Doubly Delightful: Plum Cake with a Double Base

I recently bought a copy of German Baking Today. It's from Dr. Oetker, so it's the equivalent of a cookbook from a company like Pillsbury. The first recipe I tried was one I selected to help me use up more Italian plums. The "Plum cake with a double base" is a bar-like dessert comprised of butter cake and sliced plums on top of a shortbread crust.

I should mention that because this is a Dr. Oetker cookbook, some of the recipes call for Dr. Oetker products like custard powder or cake glaze. Many, including this plum cake, call for Dr. Oetker vanilla sugar. While I can easily buy packets of Dr. Oetker vanilla sugar (Rodman's in Northwest D.C. stocks both the naturally-flavored and artificially-flavored varieties), I don't really understand why this product exists -- it's just sugar plus flavoring. So I decided to substitute an equal weight of sugar (nine grams) and the scraped seeds of half of a vanilla bean for each sachet required for the recipe.

To make the shortbread base of this cake you mix softened butter with flour and sugar (and in my case, a bit of extra sugar and the seeds from half a vanilla bean instead of a sachet of vanilla sugar). You're suppose to roll out the dough on a greased 12-inch by 16-inch pan. The closest I had to a pan that size was a half-sheet baking pan that measures 12 by 18 inches. And lined my pan with parchment instead of greasing it and rolled out the dough directly onto the paper. I docked the crust and baked it briefly until it was lightly golden.

To make the cake layer, you beat softened butter with sugar (and a packet of vanilla sugar or some sugar + vanilla bean seeds); add eggs; and mix in flour and baking powder. You spread the cake batter over the cooled shortbread base and then arrange sliced plums on top. Because this is a large cake, it requires a lot of plums. The recipe specifies 1.5 kg of plums (about 3.25 pounds) and that was exactly what I needed to be able to cover the entire cake layer in rows of angled, overlapping plums. I baked the cake, sprinkled on coarse sugar after taking it out of the oven, and let it cool completely before slicing.
This cake was fantastic. I absolutely loved the combination of a crisp, buttery crust with vanilla cake and plums; it's like the best parts of a plum tart and plum cake combined together. I thought the cake was a little on the sweet side, but I didn't mind the sweetness -- and I was a fan of the crunch from the coarse sugar on top. This dessert, like the Purple Plum Tart I recently made, really showcases the flavor of plums and that is reason enough to sing its praises. But it's so much more -- it takes plums and makes them ever better. Tom said that this was his favorite plum dessert of the season. To me, it's a tie between this cake and the Finnish Purple Plum Tart from Beatrice Ojakangas; I would need a side-by-side taste test to decide which one I like better. But having more than one favorite Italian plum recipe from a single season is a wonderful problem to have!

Recipe: "Plum Cake with a Double Base" from German Baking Today by Dr. Oetker.

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