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The Torte

Make this cake.

In case Deb [1], Amelia [2] (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 [3])

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.