In order to write The World on a Plate, I obviously had to do some traveling (the hardship!). One trip involved cycling through the Loire Valley during late summer, from Tours to Angers. I remember the cycling past countless gardens displaying neat patchworks of home-grown fruit and vegetables. The region is sometimes called the garden of France, and with good reason, the stench of onions was the olfactory soundtrack to the cycle and the standout dishes were, without question, all the fruit desserts that my vigorous cycling justified. This recipe is a beauty, and comes from the London-based French pastry chef Eric Lanlard, inspired by the Loire Valley’s bounty.
I was determined to pay tribute to the garden fruits of the Loire Valley and especially the plums, since I am an ardent lover of plums in all forms: fresh from the tree, in jams, compotes, puddings and, best of all, my mother’s pièce de résistance, the plum shuttle, in which she sandwiches tart prunes and almond frangipane between two pieces of puff pastry and bakes it in an egg wash. The typical pastry of Angers (the end point on my Loire Valley cycle trip) is known as pâté aux prunes, a similar plum and pastry arrangement. I felt the apple tart Normande would suffice for French pastry, however, so have instead taken inspiration from Angers and included this fantastic plum cake recipe from Eric Lanlard’s book, Home Bake. Merci beaucoup, Eric!
- 14 tbsp unsalted butter plus extra for greasing
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 5 medium eggs
- 1 1⁄3 cups self-rising flour
- 10 ½ – 14 oz fresh plums stoned and halved
- 1 – 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- sprinkling of mixed spice
- 2 1⁄3 tbsp golden syrup*
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a shallow 9-inch springform pan with the extra butter, and then line it with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Sift in the flour, then fold it in gently.
- Put the plums in a roasting dish and sprinkle with the light brown sugar and mixed spice. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the fruit is soft and sweet. Drain off the excess juice.
- Place the roasted plums in the base of your prepared springform pan. Add the golden syrup, then spoon the cake mixture on top. Bake in the oven for an hour or until the cake is cooked through. Allow to cool in the pan, then remove. Flip the sponge onto a serving dish, so the fruit and syrup are visible.