I might as well rename this blog to "Melissa Clark recipes I've made." Honestly, just when I think I'm ready to venture into new cookbook territory, I always fall back into her Cook This Now book. But I do really like her approach to recipes - they're not fussy, the end product is almost always delicious (my one stinker is her recipe for paratha bread, but I think that was because my whole wheat flour had gone rancid), and they don't take forever to make (except for mallobars...worth the effort). I also like that at the end of each recipe, she lists ideas for how to alter the recipe and/or use what you have on hand. And they all have that air of elevating an ingredient that keeps me excited about eating and cooking.
I made this cake this past Sunday. I have found that one of the best ways to beat the Sunday blues is to make sure there's cake at the end of it. Yes, you have to go back to work tomorrow, but first: cake. You see? You must eat your cake before you return to reality.
For this cake, I used the last four black plums available at my neighborhood grocery store. I probably could have used one more, but it still turned out great. The cornmeal shone through, even as the brilliance of the plums took center stage. It was really a treat to turn this rightside-up to reveal the congealed masterpiece underneath.
Upside-down Polenta Plum Cake
adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
My notes: I used plain low-fat yogurt and cultured unsalted butter and loved the result. I also would recommend taking the yogurt/sour cream out of the fridge along with the eggs a half hour beforehand, along with the butter, to take the chill off so as not to re-harden the butter when you're beating it together. If you don't, however, it will still turn out OK. Just a suggestion.
4-5 large plums, red or black, pitted and sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. fine cornmeal (not coarse polenta, strangely)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
4 large eggs, room temp (ideally)
1/3 c. plain yogurt (low fat or whole milk, greek or regular, or sour cream), not super cold
2 tsps. vanilla extract
Whipped cream or ice cream, for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9-inch springform with parchment paper and butter the entire interior well.
2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the plums, 1/2 c. sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt, stirring occasionally, 15-20 min., until the plums are tender and the liquid begins to reduce and the whole thing looks like something syrupy you'd drizzle over pancakes. Spread the hot fruit (carefully) into the prepared pan.
3. In a small-ish bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt.
4. In your mixing bowl, cream the butter and remaining 1 c. sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat completely before each addition. Beat in the yogurt and vanilla.
5. Fold in the dry ingredients by hand with a spatula and pour over the prepared fruit. Bake until the cake is golden and springs back when you gently press with your finger, about 45 minutes.
6. Cool the cake for 10 minutes before releasing the springform and inverting it to a serving plate. Serve warm, at room temp, or cold with desired creamy accompaniments. Good plain, too. Store in the fridge for a few days if necessary.