Aren't these little cake squares pretty? This is the kind of dessert I love to make - quick, simple and bursting with flavour. This plum cake is moist, tender, wonderfully fruity, and has just the right amount of sweetness. I instantly became a semolina fan a few years ago after tasting RedChillies' Eggless Mango Cake. I turned out many versions of that cake and each one was a hit. With this cake instead of mashing the plums and adding the purée to the batter, I preferred to dot the cake with halved plums for a more appealing look. This also created a delicious contrast of textures and colours.
Semolina gives the cake a pleasingly grainy texture. It also helps retain moisture, making it less dense than similar flour-based cakes. This semolina cake is flavoured with Bramley applesauce which adds a pleasing touch of tartness and makes it light and fresh tasting.
Plums are the stars in this cake. For this reason it is their quality that matters. Too ripe and they will turn into mush while baking, not ripe enough and they won't soften enough to infuse the cake with their juices. Choose ripe plums that are still a little firm to the touch.
The addition of plums not only looks really striking against the pale colour of the cake, but also adds natural sweetness to it. As the cake bakes, some of the juice seeps out into the cake staining it with its vibrant crimson colour and flavouring it right through. What I learnt from this experience is that it's better to use the fruit unpeeled. During baking, the skin prevents the juices from evaporating and softens, making it easy to peel off as the cake cools down. I tested this conclusion on another version using peaches; while the fruit was still juicy and soft, the top was rather dry and needed glazing.
Now, isn't this a really short list of ingredients?
Plum Semolina Cake
- 1 cup fine semolina
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup unrefined caster sugar
- 1 cup creamy coconut milk (75% fat)
- 1 cup Bramley applesauce
- 5 medium plums
Note: Choose a type of semolina that's not too coarse, but not flour-like either. It should still be grainy, but fine. I find that coarse semolina makes this cake too dense, as it doesn't have enough liquid to absorb, while very fine semolina turns it into a thick pudding. 1 cup = 250 ml.
In a bowl mix together semolina, sugar and baking powder. Add the applesauce and coconut milk and whisk together until well combined. Let the mixture rest for 10-15 minutes during which it will thicken, as the semolina will absorb part of the moisture.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Wash the plums, halve them and remove the stones.
Lightly grease the bottom and about an inch up the sides of a 23 cm (9") square pan with non-dairy margarine or butter (I prefer it over oil because it keeps the cake from browning on the sides, so it remains beautifully yellow).
Pour the batter into the pan and even it out with the back of a spoon. Lay the plums cut side down, as in the picture above. Don't push them down, they will sink a little bit, but not all the way through.
Bake for about 30 minutes. By then the top will be slightly darker and a toothpick inserted in the cake will come out clean or with a few moist crumbs (not batter).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack (1 - 1.5 hours). Soon after baking the cake will pull away from the sides.
After the cake has cooled down for a few minutes, carefully peel the skin off the prunes using a small knife.
As the cake cools, it will absorb the juices from the plums, making them sink a bit further.
When at room temperature, cut the cake into squares and serve.
I took this close-up picture to show you the beautiful fine-crumb texture of the cake.
The colour of these baked plums was a bit of a surprise. As I used purple-skin plums I expected their colour to be a deep purple and it was a wonder to see that gorgeous display of red tones.
Cutting right through a piece of fruit reveals a symphony of colours that makes the cake all the more appetizing - flaming red, purple, crimson, bright and pale yellow, it's all there to seduce.
This is a splendid summer dessert that glorifies the beauty and natural sweetness of plums, one I hope you will try. Enjoy and share the magic!:)
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