My mother has a tremendous kitchen garden and, each summer, I'm lucky enough to reap the spoils of any crop that's had a particularly good year. Whatever the birds or bugs don't take are mine for the choosing, and while the majority of the plums, peaches and apricots are promptly squirrelled away as jam it's always nice to set some aside and try out something new.
Heading this summer's trial list was a plum and ricotta tart with an intriguing dough-like base, which not only sounded delicious but also fitted the "throw it all together" lazy afternoon bake just perfectly.
Embellished with walnuts and a sprinkling of crunchy strudel, this cake has a delicate, spongy base, which contrasts beautifully with the tart bursts of juicy plum, and the lingering warmth of cinnamon quietly hints that autumn is not too far around the corner. A simple summer cake for a simple summer day.
PLUM, RICOTTA & WALNUT CAKE (Adapted from torta di susine by Emiko Davies)
- 280 g flour
- 80 g walnut meal
- 200 g firm ricotta*
- 60 g caster sugar, plus 20 g extra for the topping
- 2 Tbsp baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- 90 ml milk
- 60 ml olive oil
- 1 egg
- Finely grated zest of half a lemon
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- ~20 plums
- 2 Tbsp raw sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 25 g walnuts, finely chopped
- 10 g butter
Preheat the oven to 200°C and butter a 12- ✕ 32-cm tart tin* well.
Combine the flour, walnut meal, 60 g sugar, baking powder and salt in one large bowl, and the milk, ricotta, olive oil, lemon zest, vanilla and egg in another. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix together until you have a workable dough. Roll into a ball and leave to rest while you prepare the plums.
Halve and deseed the plums and toss in a mixture of cinnamon and raw sugar. Prepare the strudel topping by rubbing together the chopped walnuts, 20 g sugar and butter. Roll out the dough to fit your prepared tin and push in gently, until even. Press the plum halves, cut side down, into the surface of the dough and sprinkle with the strudel topping. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is golden and the plums are soft. If the plums are beginning to burn or the top starts to brown too quickly, reduce the oven to 180°C and continue to bake until the cake is cooked through. Remove to a rack to cool then serve plain, dusted with icing sugar, or with a dollop of crème fraîche.
** If the ricotta is fairly moist, wrap it in muslin and suspend over a bowl in the fridge for 1-2 hours, to drain.
** The original recipe calls for a 26-cm round tin.