Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Happy Hungarian Plum Cake

Are Hungarians always happy? They would be if they're having this lovely plum cake, especially with a cup of their national drink, which is, according to ItsHungarian, "a strong mocha with a high level of caffeine, a kind of Italian espresso, which is called kávé, presszókávé, or fekete (strong black coffee)."

The reason for making this cake, other than it's cake, is that our friends J&K were having a movie night featuring The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson's kitschy but charming ode to the stories of Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig. Movie night is always accompanied by a dinner that is more-or-less themed to go with the movie. This one was to be a potluck featuring a Hungarian chicken paprikash as the main course, and since dessert is one of the toughest dishes to make Dave-safe, I volunteered to bring that.

With plums at their peak this time of year, a cake, tart or crostata of some sort seemed in order. Thumbing through cookbooks and websites turned up a slew of traditional Hungarian plum cakes (who knew?) that could be adapted to be lactose-free yet still satisfying for those of us fortunate enough to be lactose tolerant.

I was making a trip to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market anyway, and I knew that Anthony and Carol would have a good selection of plums from their organic orchard at Ayers Creek Farm. Sampling what they hand brought that week, I fell in love with the perfumey, sweet flavor of the delicately blushing mirabelles and bought a couple of dozen. Needless to say, the cake was beautiful and a hit with the movie-viewing crew.

Happy Hungarian Plum Cake

Butter or margarine for greasing the pan
1 Tbsp. flour, also for the pan
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 3/4 c. sugar, plus addt'l. 2 Tbsp.
4 eggs
1 3/4 c. milk or lactose-free milk
2/3 c. vegetable oil (like grape seed, etc.)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 dozen ripe plums, halved and pitted
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 375°.

Grease a 13-inch by 18-inch baking pan* with the butter or margarine, then add the 1 Tbsp. of flour and shake the pan so it coats the bottom and sides

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a large mixing bowl, whisk 1 3/4 c. sugar and the eggs together until smooth. Stir in milk, oil and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir to combine until it becomes a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Arrange the plum halves, cut sides down, evenly over batter. Combine remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar with the cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the top of the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 50 min.-1 hr.

* This recipe can be halved and baked in a 9-inch by 12-inch baking pan.

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