When I was a child, we had two plum trees on our property. One was a damson plum tree with dark purple, pointed fruits that were generally prolific but not tasty to eat. At least not to a kid in overalls who seemed to have adopted a hunter-gatherer lifestyle very early on. I'd love to have the plunder of that old tree now--what wines and cakes and preserves we could make!
The other tree had fat bright fruits that could be wiped on the sleeve and eaten out-of-hyand, the sweet juice sticky-ing up our hands and chins.
The fruit of that tree would also be most welcome in my adult hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Both alas are long gone--victims of long-neglect and absent property-owners.
We sit now in the season of sugarplums and it makes me think of those old, rangy trees and their dear harvests. I am also reminded of all that long-ago richness by the smells coming from my kitchen this evening.
I am making my mother's prune cake. A not-too-sweet dense cake that is glazed with sugar and butter and buttermilk. She always made it weeks ahead of the holiday season, glaze and all, and froze it. Something about the freezing and thawing process gave it a terrifically moist texture that was perfect with a cup of hot tea of a tot of bourbon (when I was older, of course).
I can almost give you the recipe from memory...
2 cups all purpose flour
1 T each of cinnamon, baking soda, allspice, nutmeg
1T of vanilla extract (I sometimes use spiced rum instead)
1/2 C sugar
1 C buttermilk
1 C oil
1 C dried plums/prunes, stewed
Mix that all together, add 1 cup of English or black walnuts. Pour into a greased and floured pan--a tube pan is good or a couple of loaf pans. Bake at 300 for about an hour. When it is cooked and somewhat cooled, cook up
1 C sugar
1/2 C buttermilk
1/2 t baking soda
2 T white syrup
1/2 C butter
Cook the glaze in a heavy pan for 3-5 minutes, until it is combined, and pour it over the cake.
I'd serve it with Irish whiskey, me.
5 days ago