October 19, 2011

from Nishta: my friend Jessie, who guest-posted for me in the past (with recipes for ciabatta and challah), generously agreed to toss a few things from her pastry chef repertoire our way.  This plum cake is the first of two desserts inspired by her husband’s family.

I’ve been married to my husband, Ken, for two years now, but we’ve been together and a part of each other’s families for over ten years.  I knew early on in our relationship that he comes from a rather large, close-knit half Italian, half Polish family.  I just didn’t realize how large of a family until I attended my first Fila Family Reunion back in August.  The Filas represent the Polish half of Ken’s heritage, and there must have been at least 40 people there! Being the newcomer to such a large family, and coming from a small family myself, needless to say, I was quite nervous.

I’d met a lot of Ken’s family before and knew that they are all warm, welcoming, friendly people, but it didn’t ease my anxiety in the least.  The reunion was a potluck so I thought I would volunteer to bring dessert—it seemed to be the most logical thing to do.  Ken thought we should take it a step further and bring a traditional Polish dessert since some of his great aunts and uncles are actually from Poland.  I agreed that it was a great idea and thought it would be fun to learn a little about Polish desserts, of which I knew nothing about.  It was an adventure in research and execution, I must say.  But the outcome was delicious and both desserts (yes, I brought two, because I’m an over-achiever, and I wanted to impress my new family members) were a big hit.

The recipes I found online are adaptations of the traditional Polish ones.  Some of the ingredients are difficult to find in the U.S., so the recipes have been tweaked to make it easier on the home cook, which I, for one, appreciated.  I then took the recipes and tweaked them myself to enhance the flavors and presentations.

The plum cake I kept simple, adding orange zest and allspice for flavor.  You could change the presentation and make individual cakes just as easily as making one big cake:  butter 10-6 ounce ramekins, follow the cake recipe below and fill each ramekin halfway up with batter.  Press one half of a plum in each ramekin, top with the clove topping, and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown.


Editor’s note: The second of Jessie’s recipes from the Fila family reunion, for individual, Polish-style cheesecakes, will be published as we get closer to the holidays—I think they will be perfect for Christmas!

This plum cake, however, I wanted to blog about while the fruit’s season was still going strong.  I messed with Jessie’s instructions a bit, slicing the plums instead of simply halving them, because the ones I was working with had some bruised spots.  

Fair warning: this cake will make your house smell FANTASTIC.  Who needs a scented candle when you can have cake?  Thanks Jessie!


2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon allspice
1 cup sugar, divided use
1 stick butter, softened, plus 3 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
¾ cup whole milk
Zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6-8 fresh black plums*, pitted and halved, but not peeled
¼ teaspoon cloves

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly coat a 13” x 9” pan with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, allspice, and ¾ cup of sugar.  Add the 1 stick of softened butter and about half of the milk and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is crumbly.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining milk with the orange zest, eggs, and vanilla.  Add to the mixture in the bowl in three stages, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and place the plums on top, cut side up.  Push the fruit into the batter slightly.

Combine the remaining ¼ cup of sugar with the cloves.  Using your fingers, rub the 3 Tablespoons of cold, cubed butter into the sugar mixture.  Sprinkle over the plums.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until the cake is golden brown on top.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan completely before cutting and serving.

*The plums can be substituted with any stone fruit, such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, or even cherries.

 Jessie Fila fell in love with baking the summer after high school graduation when boredom led to a discovery that she is very good at pastry!  After attending college in Florida, she traveled to New York to complete her Associates Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from The Culinary Institute of America.  She loves dessert because it’s often the most memorable part of any meal, and can easily make or break a diner’s experience.  She currently works at The Schoolhouse at Cannondale in Wilton, Connecticut.  At home on days off, she cooks to relax and to feed her lucky husband Ken.


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