It’s January in Australia, and you would be within your rights to expect that the weather would be swelteringly, painfully hot and sticky. But you’d be wrong, because this is Melbourne we’re talking about, so it’s cool and drizzly, and pretty much the perfect weather for staying inside with a book. Or several books. Like the ones I accidentally bought when I went looking for calendars today.
But that really wasn’t my fault. I mean, nobody could seriously expect me to pass up a book about Richard III and finding his grave. Or Gail Carriger’s newest YA offering, Curtsey and Conspiracies. And really, if you had just discovered that Joan Aiken wrote Jane Austen fanfic, wouldn’t you be heading straight for the nearest bookshop to find out exactly what it was like? (Very good, as it turns out – she has the voice down just about perfectly, and while I found that it did have a certain amount of Victorian sensibility and wish fulfilment, Aiken definitely wasn’t taking liberties with the characters.) And I may possibly have bought a cookbook, too. I have no self-control when it comes to bookshops.
(You will note that actual calendars are conspicuously missing from this list. There’s a reason for that.)
But I digress. And also spend a lot of money in bookshops.
Do you know what’s really great about this weather, though? It’s summer, so all the most beautiful stone fruits are in season, but it’s cold, so you can bake with them. And baked, stewed, roasted and caramelised stone fruits are one of the great joys of life. I am a very happy Catherine right now.
I am also a Catherine who has been baking upside-down plum cake, and this is a kind of weird cake for me, because I love plums, and in fact I grew up with a plum tree in the back yard, so stewed plums are a bit of an emblem of summer for me, but I really hate walnuts, and especially walnut cakes. So when I started making up this cake, it was going to be an almondy sort of cake, but some part of my cooking-self was *positive* and *certain* and really *very sure* that plum cake required walnuts, not almonds, and in the end I had to obey. I couldn’t quite bring myself to make it all with walnut meal, so I went half and half.
In retrospect, I think it might actually have been better with all walnuts, which is sort of unnatural, really, but true nonetheless. The walnuts have an earthiness that goes well with the plums. But I have no idea how my cooking-self figured that out, frankly. And I’m still deeply suspicious of the whole idea.
It’s a good cake, though. Nice and afternoon tea-ish, and it should keep for several days, assuming it lasts long enough to do so. And it is really perfect for a Melbourne summer.
Your Shopping List9 plums 10 g butter 3 tbsp vanilla sugar 75 g walnuts 75 g almonds (or more walnuts) 175 g caster sugar 200 g self-raising flour 1 tsp bicarb of soda 1/2 tsp cardamom pinch of salt 2 eggs 150 ml olive oil 250 g Greek Yoghurt