For about two weeks at the end of August/beginning of September, if you are very lucky, your market will carry these beautiful little ovoid purple plums. No matter what the temperature is outside, they always signify the start of autumn to me.
For years, I would make a simple butter cake covered with these plums, but a couple of years ago I found a recipe in the Wall Street Journal for a caramelized plum and rosemary polenta pound cake that made me rethink how I wanted to use my bounty. The cake is slightly grainy from the stone-ground cornmeal and the sweet/tart cooked plums with the rosemary and cognac makes for a wonderful contrast. The cake gets even better by the second day as the flavors deepen and the cake gets moister.
Caramelized Plum and Rosemary Polenta Pound Cake
Yield: One pound cake serving 8-10 people
½ pound unsalted butter, plus more for buttering loaf pan
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons cognac (or any brandy)
Prepared plums (recipe below)
Note: All ingredients should be at room temperature
1. Butter a 5½x 10-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray with a baking spray with flour. Set pan aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, cornmeal and salt.
4. Cream together butter, rosemary, lemon zest and sugar until very light and fluffy.
5. Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
6. Beat in flour mixture, alternating with cognac, just until well-combined. Spoon 2/3 of batter into pan. Evenly distribute one-quarter of prepared plums over batter. If there is a great deal of liquid, strain off the plums first. Add rest of the batter. Spread remaining fruit over the top and, using a spoon or fork, push pieces down a little.
7. Bake for 75 minutes or until done, testing with a toothpick after 60 minutes. Cake should be nicely brown, pulling away from the edges of the pan and not too dry. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto your hand or a rack and quickly re-invert it onto another rack.
8. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The cake is also delicious sliced and toasted in a toaster oven or in the oven and improves with age)
Total Time:10 minutes
6 large plums (or 8-10 if they are very small) pitted and cut into 6-8 wedges each
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons cognac (or rum or any brandy)
In a medium saucepan, cook plums with sugar, salt, lemon zest and rosemary over medium heat until fruit is very soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cognac.