Plum Macaroon Cake

plum macaroon cake | apt. 2b baking co.
plum macaroon cake | apt. 2b baking co.
plum macaroon cake | apt. 2b baking co.
plum macaroon cake | apt. 2b baking co.
plum macaroon cake | apt. 2b baking co.

August is such a show-off of a month. The end of August, specifically, when stone fruit is at it's peak and the first fall produce is starting to show up is one of the best times to visit the market. Peaches and nectarines tend to hog most of the stone fruit spotlight, but plums certainly have a special place in my kitchen. They come in an outstanding array of shades and shapes, from tiny round Greengages to oblong purple Empress plums, they are all a bit sweet and tart which makes them perfect for baking and preserves.

A week or so ago Pete and I made a trip upstate for a fun film project, and one of the orchards we visited had a small orchard of plum trees, all hitting their peak. Pete spotted these guys, so deep in color they looked almost black in the bright sun (I think they were Damsons, but no one could confirm for sure) and I beelined down the row, knowing they would be perfect for baking. I had already filled up all of my bags and baskets with grapes, raspberries, and early apples so I grabbed as many plums as I could carry in my hands, all while seriously embarrassing myself freaking out about how beautiful they were. Eh, what can you do? Sometimes you just gotta exclaim about pretty little plums as families having a relaxing afternoon picking fruit together side-eye you...

I had bookmarked this cake in Tara's book ages ago, and with my fresh glut of plums I finally had a good excuse to make it. With a crackly coconut macaroon-inspired top, this plum cake has become a new favorite. It is the kind of cake you'll find yourself sneaking a tiny slice of, every time you walk by. It also keeps exceptionally well for a few days on the counter (covered), if you are the kind of person with a little more self control than tiny-slice-stealers like me.  

Plum Macaroon Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake

From Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady

This cake is sweet, nutty, and perfectly punctuated by wonderfully tart plums. I used tiny purple and red plums, so I just sliced them in half, rather than the sixths that the recipe recommends. Once baked and cooled this cake keeps exceptionally well for a few days on the counter at room temperature, if it lasts that long. 

Cake

1 1/2 cups (190g) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (60g) shredded coconut

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup (60ml) milk

about 1 pound (455g) red or purple plums pitted and cut into sixths (or small plums cut in half)

2 tablespoons demerara or granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping

1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons (25g) almond meal

seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup (60 g) shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350ยบF. Grease a 9-inch removable bottom cake pan or springform pan with butter.

To make the cake, whisk the flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set this dry mix inside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 2 more minutes. Decrease the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the almond extract and turn the speed down to low.

With the mixer still running, add half the dry ingredients to the wet, followed by all of the milk and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until combined, scraping the bowl once or twice.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Use a spatula to spread the thick batter to the edges of the pan. Stand the plums in rings in the batter, up on their ends. The fruit will shift inward during baking so arrange them nice and close to the edge of the pan, and do not cluster too many at the middle. Combine the demerara sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, then sprinkle across the fruited Stonehenge. Bake for 50 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the topping. Whisk the butter, sugar, eggs, almond meal, vanilla bean seeds, almond extract, and shredded coconut in a pitcher with a pouring spout. Working quickly, remove the cake from the oven and pour the mixture over the hot cake. Return the cake to the oven and bake until the topping is puffed, evenly golden, and set, 25 to 30 minutes more.

Cool the cake completely, in its pan on a wire rack before serving. Serve as is or dusted with confectioners' sugar. The cake can be kept under a dome or loosely wrapped in its pan at from temperature for 3 days.

plum macaroon cake | apt. 2b baking co.
plum macaroon cake | apt. 2b baking co.
plum macaroon cake | apt. 2b baking co.

Full disclosure guys: I usually find these "hands offering" type photos a little cheesy, but I actually grabbed as many plums as I could and held them like this until I could find a bag, and honestly, how amazing are these colors?!?!? 

Straight-Up Peach Pie

straight-up peach pie | apt 2b baking co
straight-up peach pie | apt 2b baking co
straight-up peach pie | apt 2b baking co
straight-up peach pie | apt 2b baking co
straight-up peach pie | apt 2b baking co

It has been a few summers since I last made a peach pie, but from past experience I know that I am a peach pie purist. Sweet-honeyed fruit encased in a buttery crust needs no adornment, no spices, and no additional flavorings: just perfect peaches sweetened with a bit of sugar, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt to enhance their natural flavor. So, when I set out to make my ideal peach pie the only decision I had to make was whether to peel the fruit. I took a little informal survey on Instagram and Facebook to see how you all feel about peeling peaches and I got a lot of impassioned responses on both sides, but in the end sided with my pro-peeling pal Elizabeth and carefully peeled mine with a vegetable peeler (a great method she suggested I can't believe I hadn't done before). You can also blanch and peel the peaches, which I have done in the past, but using a peeler was so much easier. 

Go forth and pie, Summer's not over yet guys!

p.s. if you live near NYC, Fishkill Farms still has a lot of lovely and tasty peaches and nectarines in their PYO fields, which is where these field photos were taken. Don't forget to wear a hat and sunscreen if you decide to venture out to the orchards!

Straight-Up Peach Pie

Most peach pie recipes call for 3/4-1 cup of sugar, which I think is waaay too much for in-season, sweet fruit so I have reduced it to 1/2 cup for this recipe. Feel free to use light brown sugar here in place of the granulated for a richer flavor. I like my peach pies super simple, so there are no spices at all in this pie, but sometimes a tiny bit of freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon is nice.

Crust

12 ounces all purpose flour 

1 teaspoons salt

9 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

4 ounces ice cold water

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Filling

7 medium peaches (about 3 1/2 lbs), ripe but firm

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

pinch salt

juice from 1/2 lemon

egg, for egg wash

turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

To make the crust: 

To make the crust, combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to cut in half of the butter until it is the size of peas, then cut in the other half until it is the size lima beans. Some of the butter will be completely worked into the flour, but you should have lots of visible pieces of butter in the dough too. Add the apple cider vinegar to the water. Sprinkle about 1/2 of the water over the dough. Use a gentle hand or wooden spoon to mix the water into the flour until just combined. If the dough seems very dry, add more water a couple of teaspoons at a time. You have added enough water when you can pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it together without it falling apart. Press the dough together, then split it in half, form into discs and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least one hour before using, or overnight.

To Assemble and Bake

Preheat oven to 425ยบ and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. 

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the dough into a 12-inch circle about 1/4-1/8-inch thick and place it into a 9-inch pie pan. Place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the pie. 

Roll out the other piece of dough into a 12-inch circle about 1/4-1/8-inch thick and place it in the fridge on a sheet pan to chill while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling: use a vegetable peeler to carefully peel the peaches. Cut them into 1/2-inch wedges and add them to a bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, salt and lemon juice. Stir gently to combine. If the peaches seem especially juicy, add a bit more cornstarch.

Fill the prepared pie shell with the peaches and top with the second crust. Crimp the edges and cut a few vents in the top. 

Alternately, you can top the pie with a lattice-style crust as I've done in the photos above. Here is a link to a great photo tutorial on Simply Recipes. When I make a lattice topped pie, I like to use nice thick strips of dough, so the ones pictured above are about 2-inches wide.

Slide the whole pie into the fridge or freezer for about 15 minutes  or until the crust is nice and firm before you bake it. When you are ready to bake, brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkle with a healthy dose of coarse sugar.

Put the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 15 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven, then lower the oven temp to 400ยบ and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices bubble. Cool before serving.

straight-up peach pie | apt 2b baking co
straight-up peach pie | apt 2b baking co