I individually plucked and arranged each leaf, it signifies the passing of time
(you know I'm kidding, I just kind of plonked the cake down by these wilting flowers and liked the look)
Baking isn't necessarily what I turn to if I'm in a moody bad mood, despite the obvious benefits - you get to eat something very sweet and channel your energy into creating beauty out of raw ingredients - but there's also a lot of room for error and the amount of times I've magnified a bad mood by completely ruining a cake that I've made to cheer myself up would make you think twice about letting me call myself a food blogger. But anyway, I had a conversation with one of my best girls Kate over coffee yesterday which essentially went along the lines of "I'm so mooooody, today is not good" "bake a cake?" "oh yeah I like cake." "something with fruit in it maybe?" "yeah! Like, a plum cake. A cake with canned plums and peaches in it and...and cinnamon buttercream!" "alriiight!"
This heat-of-the-moment cake got downgraded to a more simple plum cake with a drizzle of icing sugar mixed with juice from the can of plums, but still. It did improve my mood. For what it's worth, I also freestyled an amazingly compelling potential subplot for Hanna Marin from Pretty Little Liars over that same coffee with Kate, which I then downgraded to "I am not a writer for the show so I guess I'll just like, carry on watching it." I do enjoy scheming, even if it's just a cake or a new life for a fictional character.
One thing that's always a good idea no matter what mood I'm in is re-reading my Nigella cookbooks. I picked up her important book How To Be A Domestic Goddess from my cookbook stack and it actually fell open right upon the perfect recipe for what I was thinking of - a very simple brown sugar cake with canned plums and ground almonds in it. I fiddled with it a very small amount, mostly by adding some cinnamon and plum juice to the icing because I'm obsessed with making everything smell like cinnamon at the moment, and the cake worked perfectly.
I discovered some electric beaters at the back of a cupboard in my apartment and tried using them to make the batter, and holy wow do they make a difference. I mean, every single cake that you've seen on this blog or in my book has been made with a wooden spoon or a whisk (including the pavlovas) and I can't belieeeeve how much lighter and volumised the beaters make the batter. It's kind of embarrassing, this cake turned out one and a half as big as mine usually do. I really like making cakes by hand but yeah, the results are, if nothing else, making me want to do some push ups or something so I can try and beat the machine.
winter plum cake with cinnamon plum icing
adapted a bit from a recipe in Nigella Lawson's important book How To Be A Domestic Goddess
125g soft butter
one cup brown sugar
one cup flour
one 70g packet of ground almonds
one and a half teaspoons baking powder
six plums from a tin of black doris plums, roughly chopped (and stones removed, obvs)
half a cup or so icing sugar
a tablespoon or so of the juice from the can of plums
Set your oven to 170 C and line the base of a 20cm springform tin with baking paper. Beat the butter and brown sugar together till it's all light and fluffy and delicious. Continue, beating in the eggs till they're completely incorporated. Fold in the almonds, flour, baking powder and plums. By the way, the canned plums are so soft that I just lift them out one at a time with a spoon, and use another spoon to carve off chunks into the cake batter. But by all means chop them on a chopping board.
Spatula all this into the caketin and bake for an hour and a quarter, although check it out at after an hour has gone by, all ovens are unique and special snowflakes.
Let the cake cool for a while in the tin, then run a knife around the inside of the tin and carefully transfer the cake to a plate to cool completely. Although, I could not be bothered and put the icing on the still-warm cake and it was totally fine, but general wisdom would suggest that you shouldn't do this. Either way, mix the icing sugar and a good dash of ground cinnamon with a little of the plum juice - a teaspoon at a time - until it forms something you can drizzle roughly over the cake with a teaspoon. You may get to a point where you've been so liberal with the drizzling that you actually have to give up and cover the whole thing, but whatever, it will be fine.
The almonds make it all moist and springy and tender, the plums taste so rich and dark and liqueur-ious that it seems bizarre that they're not actually in season right now, and the cinnamon in the dusky pink icing gives it a blast of warmth, that feeling you get when you rush inside from the cold and turn on the heater and feel your bones relax. It's just a very delicious cake and a good reason to stock up on canned fruit, just in case. You could ice this with something more involved, you could add more fruit, you could leave it plain, but the brief kick of pure sweetness from the icing brings it all together and also makes it look prettier. As for the rest of the plums, either eat them from the can, stir them into yoghurt, serve them with porridge, leave them to fester in the fridge and then shame-facedly dispose of them when you're quite sure no-one's home...Seriously though, I cannot get over how the cake was so much lighter and fluffier from being mixed up with the beaters. I shouldn't be surprised I guess, but nevertheless: sigh!
So uh, I guess the plot and subtext of today's blog post is that I am whiny and inobservant, but if you were observant yourself this would not be a surprise. I still love my job but currently while this particular film festival is on I'm working a zillion hours and so with it goes my ability to articulate myself, like flour slowly disappearing through a sieve. It's just two and a bit weeks though, and then I'll be back to my whiny and inobservant self!
Till then, prescribing myself many cups of tea and about 90% of this cake.
title from: this is a Lana Del Rey appreciation blog, apparently, and her song Young and Beautiful from the Great Gatsby soundtrack is typically haunting and exquisite.
Courtney Barnett, Avant Gardener. Another of my best girls Hannah introduced me to this song and I knew I'd love it from the title alone but it reeeeally is good.
Janine and the Mixtape, Hold Me. I've talked about this a bunch before but it always gets me.
Sugababes, Freak Like Me. Did you know this is one of the best songs in the world? Especially when it's very late at night and you're trying to close the bar at work and feel like you have zero upper body strength all of a sudden.
next time: Probably more cinnamon, to be honest, I can't get enough.