Saturday 12th September/Saurday 19th September, 2020 – Recipes (German Plum Cake, German Apple Cake)
About 18 months ago I thought I’d found the perfect recipe for a German-style plum cake and I made a post about it with the intention of giving it a go if I couldn’t access the German Bakery on their van’s Tuesday visits to the City of London. It’s a cake I have been obsessed with for a very long time, probably since I first went to Germany in 1966. My Dad was also obsessed with it, and spent a great deal of time in pursuit of the ideal plum for the cake. I wish he was still with us, because he’d love this now I’ve further refined it, even with the “wrong” plums. The recipe was from the great cooking obsessive, Felicity Cloake, who tries all the likely recipes she can lay her hands on before settling on her own version using everything that works.
What with lockdown and working from home, and thus not being able to access the weekly appearance of the German Bakery van in London, and the closing of their business, the time had come to give it a go. The discovery of instant yeast seemed like an omen and so I gathered my ingredients and on Saturday morning I set to and began to bake. I wouldn’t have fancied trying this with the dried yeast that comes in sachets and never appears to have the slightest effect, but with the instant, that does not need to be activated in advance, it was an absolute doddle and it did what it says on the packet!
After that I got to thinking about apple cake, because everyone needs an apfelkuchen recipe. My thoughts appear in the note section of the recipe.
The Perfect German Plum (or Apple) Cake
Prep: 20 min
Prove: 1 hr 30 min
Cook: 40 min
- 200g plain flour
- 3g quick yeast (or 10g fresh)
- 30g sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 120ml lukewarm milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 40g butter, melted and left to cool, plus extra to grease
- 600g ripe plums, preferably a dark oval variety (damsons will need more sugar on top)
- 30g ground almonds, breadcrumbs or semolina
- 4 tbsp demerara sugar
- Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
For the streusel topping:
- 60g flour
- 45g demerara sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 50g melted butter, cooled
- 30g almonds, roughly chopped
- Grease a 22cm or thereabouts loose-bottomed cake tin with butter.
- To make the dough, put the flour in a mixer with the yeast (if using fresh yeast, you’ll need to activate it in the warm milk first), sugar and salt, and mix together. Add the milk, egg yolk and cooled butter, and mix until you have a smooth dough; it will be quite soft, so if you knead it by hand instead, try not to add any more flour than you have to to stop it sticking. Put the dough in the greased tin, cover lightly and leave until it’s roughly doubled in size – about an hour, although it may take longer.
- Carefully cut the plums in half along the seam and remove the stones. Make a small –1cm – cut in the end of each plum half. Punch down the dough and flatten it to fill the tin. Spread with ground almonds, then arrange the plums skin side up to fill the tin, packing them in closely. Mix the demerara sugar, zest and cinnamon, sprinkle on top and set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/390°F/gas 6. Mix the first four ingredients for the streusel together, then stir in first the melted butter and then the nuts, to make a soft, crumble-like mixture. Refrigerate until the dough is ready to bake, then sprinkle over the top.
- Bake the cake for about 40 minutes until golden, then leave to cool to warm before turning out of the tin and serving with whipped cream. Cool the cake, turn out of the tin and serve.
Note: Afterwards I got to wondering if this would also translate to an apple cake simply with a switch of fruit. I decided I needed to find out. Everything else works as written, but substitute around 4 good sweet crunchy eating apples for the plums. Core them, slice thinly and then place them on a tray covered with paper kitchen towels. Cover each layer of apple slices with a fresh layer of paper kitchen towel and set them aside until you need them in Step 3. They will dry out enough to prevent them making the dough soggy. The end result was very succesful, the base dough good and firm, and the fruit sweet but still with a little crunch to it.