“This is Just to Say:” aka a post on almond-plum buckle

almond-plum buckle, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

Now is the time for plums, sweet and juicy and oh so tempting. Plums are so inviting that they are the subject of William Carlos Wlliam’s famous poem, This is Just to Say, which contains the famous lines, “I have eaten/ the plums/ that were in/ the icebox/ and which/ you were probably/ saving/ for breakfast/ Forgive me/ they were delicious/ so sweet/ and so cold”

Everytime I think about plums, I think about those lines (I’m a writer AND a foodie, what can I say?). I also think about the plum tree in my childhood backyard, frilly with the lace of blossoms in spring, and then laden with the shiny purple fruit in summer, hanging like so many extravagant earrings off the branches. We fought the birds for the juiciest fruit. “A bird nibbled on that one. It’s probably the tastiest one of all.” We were so greedy for the fruit that we cut out the bird bites and ate the rest of the fruit. Yes, the birds knew how to pick the best plums. Eventually, the branches, bent heavy with the fruit, straightened out until the tree became utterly normal looking by winter. Plums and their trees can only be magical for so long, I guess.

Alas, I developed an allergy to plums and all stone fruit a few years ago, and now I can only indulge in them when they are cooked. So I keep my eyes peeled for a good plum recipe.

almond-plum buckle

Here is a good recipe. It is called an almond-plum buckle (and I think you can make it with other fruit to great success). I have made it a few times now, to great acclaim. It is a fairly easy cake to make, with a very fun name, “buckle.” (A buckle is a dessert cake that has fruit placed on top of cake batter…durring baking the cake rises and the fruit “buckles” in, hence the name “buckle.”) One time, I didn’t have almond extract, so I did what I love to do: I adapted the recipe. I put a splash of kirschwasser in place of almond extract, and it was just delicious, the hint of cherry flavor from the brandy gave the almond and plums an extra punch. But it’s also quite excellent according to the original recipe (found on epicurious).


Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1/2 cup whole almonds (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (one time I put in a splash of cherry brandy in place of almond extract and it worked quite well)

1 1/4 pounds plums (about 8 medium), halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (you will actually need a LOT fewer plums than this! I have never used more than 4 medium plums for this recipe, where did they get EIGHT?)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper round.

Finely grind almonds in processor. Transfer to medium bowl; whisk in flour, baking powder, and salt. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add 1 cup sugar; beat until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extract, then flour mixture just until incorporated.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly and smooth top with spatula. Gently press plum slices, flesh side down, into batter in spoke pattern around outer rim and center of cake, placing close together. Mix cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle over plums.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Run small knife between cake and pan sides to loosen. Invert cake onto platter; remove parchment paper. Place another platter atop cake. Using both hands, hold both platters firmly together and invert cake, plum side up. Cool cake completely. Cut into wedges.

almond-plum buckle

p.s. Someone who ate this cake said it reminded her of Marion Burros’ famous plum torte. What–I wondered, was this recipe to end all recipes? I googled “marion burros plum tarte recipe” and found this fantastic write up on The Wednesday Chef. I am so utterly intrigued and must try this out. Oh, and still make time to make the clafouti I’ve been dying to try! And post all the food write ups I’ve got queued up! Oh, and write my novel!

14 responses to ““This is Just to Say:” aka a post on almond-plum buckle

  1. That someone would be me, Bedouina. Truth be told, I have never made the Burros plum torte. I just saved the recipe for about 10 years until deciding one day that I wasn’t going to make it, so pitch it. I just don’t want to be accused of having a lame palate – Christine’s buckle today was lovely, with its almond flavoring and bits of ground almond giving the batter texture. The reviews on the Burros torte were tepid at best.

    I usually blog Middle East peace topics, but when that gets too hopeless, I blog Middle Eastern food. My motto: when there’s no hope left, you can always make dinner. My collected recipes here. Sorry for the blog “pimping” but I couldn’t resist…

  2. Those photographs are absolutely STUNNING.

    I have a thing against a lot of cooked fruit. I love raisins from the box, but will not eat a pastry with raisins in it. They get too mushy. I feel somewhat the same about plums. I love fresh plums, but cooked plums feel wrong. But these photos are awfully tempting… it looks incredibly delicious. I would definitely eat that!

  3. you will not even eat a cheeseboard scone with currants in it? 😦 i love cooked fruit. i love them fresh, too…!

  4. Leila: that’s cool, I am all up for the Middle Eastern food connection! My hubby’s father grew up in Iraq, and one of the first things I did was ask my mother-in-law for all the family recipes so that I could cook all the foods my husband loves. And then I fell in love with all the food, too!

  5. Mmm, this looks yummy! I made a browned butter and Santa Rosa plum tart not long ago that was quite similar to this. It’s wonderful how the flesh just melts into the batter. It’s very sensual.

  6. Christine – do you have Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food? It’s very strong on the non-Ashkenazy cultures and cuisines. The recipes are great, and there are many family anecdotes and archival photos of Jewish communities from Iraq, Syria, Cyprus, Egypt, etc. Roden herself is from Egypt but her great-grandfather was the Grand Rabbi of Aleppo (Syria). One of these days I’m going to make her lamb with tamarind sauce from the Jewish community of Bombay.

    My hubbie is Jewish (half, and that half is Ashkenazy) – when I first got the book, I would read him passages. The recipes are terrific but it’s also a wonderful read. Roden is very scholarly about food research; she’s also a good writer, entertaining and warm.

    Her Book of Middle Eastern Food is my main reference for most Arabic dishes. If I want to give somebody a recipe that’s tested, rather than my own family version, I look to Claudia.

  7. I gave Roden double book sets to two different couples for wedding presents this year: Jewish Food and M.E. Food together.

    BTW I’ve been giving nice cookbooks and misc. for presents – bridal shower gift was Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian COoking for Everyone, and housewarming gift was Cheryl Mendelsohn’s Home Comforts.

    Re: Claudia Roden – I have a vintage book she wrote about outdoor cookery that includes more Egypt reminiscences and plenty of great recipes for picnics and barbecues. She has written extensively on Mediterranean food — she’s not limited to the Middle East.

  8. Christine, yes, I pick the currants out of scones. When I’m by myself. When I’m with others I’m a big girl and just deal with it.

  9. That looks delicious! I love that poem, too. I remember reading it for the first time in middle school and I thought to myself, “That is absolutely brilliant!” Thanks for reminding of that wonderful little poem.

  10. Thanks, Jess…it is one of my favorite poems ever. 🙂

  11. Pingback: Pumpkin Muffins « Muffin Top

  12. Pingback: Cherry Clafouti « Muffin Top

  13. Eh.. I like the way you react to my spoiled prescription A joke for you peoples! Have you seen Quasimodo? I have a hunch he’s back!

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