Almond Cake with Plums

“Take a risk or play it safe?” That was the question I asked myself the day before Besha Rodell and Rachel Shukert came over for dinner last week. Rachel I wasn’t nervous about. Even though I’d never met her before, I knew we’d click because we’re both musical theater geeks. The food would be secondary. I also knew I’d click with Besha, who I had met before (at Proof Bakery last year) but that’s not what made me nervous. What made me nervous is that Besha is a food critic. A food critic! Can you imagine cooking for a food critic? I was kind of freaking out.

“Do I rest on my laurels?” I asked myself the night before, wide awake in bed. “Do I take a huge risk?”

I flipped through cookbooks. I consulted websites. Ultimately, I decided to make a dinner that I love: Caesar salad, my spicy spatchcocked chicken with couscous and salsa verde and my favorite dessert to make of all time, Amanda Hesser’s almond cake.

But after food shopping, I started to doubt my decision. Fine: Caesar will work and so will the chicken, but can’t we be more daring with dessert? We have plums from the farmer’s market. Can’t we use those?


That’s when I turned to Google and searched for a recipe that incorporated almond paste (which I’d bought for the almond cake) and plums. I came up with this recipe from Food & Wine that looked pretty good. I decided to roll with it.

The technique is different than the one you use for Amanda Hesser’s cake. In that one, you work the almond paste with butter and sugar for 10 minutes until it’s super light and fluffy. Here, you break up the almond paste with just sugar before adding the butter. Ultimately, it works out the same.


Only this cake has no sour cream, just a lot of eggs. Then, of course, there’s the difference of plums. This one has them. You add them after you pour the batter into your buttered pan. I tried to make a pretty pattern but I’m not sure it was that pretty. (Ok, it is.)


Didn’t matter, though, because those plums sink down and you won’t see them again until you cut into the cake. I used a mixture of green plums and purple plums so, when I served this up, some folks got a green piece, some got a purple piece. And the verdict was positive: “Four stars,” said one of my guests at the end of the podcast, only it wasn’t the food critic. The food critic said: “I don’t give star ratings to home cooked meals!” But when pressed, she relented. “17 stars,” she said.

Mission accomplished.

Recipe: Almond Cake with Plums

Summary: Based on a recipe in Food & Wine.


  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup almond paste (9 ounces)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 6 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (optional; I didn’t buy one)
  • 3 large plums (12 ounces) halved, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • Creme fraiche for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. In a small bowl, mix the cake flour with the baking powder and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the sugar with the almond paste until crumbly. Add the butter and beat at high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and, if using, the vanilla seeds. Fold in the flour mixture just until incorporated.
  3. Pour the batter into the pan and arrange the plums over the top as artfully as you can (though it won’t really matter in the end. It’s just nice to be artful.) Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until the cake is deeply golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool for 15 minutes. Remove the outside ring and let cool another 30 minutes before serving with creme fraiche.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

8 thoughts on “Almond Cake with Plums”

  1. I”m making Amanda’s almond cake to take to my birthday picnic. A grocery store was going out of business and I scored a bunch of cans of Solo almond paste for cheap, just so I could whip up that cake any time I wanted to!

  2. Where would I find almond paste? Baking section? Is it readily stocked?
    Ps…listened in on the podcast. It was fun.

  3. Hey Adam, that looks great but if you want a spectacular plum cake, although without the almond past check out this recipe, originally from the Ballymaloe Cookery Course Cookbook:

    I bet you could adapt the cake part of the recipe to be similar to the Amanda Hesser one. The plum flavour though is amazing, and it makes its own sauce when the plum juice and caramel mixes.

    just to not: that is not my website – just a link to a random blog featuring a favoured recipe.

  4. Adam, this cake looks luscious, & Amanda’s recipe, too. I will be baking one of them soon. I am not a huge fan of plums on their own, but one of my favorite desserts to make is this little plum cobbler – quick to put together, and just so tasty.

    Aunt Essie’s Plum Cobbler

    1/4 cup light brown sugar
    5-6 small black plums
    1 cup flour
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 t. Kosher salt
    1 t. ground cinnamon
    1 egg
    1 stick butter, melted
    Vanilla ice cream to serve

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Evenly distribute the brown sugar over the bottom of a 9 or 10-inch round baking dish. Quarter & pit the plums (with skins on), and place them cut sides up over the brown sugar, in concentric circles. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, salt & cinnamon. Add the egg and pulse 5-10 times to make a shaggy dough. Pile the dough over the plums and smooth out evenly. Melt the butter (microwave for 1 minute on high), and pour over the flour mixture. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes, until light golden brown on top. Let cool 10 minutes before serving with good vanilla ice cream.

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