Hello again. I haven't done a cake post for ages. I had thought to do one every Saturday (which is frequently Cakeday here at StashAvalanche Towers) but if I came up with the same old yogurt cake every week (which I pretty much do because I could eat it nearly forever) you'd soon leave me for a more inspiring blogger.
But for a change, and to celebrate the appearance of nectarines at Lidl, I made a nectarine cake this afternoon. I wanted to make this yesterday but things were a bit mad and I didn't have time.
A long while ago I bought The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden (ISBN 0670802387) and found a recipe for Swetschkenkuchen which is a cross between a cake and a tart topped with plums. Swetschke, as far as I can work out, is the German name for Damson but perhaps an anglo-german botanist can put me right on that one. So. Damson cake.
I've never been that into cooked plums so I mostly make this with nectarines but you can pretty much use anything. I've also tried apricots (better than nectarines but more expensive), bananas (no acidity so failed for me), grapes (nice but didn't really taste of anything specific), gooseberries (good) and frozen mixed berries (good). I have a vague feeling I might have also tried rhubarb, but I can't remember how it turned out.
I managed to drop a punnet of nectarines on the floor yesterday while trying to get them into the fruit bowl so I thought I should do something with them before the bruising made them uninviting, even though they could do with a few days to develop some flavour (the hope here was that by cooking them, they might actually taste nectarine-y). I made double quantity because I wanted to use the whole punnet, and threw in some grapes and a chopped up apple, so it was nearly fruit salad cake, but as I said you can pretty much make your own variation. And although the fruit was under-ripe and therefore didn't soften a great deal, it turned out ok. Definitely edible, as Mr G would say..
Along with the versatility of the cake flavours, this is so easy and quick to throw together that before I'd 'invented' my yoghurt cake, this was our standard Saturday cake.
Here's the recipe direct from the book:
Swetschkenkuchen (aka Plum tart) - The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden
125g (4.5oz) caster sugar
175g (6oz) self-raising flour (or plain flour mixed with half a teaspoon baking powder
75g (3oz) unsalted butter, cold
1 small egg, beaten
1 tablespoon cognac
750g (1.5 lb) pitted plums
Mix half of the sugar with the flour. Cut the cold butter into pieces and rub it into the butter and sugar. Then mix in the egg (remove half the white if you only have a large egg) and cognac, and work briefly with your hand - just enough to bind the pasty together - adding a little flour if it is too sticky. Take lumps of pastry and press into a 25cm (10") baking tray or tart pan. Arrange the fruit on the tray tightly packed cut side up on top of the pastry, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake in a preheated oven (375 Fahrenheit, 190 Centigrade, gas mark 5) for 50 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the plums are very soft. The sugar draws out the plum juices which run into the pastry and make it rise up between the plums so that these are embedded in the light pastry. Serve hot or cold sprinkled with icing sugar.
I usually have quite a wet mixture because I buy medium eggs and it seems rather stupid to throw out half the egg white, and also because my 'tablespoon' of cognac usually ends up being a good splosh. So to flatten it in the pan, I dollop it in and then sprinkle it with ground almonds (a couple of tablespoons to start) and then gently press it out with my fingers. If it starts sticking again, I just add a bit more ground almonds. You could also use crushed sponge fingers or even flour (but I think you might get a strange floury goo if you used a lot). Don't forget, by the way, that the alcohol in the cognac will evaporate in the oven, so it will be fine for kids if you worry about that sort of thing. Alternatively you could use milk and a bit of vanilla extract. The key to getting a good result is to make sure the fruit makes lots of juice which in turn will do it's thing in the pastry, so I find too hot an oven doesn't work (fruit dries out) and pricking any berry type fruit helps.
I used 9 nectarines for the cake I made today, and I chopped them up because they were too green to get off the stone in nice segments, but otherwise I would cut the fruit into quarters or eights and arrange them in fancy circles. It's a bit hit and miss knowing how much fruit to use; with nectarines 3 to 4 will probably to you for the recipe quoted above. You could also glaze the finished cake with apricot jam (good for making a simple cake look fancy when you want to take a present to someone) or add a crumble topping (but I'm not a big crumble-on-cake fan).
This cake is best eaten on the day it's made. The (what Claudia Roden calls) pastry is more like a dry-ish sponge and it quickly loses it's moisture; it gets more like a crumbly biscuit if you keep it a day or two. But either way, it's delicious, and whilst cake for breakfast is not really something I do, it is one cake that I definitely eat without hesitation (if there's any left over, that is).