The perfect ... German plum cake
The German plum cake, variously known as
or depending where you are in the country, is a national institution: once tasted, never forgotten, although in truth it’s more of a bread or a tart than a cake as we know it. You rarely see them in British bakeries, so if you’ve never tried one, you’re in for a treat. Many of the recipes are very specific about the type of plum used: Anja Dunk writes in Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings that “zwetschgen are small, dark-as-night plums with a vibrant yellow flesh, both tart and sweet in flavour”. They’re hard to get hold of here, and recipes recommend everything from round red plums to damsons instead:
I find that, somewhat surprisingly, they all work well, even underripe supermarket bullets, though long, dark plums are the best choice for both texture and flavour. If you use damsons, you may wish to add some extra sugar along with the streusel.
More important, I think, is how you prepare them. Cut the pieces Halve the plums and prepare the dough: any plums will do, but dark plums really look the part too small, and they’ll disappear into the base. Unless they’re real whoppers, halves should be fine, with a little nick in the skin, as pastry chef Gersine Bullock-Prado suggests, to stop the skins sliding off as the plums cook.
Yeasted dough and crunchy shortcrust are both popular vehicles for baked plums in Germany, and with good reason, but the dough stands up better to the fruit juices: pastry has a tendency to become soggy unless eaten immediately. Testers prefer the softer texture of those made with plain flour and egg yolks to the sturdier bun dough of the specialist baker Konditor and Cook recipe, and German food Fill the tin with dough, then almonds, then the plums, skin side up. Finally, strew with zesty cinnamon sugar