Sunday, 2 September 2012

Recipe: Plum & almond cake with rosewater icing

One of the reasons we fell in love with our house was the garden, with its fig, apple and plum trees. I think the plum variety is Jubilee, but she's a temperamental old thing and in recent years has flowered and fruited biennially. 

This year has been a fallow year. Usually by now I'd have made endless jars of jam (my favourite recipe being plum and earl grey), ice cream, crumbles, compote, and cake after cake after cake - anything to use up the vast quantities that fill every bowl we own.. But I've been more selective this year, buying just a few to eat or use as we choose rather than out of necessity.

Having said that, I've made this cake three times this week, tweaking the recipe a bit here and there until it's just about perfect. Plums seem to take on a different personality depending on what you put them with - I do love a versatile fruit - and my favourite combination is plum and rose. I have a lovely recipe for plum and rose jam, which'll have to be put away for next year. Meanwhile, this cake is an excellent way to use up the last of the crop and works equally well with plums of all varieties and in all states of ripeness. 

Plum & Almond Cake with Rosewater Icing

100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs, beaten
125g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
30g ground almonds
4 plums (approx 250-300g), stoned and chopped
2 tbsp flaked almonds
100g unrefined icing sugar
1 tbsp rosewater
1 tbsp warm water

1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Butter and line a loaf tin (I use shop-bought loaf tin liners. Much quicker).
2. Cream together the butter and the sugar until pale and creamy, then mix in the lemon zest.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, mixed spice and salt, then mix in the ground almonds.
4. Mix the eggs into the butter/sugar in thirds - a third of the egg mixture with a small spoon of the flour mixture, a third more eggs, more flour etc.
5. When all blended together, stir in the plums.
6. Scrape the mixture into the loaf tin, smooth the top, then scatter over the flaked almonds.
7. Bake for 50-55 minutes, testing with a skewer for doneness (I love that word). Return to the oven if a skewer comes out sticky.
8. When cooked, put the tin on a rack to cool for 20 minutes before taking the loaf out of the tin.
9. Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl. In a cup, mix together the rosewater and the warm water, and gradually add this to the icing sugar. Stir until you have a smooth, quite runny icing.
10. Pour or drizzle the icing over the loaf and leave to set.
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