"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Friday, September 12, 2008

All-Occasion Yellow Cake and Plum Tart

Sometimes the recipes in The Gourmet Cookbook are very specific, but sometimes they are a "foundation" recipe--meant to be a starting point for whatever you want or need to do.

All-Occasion Yellow Cake is meant to be a starting point.

Developed to illustrate the vast difference between box mixes and almost-as-easy scratch batter, this recipe can morph into whatever you need--a layer cake, a sheet cake--even cupcakes.

Here's what I used it for.

At work we have three peach trees that decided to bear fruit like crazy this year. We were swimming in peaches--I was giving them away to co-workers, baking them whole to serve with meats, slicing them into fruit salad...Miranda made a crisp, and I decided to make a peach cake using this recipe as a base.

Easy stuff. I peeled and sliced the peaches into the bottom of a greased sheet pan, then poured the cake batter on top.

My one error was baking until the cake looked browned on top, which the recipe (had I bothered to pay attention to that part) says specifically NOT to do--that it should be pale yellow when done. So to me, the cake part felt a little tough, but with all those juicy peaches underneath it wasn't an issue.

With lots of family in the house, this cake was gone in no time at all. And now the peaches are gone too, alas. Can't wait for next year!


One of the things that really gets me excited as a chef is seeing truly seasonal produce in the markets. There really isn't a lot these days that you can't get year round, but some items remain elusive. Fiddleheads and ramps have a short season, and some fruits show up only from time to time, like kumquats, figs and quince.

Italian prune plums fall into that category too. Smaller than your typical plum, and egg-shaped instead of round, these plums have a nice, firm body that make them ideal for baking because they hold their shape. I don't know why they're so rare in the markets--some years I don't see them at all. When I do, I grab them.

Plum Tart shows them off in all their glory. Nothing fancy here...no pastry cream underneath--just macerated plums baked on top of a rich tart crust.

This crust is slightly unusual because it calls for egg yolks instead of ice water to bind. That makes it not only a pretty yellow color, but adds to the fat content. I happened to use a high-fat butter as well, so this definitely isn't a dessert for dieters.

Lemon zest in the crust complements the plums beautifully. Here's my version:

Pretty. Delicious. And relatively easy, for a dessert. If you see prune plums in your local store, grab about 2 lbs. and give this recipe a try.


Liz C said...

Next year, please mail me some of your surplus peaches! Up here in the PNW it's not always to find the luscious ones.

Anonymous said...

Oh yum! I wish I had planted a peach tree. Maybe someone will trade peaches for my tomatoes.

Karen said...

Wow, that looks good!