Once again it's a Thursday with Dorie for me. The recipe for this week was the Dimply Plum Cake, chosen by Michelle of Bake-en. Thanks, Michelle!
I've stopped by the picture of this cake in Dorie's book several times. It just looks so cute and, well, dimply. And plummy. So I was psyched to make it. But it turned out only so-so. Maybe you folks can help me figure out how to make a better one next time.
Thanks to the P&Q section on Tuesdays with Dorie, I'd heard that fitting 16 regular-sized plum halves into an 8x8 inch square pan didn't work so well. So, I decided to go with a 9x9 inch pan. This meant increasing the recipe for the cake batter to 1.25 times as much. I also subbed in a little bit of whole wheat flour (about 1/2 cup out of a scant 2 cups). Stayed with cardamom and orange zest for flavoring, but added about 1/4 tsp. ground ginger (couldn't really taste it, though). Also tossed in about 2 tablespoons of dried buttermilk powder for taste and tenderness. My version would have called for 15 tablespoons of light brown sugar; I reduced it to 11 tablespoons because I don't like things too sweet. The result was a nice, thick, light brown batter. Four red plums and four black plums, sliced in half, fit perfectly into the pan. A sprinkle of superfine baking sugar over the top and I was ready to go!
After 45 minutes of baking, the top and edges of the cake were turning brown, but the fruit was barely warm. I took it out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes, then poked it in a few places with a thin paring knife. Plums -- not done. Middle of cake -- a bit underdone. Drat. I had turned off the oven, so I turned it back on to a lower heat (325) and put the cake back in for about 10 minutes. By that time the edges were getting very close to burnt, but at least the plums had heated up. Out it came. To tell you the truth, it didn't look as pretty when it came out as it had going in! The fruit was all dry and the yellow flesh of the red plums had turned brown. Sigh.
As it cooled, some juice collected in the center of the plums. I brushed that over the top of the plums. Now they looked a little nicer. Once it had cooled to warm, I tried a piece. The cake was really dry and crumbly, and the plums were only just barely cooked and too firm for my taste. It improved a bit upon sitting overnight, but still had the same problems. The cake near the plums did get more moist, but overall, still a disappointment.
The flavor of the cake was delightful, though.
I still love the idea of this cake, but am looking for a version I'll like more. Here are some of my thoughts:
Problem #1: Cake overcooked while plums are underdone. Possible solutions: slice plums thinner? Pre-cook them, as in the Cooks' Illustrated recipe posted by Obsessed with Baking?
Problem #2: Edges and bottom of cake too brown. Probably because I used a very dark-colored pan. Possible solutions: decrease oven temperature, place pan on an insulated baking sheet, wrap edges of pan with "magic cake" insulating strips?
Problem #3: Cake recipe itself may be too dry. Possible solutions: add more butter and/or oil? Add a thick liquid, such as sour cream, drained yogurt, Greek yogurt, pureed ricotta or cottage cheese? How much could I add?
Jim says he doesn't like the big plum halves and would prefer smaller pieces of fruit. I liked the big pieces. Well, I could always do half the cake "my way" and half "his way!" Or, what about baking in muffin tins, like some of the other TWDers used? Some his way, some my way. Hmmm...