This cake was delicious, but not at all what the author intended, ergo the two titles, one matching the pictures and one matching the recipe instructions. And honestly, because I am still tired and cranky from the surgery, I suspect the error was mostly mine. But I cannot wait any longer to tell you about this cookbook, so I am going to present my review with the recipe as I would write it now and a result that honestly at best is “inspired by” the original recipe in the cookbook.
C’est la vie.
Let me start with the book, which might help explain a bit where I went wrong with the cake. I adore Belinda Harley’s Roast Lamb In the Olive Groves: A Mediterranean Cookbook, which the publishers sent to me for review. I had read about it in Saveur and knew instantly I wanted to review it myself. It is *my* kind of cookbook–it provides a window into a culture somewhere far away (the Greek isle of Paxos), thus allowing me to travel with every turn of the page. The recipes embody that culture without being too fussy or foreign. It is a British/Australian cookbook, and as such uses weight measurements, but I am fine with that. The photography is gorgeous and the writing is evocative. Basically, without making a single recipe I knew I loved this book.
So about the recipe. Such a simple, silly confusion–undoubtedly and absolutely magnified by my state of mind. The author referred to a simply and briefly stewed plum as pudding. Well for some reason, instead of reading the rest of the recipe and coming to the inescapable conclusion that she cannot possibly have meant an American pudding, I ignored everything about the rest of the recipe and how the plum was to be incorporated into the cake. I threw the plums into the pot with their bottle of wine and left them at a simmer while I took a nap, assuming that somehow through the magic of natural pectin the mixture would somehow stew into what an American would call a pudding (the author did not provide any guidance as to time).
To say the plums completely disintegrated into strands of plummy nothingness is not an exaggeration. And then I re-read the instruction in the recipe: dot [the cake batter] with some of the flesh from the plums. Dot of course implying one could separate the flesh from the plum skins from the stewing wine.
Egads I say again. And my in laws were there! Why does stuff like this only happen when you have guests? I made the quick decision to drain the entire mess to separate out the most fibrous of the slush, hoping I could dot with it.
Not happening. Slush it was, and not even thick slush. So I made the second quick decision to fold it into one third of the cake batter, and swirl that into the remaining two thirds of the cake batter. It was a nice rescue if I do say so myself. I would not call this cake a great keeper cake, as it got a little dry but lost the beautiful crust from that first day, but when I served it the day it was baked I garnered compliments and protests of surprise that it was not the intended cake!
So the recipe I have provided below is basically how I would write the recipe to accomplish what the author intended, a cake with some fruit dotted throughout it and served with addiction wine poached plum halves. It ought to look pretty different from mine!
- For the plums:
- 8 plums, stones removed and halved
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 T sugar, plus more to taste
- 1 bottle sweet red wine (if your wine is drier, add a bit more sugar)
- For the cake:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 scant cup (175 g or 6 oz) sugar
- 7 T (100 g, 3½ oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of 1 lime
- 1½ cups scooped (200 g) self rising flour
- ¼ t fine sea salt
- 1 t vanilla
- 1 T milk
- plum flesh from above
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan with a flour/grease mixture. Set aside.
- Place the stoned and halved plums into a nonreactive pot. Pour the wine over them and add the bay leaves and sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer to poach the plums. Keep an eyes on them--you want the plums to remain separate and not fall apart. When the flesh of the plums is tender and easily pierced but still intact and attached to the plum skin, remove the plums from the heat. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if desired.
- To make the cake: Beat the eggs and sugar until foamy and thick. Gradually add the melted and cooled butter to this mixture. Add the citrus zests with the flour and vanilla extract. Mix gently. Add the milk to loosen the mixture.
- Scrape half of the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan. Scoop out dots of flesh from the cooked plum halves and dot the batter (You want to use a tablespoon or so of flesh in total). Then scrape the remaining batter over this and repeat with more dots of flesh.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is risen, golden brown, pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly or completely clean.
- Cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to finish cooling there.
- Serve with the remaining plum halves and a little of their poaching liquid.
The publishers sent me a copy of Roast Lamb In the Olive Groves: A Mediterranean Cookbook purely for review purposes; all opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any other way. I do use affiliate links when linking to the products I am discussing.