Saturday, September 5, 2009

Plum Good

Pluots, which look alot like red plums, are a cross between a plum and an apricot (70 percent plum, 30 percent apricot). They are very juicy and very sweet and their juice dribbles down your chin when you eat them. The difference is they have the perfumy, fragrant endnote of apricots. When deciding what to make with these newly acquired farmstand finds, I picked the simplest of cakes: a warm upside-down cake, flavored with crystallized ginger and topped with a simple mascarpone whipped cream. If you can't find pluots, by all means use plums, nectarines or peaches. As long as they're ripe, they'll make it a cake to remember.

Warm Pluot Upside-Down Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 10
Storage: refrigerated, loosely covered, for up to 3 days

Brown Sugar Ginger Pluot Topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 medium-size ripe Pluots, cut in half, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
2 tablespoons finely minced crystallized ginger

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk

Mascarpone Cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup mascarpone cream

Make the topping:
1. Put the butter chunks in a 9-inch round cake pan and place the pan over low heat. When the butter is melted, stir in the brown sugar until mostly blended (the brown sugar will not completely absorb the butter). Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
2. Arrange a circle of the plum wedges, overlapping them slightly, around the outer edge of the pan, on top of the brown sugar mixture. Arrange another circle of wedges in the center, covering the brown sugar topping completely. Sprinkle the minced ginger over the plum slices.

Make the cake batter:
3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Whisk until well blended.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat at high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is lightened in texture and color. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. At low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the milk in two additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until blended. Spoon the batter in large dollops over the plums. Smooth the batter into an even layer. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.
5. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan. Using pot holders, very carefully invert the cake onto a cake plate or platter.

Make the Mascarpone Cream:
6. Whip ingredients together at high speed until stiff peaks form.

7. Cut a slice of the warm or room temperature cake and serve it with a quenelle of Mascarpone Cream on top.