What is so special about plum cake?

What is plum cake?

Plum cake is a traditional fruit cake that contains dried plums (prunes) as one of the main ingredients. It originated in England and is still popular there today, but it is also enjoyed in many other countries. Plum cake has a dense, moist texture and is often flavored with spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice. The plums give the cake a sweet taste and juicy bite. The cake is usually made with butter or oil instead of only using flour and eggs. This gives it a rich flavor and crumbly yet moist texture. Plum cake makes an excellent tea time snack or dessert.

What are the key ingredients in plum cake?

The main ingredients in traditional plum cake recipes are:

– All-purpose flour – this forms the structure of the cake. Plain or self-rising flour can be used.

– Butter or oil – this gives moisture and richness.

– Eggs – these help bind the ingredients together.

– Dried plums – these can be whole prunes or chopped prunes. They provide sweetness and moisture.

– Sugar – usually brown sugar is used. This further enhances the sweetness.

– Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves are commonly used.

– Almonds or walnuts – these give some crunch.

– Milk – this helps make the batter moist.

– Baking powder – this helps the cake rise.

– Zest of citrus fruits like orange – this provides a fresh flavor.

So in essence, the base is flour, eggs, fat (butter or oil), sugar and dried plums. The spices, nuts, milk and leavening agent further enhance the flavor and texture.

What is the history and origin of plum cake?

Plum cake originated in England during the Victorian era in the 19th century. Dried plums were brought to England from Southern Europe through trade routes. The English started using dried plums in their traditional fruit cakes, creating what we now know as plum cake.

During the 16th-19th century, dried plums were also known as “prunes” in England. So plum cakes were also called prune cakes. The name prune cake is still sometimes used today.

In Victorian England, plum cakes were a popular treat for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, weddings and other celebrations. The rich, dense cake was able to keep for several weeks which made it suitable for making ahead for special occasions.

Over time, English immigrants and settlers took plum cake to many parts of the world including America, Canada, Australia and Caribbean nations. It is now baked in many countries. The basic recipe remains similar but regional variations have evolved.

Why are dried plums ideal for cakes?

Dried plums, or prunes, have qualities that make them exceptionally suitable for cakes:

– Sweetness – prunes have high natural sugar content which sweetens cakes naturally.

– Moisture – prunes are juicy and retain moisture even after drying. This helps keep cakes moist and tender.

– Richness – prunes have deep flavor that gives cakes a richness.

– Binding – the cell structure of prunes helps bind ingredients of a cake together.

– Preservation – prunes allow cakes to stay fresher longer due to their natural fruit sugars and low moisture content.

– Texture – prunes give a pleasant, chewy texture contrast to the soft crumb.

– Health benefits – prunes add fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.

So in summary, prunes improve both the taste and texture of cakes, while also lengthening their shelf life. This makes them a treasured ingredient for cake bakers.

What are some key varieties of plum cakes?

There are many delicious plum cake recipes that have developed over the years. Here are some of the most popular plum cake varieties:

– Traditional English Plum Cake – This moist, dense cake contains chopped prunes, raisins, currants, candied orange peel, almonds, spices and brandy.

– Jamaican Black Cake – Dark colored with stout, molasses and burnt sugar, loaded with prunes and raisins soaked in rum.

– Australian Plum Pudding – Steamed plum cake with oats, potatoes, citrus peel and cognac. Eaten on Christmas.

– Indian Prune and Apricot Cake – Flavored with cardamom, cinnamon and rose water with a cream cheese frosting.

– Deep South Prune Cake – Moist stacked layers with a praline glaze or hard sauce.

– Scandinavian Julekake – Cardamom scented yeast plum cake with icing. Served at Christmas.

– Jewish Prague Plum Cake – Dense cake baked with potato, spices, coffee and brandy.

So while the traditional English recipe is most well known, many cultures have adapted plum cakes to suit local tastes. There is a wonderful diversity of plum cakes around the world.

Why do people love plum cake?

Plum cake has remained popular for generations for several reasons:

Taste – The blend of fruits, nuts, spices and flavors is very appealing. Prunes offer a sweet tang while molasses and brown sugar add deep, rich caramelized notes.

