Thunderstorms ravaged the night and left raindrops on each blade of grass, flower petal, and aspen leaf for us to find as we walked the neighborhood this morning. The meadow was still quiet, and we could see the chill burning off between the trees in the spotlight rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds. The hills glimmered emerald and every now and again, I’d catch a whiff of smoldering embers from a fire in the yard of a neighbor.
Before the bugs are up, before the birds, sometimes we hear moose bellowing in the woods but mostly we hear our own breath. Returning to the house, we climb the steps and sit a while in the rockers on the porch — literally the best place to watch the world come alive. And quite possibly, my favorite place on the planet.
Gunner and I sat for a while on that porch this morning, soaking it all in. Then I went into the kitchen, made myself a cup of coffee and turned on the oven because – at last – I can make this my ritual. I pulled out a broad bowl and a paring knife and set to work at the oak table that looks out over the yard and into the meadow below, slicing plums against my thumb into skinny slivers.
Baby thunder rolled in the distance, Gunner bounced playfully in the grass with one of the neighborhood pups, and the landscape in the light changed a million times — in the moments it took me to glance up from my juice stained hands, the ruby skin and golden flesh of the fruits and my meditative work on them.
The first couple of days since I left my work in California were designated to catching up on sleep; packing up the apartment and putting all of our worldly belongings in storage was just as physically and emotionally exhausting as we had anticipated. We were completely tuckered even before we made the trek from California to Montana with the necessities for the next months in tow; two mountain bikes, a cornucopia of trail running shoes, jackets that will take us into fall and the clothing we would need to enjoy the rest of summer to the upmost. And, in my case, my favorite apron, a couple of cookbooks, and a bag of these little sugar plums packed so that they would arrive at the cabin intact; it just so happened that, in packing up the pantry, I realized I had exactly enough of each ingredient to make just one of these cakes. So, I packed up the measured ingredients and brought them along as well for clearly we were meant to have it for breakfast on a chilly Montana morning once we started taking the deep breaths of this new adventure.
As that cake cooked, it was almost as if a rite of passage had taken place; the last ingredients of my old kitchen, cooked in distant-but-familiar place, and with a completely different mindset than every other time I’ve gone to prepare it. No longer will I have to cream butter and sugar in the mixer while I brush my teeth and return emails. Nor will I have to sacrifice bike rides or yoga classes so that I can properly pour over a recipe that needs tweaking. And, I’ll not have to try to explain to Gunner why I’m too busy to wake up slowly, sniffing the smells of morning because I have to get to my desk — a conversation that always made both me, and him, very upset.
This is likely the last time this summer that I’ll make this cake; these little sugar plums just aren’t on offer in Montana (though I do imagine that apricots, nectarines or peaches would be equally as delicious so try those if you don’t have little sugar plums on hand!) but this way of waking up — slow, mindfully, and hungry — is a pattern that I do so look forward to repeating tomorrow. Enjoy! xo L
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup spelt flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and 1 Tbsp reserved for the pan
- 1 cup evaporated cane juice
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1 1/4 lbs sugar plums or other small plums, JUST ripe and a bit firm
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 4 tsp large grain turbinado sugar
- **My favorite version of this cake is made with little sugar plums, but apricots, nectarines, or other stone fruits would likely be lovely as well. Don't skimp on the fruit and err on the side of abundance; this cake batter is almost like a loose cookie dough and requires the juice of just-ripe fruits to really become its proper self. That said, pick fruits that are just ripe and not overripe. I always bake it in my 8' x1.75' cast iron pan and serve it straight from the oven and recommend this as well, but you could likely try a cake pan or springform pan of similar dimensions.**
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Bust out your 8" x 1.75" inch cast iron skillet.
- In a large bowl, slice the plums into skinny slivers and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the almond meal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat together the butter and evaporated cane juice until fluffy and smooth. Then, one at a time, beat in the eggs making sure that each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Once both eggs are in, add the extracts and mix until incorporated.
- Place the 1 Tbsp of reserved butter in the cast iron pan and pop it in the oven to melt.
- Next, you'll incorporate the dry ingredients into the creamed butter in two stages with the mixer making sure that each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, ensure that the batter is well mixed.
- Remove the pan from the oven with a hot pad and, using the rubber spatula, spoon out and spread the batter in the bottom of the pan. Next, you'll carefully arrange the plums in the batter. You'll start by sticking the slices lengthwise, skin side out, around the edge of the pan and nearly touching. Continue to place the plums in concentric circles (see photograph above), fitting them into spaces between plums and in little crevasses until you're out of plums!
- Lastly, sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar over the plums and pop the cake in the oven, bake for 50-55 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Slice and eat immedia