Cake is always better with fine china
When I was a teenager, I asked my mother to help me record some of her delicious recipes. It slowed her down to measure ingredients that she portioned out naturally, but I'm glad to have her legacy of recipes. But it wasn’t until this week that I tried the full recipe for one of our favourite desserts, shared below.
I called it plum cake, because that's what I ended up with, but it can be made with any kind of fruit. Plum and blueberry work well together; a happy discovery when I was short on plums. You can be creative!
Although the recipe has three parts, each part has few ingredients -- easy peasy! Or cut out one part and make it crust-free. That variation turns out like apple crisp, but with an added sauce over the fruit. Great if you're trying to reduce carbs, or save time!
Use a rectangular pan, 11 x 7 x 2 inches (28 x 18 x 5 cm). My available pans were either smaller or larger, but I made do. When I used an 8 inch (20 cm) square pan, I had extra fruit, sauce and topping, which I used to fill one or two ramekins. They baked in half the time. When I used a larger 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) pan, I was able to roll out the crust successfully after I acquired a French rolling pin (see photo below). The tapered sides of this lovely handcrafted tool made all the difference in getting the crust to spread out as far as I needed. I even had extra crust, which I cut out into cookies in the shapes of animals and teddy bears.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 C), and take out the butter to soften for the crumb topping.
¼ cup (60 ml) melted butter or canola oil
¼ cup (60 ml) sugar
1 egg *
¼ cup (60 ml) milk (I used almond milk)
2 cups (480 ml) all-purpose flour, including a little sifted whole wheat flour if you like
¼ tsp (1 ml) salt
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
Mix in order given, using your hands at the end. Add a bit of flour if it's too moist, until it forms a workable ball of dough. Sprinkle flour on your working surface, the dough and the rolling pin, and continue adding as needed while you roll out the dough. When you have enough rolled-out crust to line the bottom and sides of the pan, fold the dough gently in half to lift it into the ungreased pan. Trim the top edges, and add bits to scarce sections if needed.
Fill crust with about six cups (about 1.5 L) of any kind of prepared fruit, leaving room for toppings. Plums are simply washed, pitted and halved. Apples are cored, peeled and chopped, then drizzled with fresh-squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning. Frozen blueberries can be added without thawing.
2) Fruit sauce
Drizzle the following mixture to nearly cover the fruit, mixed in the order given:
1 egg *
1 cup (240 ml) sugar
½ cup (120 ml) milk or cream
a dash of vanilla
½ cup (120 ml) flour
½ tsp (.5 ml) baking powder
3) Crumb topping
Drizzle a crumb topping over the fruit, including these ingredients crumbled together by hand in small chunks:
¼ cup (60 ml) softened butter
¾ cup (180 ml) flour
¼ cup (120 ml) rolled oats
2 tbsp (30 ml) sugar
for apple filling: add 1 tsp (15 ml) cinnamon
Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees (190 C) when placing the pan in the oven. Check after twenty minutes to see if crumb topping and crust have browned slightly. If so, turn down to 350 degrees (177 C). Bakes in about one hour, but can be as short as thirty minutes, depending on the type of fruit. Done when a cake tester or fork comes up clean, and the top surface has risen in the centre. In the final minutes, the fruit sauce will go from being jiggly and wet under the crumb topping to firm. Watch closely after one hour as the crust may burn.
While freezing apple crumble is hopeless, this recipe freezes quite well. I divide pieces into single-serving packages. Reheat a slice at 350 degrees (177 C) in a toaster oven for five or ten minutes.
Is this Mennonite “Platz”? I always thought it was, although we simply called it fruit cake. Platz has a layer of fruit and crumb topping, but that’s where the similarity ends. Recipes I found online have a cake-like base, but no crust or additional fruit sauce. The fruit layer also seems thinner. So our traditional family recipe may not be Mennonite, and it’s a mystery where it came from. Perhaps it’s my mother’s original creation! Thanks, Mom!
- Irene Plett
*A tasty vegan alternative is a flax egg: 1 tbsp (15 ml) ground flax seeds + 3 tbsp (45 ml) water, mixed and refrigerated for 15 minutes to thicken. Anytime you're low on fresh eggs, this works great.
Topics: recipes, fruit squares, plum cake, fruit cake, Mennonites, Platz, German plum cake, Ursula Plett, baking
Baking helper, Cassie, inspects my new French rolling pin,
handcrafted by Cary's Custom Wood Products of Maple Ridge, B.C.
Irene Plett is a writer, poet and animal lover living in South Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.