This is a real, true-blue breakfast cake – I woke up especially early this week to bake it to fit it into my crazy schedule. (I am not a morning person, so those who know me know that this was quite an event.) But knowing this cake was downstairs waiting for me got me out of bed this morning, for sure.
What’s a breakfast cake, you might say? Well, it has to go well with a cup of coffee – which this one does. Beyond that, though, it’s a tricky balancing act between being just wholesome enough to be ok for breakfast, and just sweet enough to be considered a cake.
I think this one is the perfect level of sweetness for morning – tart, baked plums nestle into the soft fragrant cake; almost like a bread pudding. The Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and Multi Grain Cereal give it a pleasant granola-like texture, but without the crunch, if that makes sense. Every bite is just interesting.
When I first tried out the original recipe this is based on, without substitutions, I loved it. It was a little too delicate and cake-like for breakfast, though. To me, it was a tea cake, and a lovely one. It was not a get-you-out-the-door-to-face-the-day cake. I felt it could use a little whole grain texture, a little lightening up by substituting applesauce for oil, and of course, I had to accommodate my newfound flavor fascination.
The sunset-colored plums and golden brown crusty top really make this a feast for the eyes as well. As you can see, mine puffed alarmingly in the oven – the cake overtook the plums like quicksand. It looks like they had a wild ride.
I’m really taken with this plum-anise combination – don’t be surprised if it pops up again soon in more of my recipes soon. I stumbled on a plum-anise sugar cookie in April that blew my mind. The sweet-sourness of the plums (or prunes – those would work, too) against the soft licorice fragrance of anise seed go together like it was meant to be. The orange zest makes a fresh, fragrant intermediary between them. I can’t believe I’d never had this before.
This cake presents a conundrum though – it’s difficult to cleanly cut through the baked plums. They stick to your knife, or wiggle out of place, or they just refuse to cut, so you squish the cake underneath. So you have a decision to make. Should you serve it in 16 mini servings, cutting around each plum half? Or make 8 helpings with 2 plums each . . . or should it be 4 big helpings, with 4 plums each? (I tend toward the last option.) You could teach someone fractions with this cake.
For those who don’t like licorice or anise flavor, you can always substitute good old cinnamon. Or if you want something more decadent, I think ¼ cup of dark chocolate chunks would be amazing in this as well, though I haven’t tried it; or maybe chocolate shavings on top. Uh-oh . . . I may be crossing the line from ‘breakfast” into ‘cake.’
Too far? . . . Or just right?
Plum Breakfast Cake with Orange, Anise, and Multigrain Cereal
Based on Smitten Kitchen’s Dimply Plum Cake
1/2 cup Hodgson Mill Naturally White Unbleached Flour
1/2 cup Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/3 cup Hodgson Mill Multi Grain Cereal with Milled Flaxseed and Soy
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup applesauce
Grated zest of 1 orange (I used ½ tsp dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums (or Italian prune plums, when in season), halved and pitted (use organic if possible)
Powdered sugar, to garnish
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter an 8” square pan, and coat it with flour.
In a medium bowl, mix together flours, cereal, baking powder, and salt.
In a larger bowl, beat softened butter with a mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat 3 more minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add applesauce, orange zest, anise, and vanilla and mix well. Reduce speed and add dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. Use a spatula or spoon to make sure there are no dry bits lurking beneath.
Pour batter (it’s a bit thick) evenly into the prepared pan. Arrange the 16 plum halves, cut side up, and press them gently into the batter.
Bake 35 minutes, or until top is deeply browned and a toothpick inserted into the cake (between the plums) comes out clean. Cool for at least 15 minutes. Once completely cool, you may wish to use a light dusting of powdered sugar. (It soaks into the plums, but makes the cake a speckly white.)
Notes: Makes about 4-8 servings (4 as a main, 8 as a side, or 16 as a snack). Cake is moist, but can be kept for 2 days at room temperature if wrapped, or a day longer if wrapped and kept in fridge. It will become more moist and flavors will develop more the longer it is kept.