Despite its anglo-saxon name, plum-cake is an extremely Italian dessert. In fact, the name doesn’t exist in British or American cuisine. This version of the recipe is taken from La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene written in 1891 by Florentine gourmand Pellegrino Artusi. Even though it contains candied peel and fruit, close examination of the recipe reveals that it is essentially what is known in Britain as a pound cake.
Artusi groups this recipe together with the similarly named plum-pudding, criticizing the name since it contains no plums. Of plum-cake he observes ‘È un dolce della stessa famiglia del precedente, mentitore anch’egli del nome suo.’ (‘This sweet belongs to the same family as the last one, and it’s a liar by name as well.’)
Modern versions of plum-cake (pronounced plOOM cake) omit the candied peel, raisins, and rum, but are often flavoured with lemon. As I child, I remember my father ordering it for breakfast with cappuccino when we were in Italy. What memories.
This is a really delicious version of the classic. The fruit, candied peel, and especially the rum really add something. Be certain to dust the fruit and peel in flour, before adding to the mixture, otherwise all the fruit will sink to the bottom, as it did on my first attempt. In that case you can cut it into fingers before serving! It’s still delicious.
Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 55 mins
Total time: 1hr 15 mins
250g (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
250g (1 1/4 cups) sugar
5 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
250g (2 cups) plain flour
80g (3 ounces) candied peel
80g (3 ounces) currants
80g (3 ounces) raisins
80g (3 ounces) sultanas
5 tablespoons rum
1 sachet vanilla sugar
- Preheat the oven to 160° C (320° F).
- Butter and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
- Cream together the butter and the sugar using a stand mixer.
- Mixing all the time, add the eggs individually until combined.
- Add the flour and mix until combined.
- Now add the rest of the ingredients and give one final mix.
- Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 55 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Leave to cool, then remove from the tin and serve.