Sunday, December 25, 2011


My grandmother lent me a few cookbooks a while back, including a Yiddish cookbook. I can't seem to find it on Amazon, but it is written by a very charming lady and it includes a recipe for zwetschenkuchen.
She introduces this dessert, saying "A German-Jewish cake for Rosh Hashanah. The name comes from a zwetsche (pr quetsch), a variety of small, dark blue plum found in Southern Germany and Alsace that ripens in time for New Year and Yom Kippur". I loved this little tidbit of information, I am always fascinated by new cooking terms and ingredients. It also reminded me of a favorite book by Eva Ibbotson called "A Song For Summer" about a young woman living in Germany around the time of WWII.
It was the photo that got me, however. The picture showed a round tart tin holding a cake of plump plums surrounded by golden cake that puffed up between them, making them look like fat little purple island. To top it all, the deep purple plums were ever-so-lightly dusted with powdered sugar, bringing any image you've ever had about "sugarplums dancing" come to life. I was enchanted and convinced that I had to bake this wonderful confection for Christmas.
Plums are not in season this time of year. Nope, not at all. The clerk at Oliver's told me they didn't carry any because the ones from Chile that are available this time of year are so watery and tasteless that it's not worth it. Well, I didn't like the idea of watery and tasteless even though I did want to have plump little plums in my cake and not sad, soggy preserved ones. I was about to substitute cherries, but the $10.99 per lb price shut down that idea pretty quickly. Besides, sugared cherries have nothing to do with Christmas, it just wouldn't be the same.
I was saved when I found whole, canned plums from Oregon. Awesome.
No, the plums are not as lively and chubby-looking as in the book, but that will just have to wait til summer. I hope you enjoy these pictures though, even without the perfect plums, I still think the powdered sugar on the plums looks stunning.

This one's my favorite pic (: I got the fabric in the remnants rack at Joanns. So pretty!

Zwetschenkuchen (or Sugarplum Cake)
I adapted this recipe a bit because I didn't have self-rising flour. Thank-you google. The dough will have to chill for at least 1 hour. Prep time, 30 minutes. Baking about 30-50, depending on the shape of the tin you use.
1 2/3 cup flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
11 tsp chilled butter
zest of 1 small lemon (I used a Meyer lemon, yum!)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 small egg, lightly beaten
2 lb 4 oz damson or Victoria plums (or canned ones from Oregon if its winter)
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Cut the butter into it with 2 knives. Lightly use your hands to break it down until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Mix in the sugar, zest and cinnamon. Bind the pastry with the egg a bit at a time, you don't want the dough to be too wet. Chill for at least 1 hour.
Cut the plums in half and remove the pits.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Grease a 10inch flan pan or tart tin with a removable bottom. Lightly press the pastry into the pan to cover the sides and the bottom. Pack the plums, cut-side down into the pastry base. You can use halves or cut them into smaller pieces and arrange them into a design. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the pastry is golden and the fruit is soft and juicy. (I baked mine on a cookie sheet so it would be easier to move into and out of the oven). Let cool in the pan. Dust with confectioner's sugar. You can serve it with toasted almonds and sour or whipped cream.

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