A Plummy Deal
This Plum Blueberry Cake was inspired by a very beautiful peach blueberry cake which graced the cover of Gourmet's August 2005 issue - the recipe is reproduced on the Epicurious website (link for recipe provided here) together with the original Gourmet photo (link here if you're interested to view that photo, and if you feel the need to compare the two *which I'm sure you will, it being a human failing we all suffer from*, I can only plead for "kindness" after strenuously pointing out that Gourmet has a test kitchen and professional photographers at its disposal).
I would have gone with peaches as per the recipe except that I couldn't find any at the particular supermarket I frequented - so I went with plums instead and they performed their substitution task excellently. The ruby and garnet-red colors of plums were definitely more passionate, when compared to the more romantic pink-blush peaches. The plums' natural tartness have also been tempered with their sweetness coming right to the forefront after the long baking period needed for this cake.
The good thing about Gourmet's recipes is the fact that they are sometimes featured and archived within the Epicurious website, and loads of readers who have attempted such recipes submit their comments, tips and brick-bats (even Gourmet is known to make mistakes at times). Any baker will know that baking being such an accurate science, one or two mis-steps in the process can sometimes spell doom for a cake and utter disappointment to the baker. And this is where all those tips and brick-bats from Epicurious readers come in REAL HANDY!
For this particular cake, a long baking time of 1 and 3/4 hours was specified "to keep the ripe fruit from bursting and releasing its juices" (quoted from Gourmet). However, the oven temperature recommended was 375F (or 190C), which is actually moderately hot and may end up causing the crust to burn. Thanks to the varied comments of Epicurious readers:
- I reduced the oven temperature to about 160C (or 325F) for the first and a quarter hour and increased the temperature to about 175C (or 350F) for the last half hour, which was perfect for the crust to be slowly cooked and browned without drying - in fact, this particular pastry recipe creates a lovely moist and crumbly crust, not exactly dense like a tart but also not exactly light as sponge like a cake.
- To prevent further possible burning of the crust, it was recommended that a light-colored springform cakepan be used instead of a dark-colored metal pan - this I followed to the 'T' as well.
- Finally, while cake is baking with fruit filling on top of pastry, the cake should be covered loosely with an aluminium sheet-foil, to prevent over-cooking and drying-up of the sliced fruits - foil can be removed in the last 15 minutes or so to allow the crust to brown further to a lovely golden color.