Deep purple and golden brown: aren’t they two of the most beautiful colours in the land at this time of year? I love the crackling reds, the slightly singed orange, the sombre yellows of autumn … but when I spot the occasional white ash tree on the cusp of acquiring its dark October bruising, my obsession with baking fruited cakes and desserts demands that I consider the plum. And along with it, a spice that offers fireside warmth in looks and flavour – what else but ginger?
I find many stone fruits taste better if cooked; it brings out a deep sweetness and intensity in peaches, nectarines & plums in particular. And for the plum, there is no better match than the subtle punch of ginger, bolstered by an abundance of sticky golden syrup and fragrant muscovado sugar.
This cake tastes like a cross between gingerbread and a sponge cake. It marries the depth of flavour of the former and the lightness of the latter. It will keep in the fridge for up to five days, well wrapped, but I would urge you to eat it thus: warm a slice in the microwave for 1 minute on medium heat and crown with a generous pouring of cream or a couple of scoops of vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Then prepare to savour the tang of autumn infused in a forkful of gentle sweetness.
Plum & Ginger Cake
Butter, for greasing
2 tbsp demerara sugar
500g plums, halved and destoned
175g dark muscovado sugar
140g golden syrup
2 eggs, beaten
300g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line the base of a 23cm cake tin with baking parchment. Butter the paper generously and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Halve the plums and arrange in the base of the tin in 1 layer, cut-sides down.
For the cake, melt the butter, muscovado sugar and syrup in a large pan over a low heat, stirring until smooth. Cool for 10 mins, then stir in the eggs and milk. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then mix to a smooth batter.
Pour the batter into the tin, over the plums, and bake for 45-55 mins until firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. Will keep in the fridge, wrapped in baking parchment and foil, for up to 5 days.