Thursday, September 27, 2012

Plum Cake, Plum Cheated

I went to tea last weekend with some of my favorite English speakers.

We are a group of anglophone women living in the Montpellier area and we get together every month or so to speak our language, tell stories of bureaucratic woe, laugh out loud to jokes we fully understand and decompress.There are always new people with new stories and new paths to France. It's fun.

To quote the founder of the group, 'the only things required to join are two x chromosomes, English as your native language and living in or around Montpellier'. If you meet those requirements and are interested in coming along, send me a note and I'll add you to the list. The Haute Housewife went with me and she liked it.

We met at a member's house and everyone brought along something to eat while the hostess provided the beautiful outdoor space and all the Irish tea or French coffee you could drink. One of the things I love about living in France is how we all slowly and quietly succumb to the rules of life here. In this case, the proof was literally in the pudding in the form of seasonal plums.They were everywhere!
There were no less than four plum cakes of some variety. Plums are at the end of their season here and you can find wooden crates full of them, small and juicy, their skin and flesh ranging from deep violet to light green. My guys love the sunny, yellow ones the most.

{source, plums in crates}
I had to laugh as one plum thing after another was brought out. I had done the French cheat's thing and made my cake from the pink and brown Maman Gateau box. Think Betty Crocker, only a sweeter talker. It's boxed cake mix taken to a new level. All you do is add three eggs and 20 cl of heavy cream, mix and bake. They  have different flavors, lemon, chocolate and even boxes of macaron fixings to choose from, but I prefer the basic moelleux nature or plain butter cake.

{plum cake, chez nous}
And since I had a wooden crate of violet plums ripening in my kitchen I decided to use them along with the mix to make my own version of a plum cake. I halved and pitted the plums and sprinkled them with a tablespoon of sugar and a small spritz of lemon juice. Then I let them sit for awhile.
When I was ready to make the cake I covered my round cake pan in a layer of parchment paper up, enough to come up and over the sides, and then arranged the plum halves, skin side down in a circle at the bottom. I mixed the cake as instructed and poured it over the plums, sprinkled on some powdered sugar and popped it in the oven.

I didn't taste it at the tea, choosing instead someone else's plum clafouti, but inundated as she was with plum cakes, the hostess sent me home with a slice of mine for P-Daddy and the kids.
I ate it myself. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it tasted just like cobbler.

And then, because I felt guilty for not sharing, I made it again this week. Also because I have a weakness for cobbler.

{my breakfast.why not?}

I'm sharing this with you as a recipe but really it's more of an idea, a way to spruce up your basic white box cake,and to use up the last of the late summer stone fruit. Of course you could put anything you like at the bottom of the cake pan. I'm thinking softened and cinnamony green apples for next time.

The Cheat's Plum Cake

1 box Maman Gateau Nature cake mix
3 eggs
20 cl crème liquide full fat or entier (use light cream if you like)
10 or so ripe plums, halved and stoned
1- 2 tablespoons sugar
dash lemon juice
powdered sugar

Mix the cake as per box instructions.
Cover the bottom and sides of a round or square cake pan with parchment paper.
Layer sugared plum halves, skin side down, on the bottom of the pan.
Pour over cake batter.
Bake for 50-55 minutes at 150C/300F.

Serve the cake warm if you can with a spoon of vanilla ice cream.

Don't tell anyone how you made it. Just say, 'merci!' and move on.


  1. Sounds nice! I would love that, except English isn't my native tongue. I had similar get together coffees here but I was quite outsider being the,only foreigner in the group, so it ended quite shorty after few meetings for me.

    That plum cake looks delicious!

  2. Well, Julia Child may not have approved, but I think it's a brilliant idea! :-) I love hearing about your "English speaking women's group." -- Do they all know you have been on TV recently, and if so, have you started signing autographs? :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. The cake sounds delicious! Now I wish we hadn't eaten all our plums...if the market still has them next week I will be trying your recipe! ~Melanie

  4. Wait a second--did I really miss the airing of the show and you were too polite to mention that I am a loser in my earlier email? Whaaaa? Oh my goodness, how can we expats see it Aidan?! Please?

    And how brilliant are you for making lemonade out of lemons? Pretty fabulous I have to say!

    Your hang dog friend,

  5. I love the blog make-over!!! It looks great!! Congrats, Aidan. : )

    I love that you have an English-speaking posse! Must be fun to relieve yourself of conjugation duties for an afternoon!


It makes my day to read your comments. They're an answer to my floating words in blogland.