, , , , , , , ,


Plums are everywhere and it seems futile to resist. Although I managed it. Something about the skins that pulls one off balance. You should eat them bare, gnaw around the stone and savour the juice as it cascades down your arm. In the end, I cooked with apriums. Yes, I know it sounds more like an edible food-like substance (paraphrazing Michael Pollen) but it is the real thing. They have the rich wateriness of plums, the sour, clingy skin, but then there is apricot. They taste like the sibling of nectarines without the solidness of the flesh. Are we all clear then?

I was hellbent on making an upside down cake, so here I am. And it’s been an upside down few weeks. If I was part of the Mister Men series I would probably be upside down (they would put me in trousers, obviously) as I went about my business. I lost my camera. This was a camera I had found about two years ago. I put up posters in the area advertizing its whereabouts and when no one claimed it, I adopted it. It was a happy union. I took all the pictures for the blog with it. It accompanied me everywhere. And then suddenly it was gone – it was absolutely nowhere. I returned to gaps and crevices hoping to feel its bulky angles. It’s true what the comedian Lee Evans said: when you lose something you keep going back to the same place to look for it, the mind refusing to acknowledge you’ve just been there. Hands run over surfaces, feeling blindly behind books, fingers slide into nooks, and slide out again. I retraced my steps like an amateur sleuth.


I went to the doctor’s and sidled up to the receptionist with my query – I had all the details ready: I may have left my camera in the bathroom on my last visit. But someone was having a panic attack. This news was relayed to the assembled company with the words “You f******g assholes, she’s passed out!” According to the receptionist, now on the phone to emergency services, this man’s girlfriend had been having a panic attack, had left and was now sitting in the car outside, unconscious. Doctors and nurses spilled through the doors with wheelchairs and stethoscopes; they ran as if out of a burning building. It was mayhem. Had any of them seen my camera? It seemed not a good time to ask.

The girl who refrigerates the stool samples ran past me. Nobody was left. A few days later I encountered a man who was dispensing free hugs outside the farmers’ market. That is not me with the cute butt and sawn-off trousers, by the way. It was me later. He grasped me like a lumberjack. He didn’t speak but I felt as if he knew everything. What a difference it would make, I thought, if they had people like that around, parked on street corners, standing by subway tunnels, in the waiting room at the doctor’s. Around for when everything turns upside down.


Upside Down Cake with Stone Fruit

Adapted (everso slightly) from Pastry Studio

There is such a dizzying array of plums about in LA at the moment that it makes sense to use them here, or you could go for the hybridized pluots or apriums (as I did). However, this recipe was originally intended for apricots, and I suspect it would work equally well with other stone fruit too; anything that gives up its juice in a charitable manner. Nectarines, peaches and the like. The use of honey in the caramel makes quite a difference to the overall taste, and brings out the piquancy of the fruit. 

Serves 8

For the fruit caramel

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon cinnamon

4 – 6 plums (depending on size)

2 – 3 tablespoons toasted flaked almonds

For the cake

140g (1 cup) flour ( this could be rice flour etc)

40g (½ cup) toasted flaked almonds

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

115g (8 tbs) butter at room temperature

150g (¾ cup) caster sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

120 ml (1/2 cup) milk at room temperature

2 tablespoons honey, to glaze

Preheat oven to 350F/190C.  Lightly grease a 10 inch (25cm) cake tin.

For the fruit caramel layer, put the honey, butter and cinnamon in a saucepan and heat until melted. Pour into the bottom of the cake pan, then lift the pan and swirl to distribute evenly.

Slice the plums in half, remove the stones, and then cut the fruit into slices (or quarters), and fan them out on top of the honey butter mixture. Make sure that whatever fruit you use covers the bottom in a substantial layer, since it will cook down while baking. Fill in the gaps with a sprinkle of toasted almonds.

For the cake batter, place the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Whizz until the almonds are ground but with some texture still. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and almond extracts if using and blend. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl and mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Add a third of the flour mixture alternately with half the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Don’t overmix. Spread the batter evenly over the fruit.

Bake until a toothpick tests clean, about 42 – 45 minutes. The sides of the cake will have started to shrink away from the sides of the pan and it will feel soft and springy to the touch. Place on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the cake carefully using a plate – beware of any cascading hot juices.

Warm 2 tablespoons of the honey and brush on to the surface of the cake to glaze. Cool completely or serve at room temperature, as you would a pudding, with some cream of course.

Three other recipes that involve stone fruit:

Chocolate and apricot tart

Peach and amaretti tarte tatin

Sauteed plums and chocolate pudding

Another use for honey:

Quince paste and Manchego