Texture – It is moist and dense with a soft crumb. Dried fruits provide pockets of juicy chewiness. Nuts add crunch. This varied texture is satisfying.

Keeps well – The low moisture and sugar preservation allows plum cakes to last 1-2 weeks or longer. This makes it ideal for occasions.

Versatile – It can be eaten as dessert, snack or served with tea. The recipe can also be adapted in many ways.

Nostalgia – Plum cake evokes feelings of family tradition, celebrations and holiday gatherings for many people.

Healthy ingredients – Dried plums, fruit, nuts and spices make it a relatively healthy cake choice.

So plum cake offers a medley of sensory pleasures and emotions. The blend of flavors, textures, versatility, keeping qualities and potential health benefits attract people to this classic cake.

How can you make plum cake extra moist and flavorful?

Here are some tips for making super moist, delicious plum cake:

– Soak dried fruit in brandy, rum or fruit juices overnight to plump them up. Drain before adding to batter.

– Replace some all-purpose flour with ground almonds or almond meal to add moisture.

– Add a touch of honey or dark corn syrup for moisture and sweetness.

– Use brown sugar instead of white sugar for deeper flavor.

– Cream the butter and sugars thoroughly until light and fluffy for a tender crumb.

– Beat the eggs into the creamed butter mixture one at a time.

– Fold flour mixture into the batter gently to avoid overmixing.

– Add zest from oranges or lemons for bright, fresh flavor.

– Use a combination of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, ginger.

– Brush warm syrup made with sugar and juice on the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.

– Store cake wrapped in plastic wrap in an airtight container to retain moisture.

What are some ways to use plum cake?

Plum cake is very versatile. Here are some delicious ways to eat and serve it:

– Plain sliced plum cake – enjoy it just as it is. The fruity cake often needs no accompaniment.

– Toasted plum cake – slices can be toasted to enhance the flavor and change the texture.

– With tea or coffee – it pairs wonderfully with hot beverages for breakfast or tea time.

– With whipped cream – topping slices with whipped cream adds a lovely contrast.

– Crumble over ice cream or custard – crumbs create a sweet topping for creamy desserts.

– Trifle – layers of plum cake, custard or pudding and fruit make a delicious trifle.

– Plum cake pudding – cubed pieces of cake can be used in a bread pudding or rice pudding.

– With cheese – fruit cake and cheese is a surprisingly delightful combination.

– Layer cake – plum cake layers with fruit and whipped cream frostings.

– Specialty cakes – the cake can be used in specialty cakes like yule logs.

So plum cake can be served simply on its own or incorporated into fanciful desserts. A little goes a long way!

What are some potential health benefits of plum cake?

While plum cake should be enjoyed in moderation as a treat, it does contain some nutritious ingredients that may provide potential health benefits:

– Fiber from whole wheat flour and dried plums. This promotes healthy digestion.

– Vitamins and minerals like Vitamin K, potassium, copper and manganese from the dried fruits. These support bone health, blood clotting and metabolism.

– Antioxidants from spices, nuts and zest. These help fight inflammation and oxidative stress.

– Energy from natural sugars to provide a slow energy release.

– Low sodium and trans fat. Most recipes don’t add much salt or unhealthy fats.

– Hydration from the juicy fruit. Dried plums can help with hydration levels.

So ingredients like whole grains, nuts, spices and dried fruit boost the nutrition levels a bit for this type of cake. Enjoying a slice along with other healthy foods can fit into a balanced diet.


Plum cake is a timeless, beloved cake that has spanned generations and continents for good reason. The blend of plump dried plums, nuts, warm spices and alcohol creates a symphony of flavors and textures that cake lovers adore. Beyond just tasting delicious, plum cake’s ability to stay moist and fresh makes it a versatile, portable treat for celebrations and gatherings. While it can be enjoyed across many cultures, plum cake often brings about feelings of nostalgia. There is also skill involved in properly balancing the ingredients to create the perfect moist, rich cake. People enjoy experimenting with different plum cake recipes to find their ideal blend of flavors. The natural sugars and various nutrients even provide a bit of an added health bonus. So for flavor, versatility, staying power and tradition, plum cake is a cherished staple that will continue to be baked and enjoyed around the world for many years to come.

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