Monday, August 16, 2010

Brown Butter Plum Cake

The past few Thursdays, the moment I arrive at the farmers market, I gravitate towards the same stand to buy a basket of their insanely good plums.  I've never finished a basket, but this week, I had decided to make Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum Cake.  It had been on my list of things to make for about a year, and I had only been waiting for plums to be in season.

However, when I saw that Elissa of 17 and Baking had chosen brown butter as the theme of this month's Sugar High Friday, I knew that I wanted to 1) participate, and 2) make a dessert somehow involving both plums and brown butter.

My idea came to me pretty quicky: a Plum Upside-Down Brown Butter Pecan Cake.  For obvious reasons, I've shortened the name. 

I don't mean to brag, but this was a delicious cake.  The cake was tender and moist. and the ground pecans really highlighted the nutty notes of the brown butter without overpowering it.  The plums added a touch of tartness to an otherwise sweet cake, and the bright red slices looked very pretty embedded into the top of the cake (especially if you wait for it to cool completely before unmolding it, unlike me, who lost all the plums in the center of the cake and futilely tried to make it look nice again).  I think the cake would be amazing with apple or pear slices in the fall, but I also think that it would be the perfect simple everyday cake without the fruit, topped only with a dusting of powdered sugar.

I stored the cake in the fridge overnight, and was pleased to find that the cake was still moist the next morning, if a tad bit denser.  However, as it warmed to room temperature, the cake regained its tender crumb.

Brown Butter Plum Cake (or Plum Upside-Down Brown Butter Pecan Cake)

10 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 cup flour
1/2 cup ground pecans (about a heaping 1/2 cup of pecan halves)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 small or 4 medium plums, cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and cook until it becomes amber in color (click here for a tutorial on how to brown butter).  Pour most of it into a bowl or glass measuring cup and set aside to cool - leave a couple tablespoons of browned butter in the pot.  Add the plum slices and 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and toss until completely coated.  Arrange the plum slices in the bottom of the cake pan in concentric circles.

In a food processor, grind the pecans, adding a tablespoon or so of flour so that it doesn't become a nut butter.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ground pecans, baking powder, granulated sugar, and a 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  Whisk to combine.

In a measuring cup, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and cooled brown butter until combined.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the cake batter into the pan, gently spreading it evenly over the plums.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool for 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto a plate.  If some of the plum slices stick to the cake pan, just arrange them onto the cake again.

Keep refrigerated up to 3 days.

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