided to try one I saw online in the New York Times last week (although I believe that it will appear in the printed edition tomorrow). The Times had an article about plum cake, and a recipe. The pictured cake looked delicious, and the recipe was particularly interesting because it was made entirely with whole grain flour and contained relatively little sugar. I was able to find some beautiful organic black plums at Whole Foods, and I was excited to see how this cake would come out.

The recipe yields a relatively small amount of cake batter, so I had to spread it quite thin in the pan (in fact, the finished product is so flat that I think it's probably more accurate to characterize these as "bars" as opposed to "cake"). I cut the plums into flat slices instead of wedges, and I laid them out on top of the batter, overlapping in neat rows. I sprinkled sanding sugar on top of the fruit before baking, but it all dissolved in the oven. I sprinkled on a bit more sugar after the cake had cooled and before serving.

This cake looked even better than the one pictured in the Times, but the taste was completely blah. I thought the cake had very little flavor. It was screaming out for a little spice (I kept thinking that some cinnamon in the batter or some crumble on top could have done wonders), and because there is so little sugar in the recipe, I didn't think it was sweet enough. To add to the problem, the cake texture was a little heavy and dry. I'm not sure if this was because of the whole grain; I used King Arthur White Whole Grain Flour. The plums on top were sweet and tasted good, but the fruit texture was soggy and unappealing. The little bit of sanding sugar on top added only the slightest bit of crunchy texture. I could see how this might be passable with some sweetened whipped cream or ice cream, but on its own, this cake was very disappointing.

Recipe: "Crunchy-Topped Whole-Wheat Plum Cake" from the September 8, 2010 New York Times. See also the accompanying article, "Updating the Holiday Plum Cake."


Suelle said…
What a pity that you didn't enjoy this. It looks really good - especially the lovely dark colour of the plums.
Louise said…
I saw this in the Times too. Sounds like the original plum cake recipe shouldn't have been updated. :-)