The Torte


Make this cake.

In case Deb, Amelia (whose enthusiasm inspired me), or the scores of others who have written about this cake did not convince you, I am here to repeat that this is one of the best recipes ever. If you don’t consider yourself a baker, this will change all of that. It could not be easier, and the results could not be more impressive. It looks like something you’d find in a rustic French bakery and tastes even better. Seriously, people, make this cake.


The recipe has a long and glorious history, it was published in the New York Times many, many times (beginning in 1983). Often, it seems, at the request of their readers. The cake itself is a simple butter cake, that comes together in a couple of minutes. The batter is spread into a springform pan (sure, you can probably make this in a regular cake pan but the presentation will suffer) and topped with fresh fruit and some sugar. The fruit sinks into the butter batter and creates little pockets of jam-azing fruit. The cake browns nicely at the edges giving you plenty of browned-butter goodness and a nice compliment to the fruit. The original recipe calls for plums, which may be the ultimate version of this cake. I’ve made that one twice in the last week (we’ve had company!). But yesterday I made a version with some late summer raspberries that was almost equally fantastic. I think apricots would be super, even blueberries. I am looking forward to cranberries and apples in a few weeks.

After making this twice, the recipe is now memorized—it is that simple. And having this beautiful recipe memorized is a very good use of brain space. This is the solution to every time you are having people over and need a home baked dessert that is delicious, foolproof, and impressive.


I am decades late to this recipe, so I am curious to hear from those of you who have already come up with your own variations on this beauty. The recipe below is my adaptation of the original plum version (I reduced sugar and increased salt). For the raspberry version, also shown, I eliminated the cinnamon and added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter after the eggs). I topped the cake with enough raspberries that there was only about 1/2-inch of cake between them.

Plum Torte (adapted from a recipe by Marian Burros from the NY Times)

  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 to 2 tablespoon
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8-12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted (or 5-6 larger plums)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat over to 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time,  scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the dry ingredients, mix until just combined.

Spread batter into an ungreased (or lightly greased) 9-inch springform pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then the remaining sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes out free of batter, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack for a few hours before serving.


59 comments to “The Torte”

  1. I made it yesterday and it was delicious. I didn’t have lemon juice, so I just topped it with the cinnamon and sugar. No one who ate it was any the wiser. A keeper.

  2. Joan Browne says:

    October 11th, 2014 at 11:32 am

    There is a similar recipe in Joy of Cooking called Plum Cake Cockaigne that I’ve made for years. Although I’m sure it would be good made with other fruits, I’m also sure the plums are what make it extra special. In fact, I would have to say this is a cake made in heaven and you’re missing out if you don’t try it with plums. By the way, it’s really good for breakfast. Must try it with maple syrup!

  3. tim, you introduced you to my now late summer favourite cake, you know the nigel slater recipe. and now you have given me this for autumn. i had a baking disaster yesterday and had friends coming over for afternoon tea. so i whipped this up whilst putting together cucumber sandwiches. it went down a treat. i am looking forward to a slice today as i am certain that it will taste better today than yesterday! thanks ever so much.

  4. Tim, this recipe was a smash hit. My cousin and I made it twice: the first time with plums and the second with persimmon wedges and coarse salt. Phenomenal. Thank you for sharing!

  5. It is plum season once again so I made this cake to great acclaim for a birthday dinner last weekend to use up Italian plums from Mick Klug at Chicago’s Green City Market. The plums became jammy and intensely sweet during baking. We served it warm with a little vanilla icecream, but leftovers were equally scrummy with tea the next morning. I’ve made this again and again with different fruits and it’s alway a hit. I hate to undercut the praise I receive by sharing how easy it is to make.

  6. Why do my plums sink?

  7. I made two of these this weekend. Neither looked like the photos (my plums sunk a bit more) but so flavorful. A 8.5mo pregnant woman walked across the building to my office for a second piece. No one picked them as plums, just that it was delicious. I am working my way thorugh the easier cakes on the site, but I think this is my go-to for events from now on.

  8. Sarah! I dunno. Mine do, a little. Are you changing pan size?

  9. 9″ springform. Thought maybe I was supposed to blot them first ror something. (I dont really think I care if they sink – it tastes amazing) You’ve sold me on your love of baked fruit and I think you forever for that!! Cheers!!