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20 September 2012

Chocolate Almond Cake with Caramelized Plums in Cognac

Can you actually believe that this is the first time I gave these fruit a long hard look and admitted to myself how stupid I was for not even trying to eat them after all these wasted years?  I must be the only person on earth who didn't eat them....until now.  And I want to rewind the years and eat my way back to the present.  It's actually good!  Whatever possessed me to think that they are not good? 

When we moved in to our house years ago, the garden was not a garden.  It was a forest in wild anarchy.  When we looked at it, we were just exhaling in dismay.  One thing is assessing the work it entails and another thing is to actually jump on the job and get our hands dirty.  That garden gave me the nightmares.  The previous occupants left a big bird cage, a squalid chicken coop, an impressively strong iron clothesline, two apricot trees in a sorry state, a plum tree that was almost dead, a wannabe elegant garden with stone statues and a big vase that used to be a fountain and an unbelievable overgrowth of weeds and plants covering them all.  

For some odd reason, the previous occupants seemed to have this heightened fear of a possible hurricane passing through.  All items mentioned above were deeply rooted to the ground.  Seriously rooted.  The clothesline was the worst to uproot.  I remember running outside the house when I heard a loud bang.  I will never forget the scene that greeted me.  A husband with an almost half-crazed look but with a big satisfied smile coming out, a car in a strange angle and the clotheslines down on the ground and attached to the car.  Yes, out of desperation, he actually pulled it out by tying it in the car and stepping on the gas.  

We emptied the whole garden.  We pulled the weeds and the unidentifiable plants, pruned the trees that were barely alive and threw away all the garbage.  It was like the garden finally took a deep breath of fresh air.  We nursed the trees back to life and we were rewarded with new leaves, fruits and healthier looks.  We gave more attention to the plum tree because we found it in a severely bad state.  It seemed impossible to nurse it back to life but we did and it gave us so much fruit the succeeding summers.

As much as I was being convinced to eat them, I never really developed a strong attraction to its taste.  Not until I caramelized them in this cake.  Then I tried again the fresh fruit.   For the first time, I realized  that it was actually good.  Sometimes, we need to find out things in our own way and time.  Then regret the time that got wasted. 

Here is a delicious chocolate almond cake topped with caramelized plums spiced with cinnamon and flambeed with cognac that I adapted from the cookbook of Beatrice Peltre called La Tartine Gourmande, the same name as the blog she maintains.  It has a lot of simple and healthy recipes that I wish to try but my eyes landed on this one as the first recipe to try.  I followed practically everything except for caramelizing the plums which I caramelized the way a pastry chef suggested in a show once.  I cooked the sugar and water together in a saucepan then added some bits of butter then the fruit and a dash of liquor. 

Chocolate Almond Cake with Caramelized Plums in Cognac

Serves 4 - 6 
In a 13 3/4 by 4 1/2 inch springform mold (or any other shape)
  • 90 grams unsalted butter + 1 teaspoon for the plums + more for the mold
  • 2 red plums, pitted and sliced
  • 70 grams brown sugar + 2 tablespoons for the plums
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • dash of cognac
  • 60 grams dark chocolate (64% cocoa content)
  • 80 grams almond flour
  • 50 grams 00 flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • confectioner's sugar to dust (optional)
  • chocolate shavings to dust (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.  Butter the mold and line it with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. In caramelizing the plums, melt 2 tablespoons of sugar with 4 tablespoons of water in a saucepan.  Let it cook until it slightly changes color.  Add 1 teaspoon of butter.  Add plum slices when butter has melted.  Add cognac and flambe'.  Sprinkle with cinnamon powder.  Cook for about 1 minute on each side.  Set aside. 
  3. Melt the chocolate with the remaining butter (90 g.) in a bain-marie.  Set aside.
  4. In a bowl, combine the almond flour, 00 flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.
  5. In a bowl of stand mixer, beat the eggs with 70 grams sugar until the batter is light and pale in color.  Stir in the vanilla, then the melted chocolate and the flour mixture, until just combined.  
  6. Pour the cake batter into the mold and arrange the slices of plums on top, draining from any excess liquid.  
  7. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the blade of a knife inserted in the middle comes out dry.  Remove from the oven and let cool before unmolding.
  8. Dust with confectioner's sugar or chocolate shavings.  Drizzle with plum sauce on the side.