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There is Love and a Walnut Plum Cake

October 19, 2011

I walked almost a mile–the distance between our local farmers market and my house–with my face buried in a brown bag. I cradled my treasure between my hands and inhaled deeply with each step, blissfully unaware of the urban chaos that surrounded me.

Fresh plums!

Safely home and out of harms way, I inspected my lot of Stanley plums. Their deep blue skins reminded me of my favorite dark rinse jeans. They were firm enough to remain whole if baked, but soft enough to require careful handling. The prettiest ones were reserved for eating out of hand; the rest went into this cake.

When baking with plums, I prefer tarts by a large margin; crisps, crumbles and the lot can mask the flavor of my favorite fall fruit. But this cake wasn’t about what I liked. I was making it for Greg. He was hosting a business meeting at our home the following morning and feared that the sugar-loving attendees would balk at the site of his favorite yogurt, fruit, and granola spread. I offered to bake a coffee cake. The gesture, though not an entirely selfless one given my love for baking, had little to do with the tastes and preferences of his guests. It was my way of saying, “There has been too much tension between us lately. You’re stressed and dissatisfied with your work. I’m letting my gremlins get the best of me. We’re grating on each other, and it scares me sometimes. But we’ve been down this bumpy road before. We’ll find our way back to each other, because I still love you. And I know that you love me too.” Yes, a cake, even the simplest labor of love, can speak volumes. Or so I hoped.

In the flurry of preparations and emotions, I forgot to snap a picture of the finished cake in its entirety. The friend with the good personality and not the beauty pageant winner, my cake resembled a pound cake with dark patches lurking beneath its golden skin. The plums I’d so carefully arranged on top sank into the cake. Only when it was sliced did the inky fruit give itself away, a layer of rich plum butter interrupting the moist, dense cake. The amber edges were slightly crisp and with the toasted walnuts added a satisfying contrast to the smooth plums. I was smitten with her from the first bite.

Later that evening, Greg and I enjoyed the last two slices of “breakfast” cake served alongside a dollop of crème fraîche. (Calling the sumptuous cake “breakfast” might be a bit of a stretch, unless, like one of Greg’s colleagues, you’re accustomed to starting your day with Cocoa Pebbles.) Greg recounted the highlights–and lowlights–of his meeting. I listened attentively, offering advice only when asked. The tension between us had softened though it remained, like the plums, just below the surface. There was more to say–more than my humble nutty plum cake could say. But there was love.

Walnut Plum Cake


    1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (You can substitute all-purpose flour. The cake will be brighter in color, but a bit less tender.)
    1/4 cup almond meal
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 cup canola oil
    1/2 cup plain yogurt
    1/4 cup milk
    1 lemon, zest and 2 tablespoons juice
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 large egg
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 scant pint of plums, halved and pitted (I saved a few for eating out of hand.)
    1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line an 8-inch cake pan or spring form pan with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk together flour, almond meal, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl.
  4. In a second bowl, whisk together the oil, yogurt, milk, lemon juice and zest, egg, and sugar.
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ones. Stir until just combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the plums over the batter in a single layer and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the cake is firm to touch and a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Remove the paper pan liner and serve.

The Double Plum Crostata remains my favorite fruit dessert this fall.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2011 8:00 am

    I loved this and the photographs! Looks really yummy!!

  2. October 20, 2011 10:54 am

    Thank you Purabi! I wish you the best of luck teaching your first culinary class next month.

  3. October 20, 2011 7:13 pm

    This looks delicious! And totally acceptable to eat for breakfast for that matter 🙂

    Heck, after birthdays I eat birthday cake for breakfast til it’s gone!

  4. October 25, 2011 7:04 pm

    What a beautiful love letter to Greg. Tell him I said he is a lucky man!

    • October 26, 2011 4:19 pm

      Saltandserenity, I tell him that all the time 😉

      Just got back from visiting your blog–Day 8 in Umbria did not disappoint. What an amazing journey!

  5. October 25, 2011 9:10 pm

    Hey, thanks for stopping by my site to leave a note. I popped over here to check out your blog and was smitten by what I saw. Beautiful photos and striking recipes. I’m curious to try those chocolate chip cookies. Cheers from PA!

    • October 26, 2011 4:22 pm

      Aw shucks, thank you Madame Fromage! And thanks too for taking the time to visit. Let me know how the cookies turn out if you try them.

  6. October 26, 2011 5:11 pm

    Your first two parafraphs read like a poem, I found myself deep in imagination about plums blue like jeans! This looks yummy, I like how you have large chunks of fruit in your cake, I prefer larger gems of fruit than small specks, that way you still get to enjoy the beauty of the fruit within as itself rather than it being totally lost in amalgamation with the batter. Really enjoying your blog. Poppy

    • October 27, 2011 9:18 am

      Poppy, thank you, I’m flattered to think that my writing could ever pass for poetry.

      As for the fruit–I feel exactly the same way! We were served an apple cake just a few nights ago–the tiny apply slivers were completely swallowed up by the cake.

  7. Nicole permalink
    September 9, 2016 9:10 pm

    Hi Bob. I’m glad I stumbled upon your site! I have to agree with one comment; reading this post is like reading Alice Waters’ books – such imagery.

    Your cake sounds very similar to my Mom’s recipe. She used prune or Italian plums. Are they similar to the Stanley plums you use? She topped hers with warmed apricot or raspberry jam when it came out of the oven. She didn’t use walnuts, so I’m looking forward to that substitution. I wonder how this cake freezes? We have a big dinner party and I cannot bake the day of. What do you suggest?

    Thanks for the recipe and I will start following you.


  1. A Helping of Gratitude and Pinot Poached Plums « Bob Vivant

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