As many of you already know, my dear Oma (German for grandmother) passed away a few months ago. At nearly 106 years old, I shouldn’t complain about the loss. But when it comes to matters of the heart, no amount of time is ever enough.
My Oma was such a unique woman. I knew this early on. As a little girl, she would tell me stories about Princess Agathe and Princess Elizabeth of Prussia, friends since childhood. To me, this was beyond cool. My grandmother might as well have been hanging out with Cinderella. As I got a little older, she told me stories of the war. She took my father, then three, and walked for six months to reach the American occupied part of Germany. Along the way, she stared down a Nazi that put a gun to her head, tricked a group of Russian soldiers, and spun stories like an expert weaver. As she aged, her adventures and fearless streak continued. She traveled the globe. Learned to speak Spanish in her seventies. Rode on a motorcycle for the first time in her eighties. Smoked marijuana once in her nineties, and was still traveling (at least to California) in her hundreds. Everyone who met her had the same reaction. I want to be like her when I grow up. She was one of a kind!
When my father and I were recently going through her things, I discovered all sorts of treasure…including several notebooks, filled with recipes. Some of the recipes were clipped out of magazines. Others were given to her by friends or relatives. She loved sweets. So many of the recipes were for cakes or pastries. I enjoyed reading her little notes, etched into the margins. When it came to dessert, her opinion typically was “needs more sugar.”
Ironically, we were always so busy having fun together that we rarely spent time cooking. I wish we’d had more time, more adventures, more opportunities to bake cakes. But as I dust off one of her notebooks and roll up my sleeves, I can still hear her voice. She is with me in spirit, telling me, “have fun, and while you’re at it, add a bit more sugar to that cake.”
So, Oma, this recipe is for you. It was one of her favorite desserts, pflaumenkuchen mit streusel (plum cake with streusel topping). For those of you that have never had this classic German dessert, it’s the perfect combination of moist cake, tart jam, and sweet streusel.
Enjoy, and if you feel the urge, you can add an extra spoonful of sugar to the recipe…just for Oma.
German Plum Cake a.k.a. Pflaumenkuchen
Makes one cake
(For the Cake)
165 grams unsalted butter, softened
130 grams sugar
225 grams all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
(For the Filling)
500 grams tart plum jam, preferably homemade
(For the Streusel)
75 grams unsalted butter, softened
75 grams sugar
100 grams all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Zest of ½ a lemon
Pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Start by making the streusel topping. In a mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest and cinnamon. Add in the vanilla extract and softened butter. Using a fork, work the butter into the dough until it turns into a sandy consistency and the butter is in pea size pieces. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and allow the mixture to chill.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9”x11” pan with butter or oil. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add half of the flour mixture into the batter and mix just until blended. Add the milk, mixing just until blended. Add the remaining flour and mix until thoroughly combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Smooth the batter, making sure that it is level. Add the layer of jam on top. Then, sprinkle the streusel over the jam.
Place the cake in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out with no more than a few crumbs on it.
Allow the cake to cool before cutting and serving.
Leftovers can be stored, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to two days. This cake also freezes quite nicely. If you wish to freeze the cake, wrap and freeze individual slices of cake. To serves simply remove and leave at room temperature the day before serving.
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