August 07, 2012

Plum Cake + Sensibility

Last night, Myrna and I watched the BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, with Janet McTeer, Dominic Cooper, and, playing Edward, Dan Stevens. (Which is why I added it to my queue so long ago and finally found it at the top again.) It's a good adaptation. I think Hattie Morahan, who plays Elinor, takes far too much from Emma Thompson's version, especially mimicking her voice and intonation. And Dan Stevens, charming though he is, and blue as his eyes are, is just a taller version of Hugh Grant. (I always wonder why Edward must be made into a bumbler. No he cannot speak, but he is supposed to be wise and strong and good, so why can't we see some of that.)

The film is also sexed up in irritating ways: the opening shot is of Willoughby seducing Brandon's Ward--though you don't see his face, so you don't know it's him if you've never read the book, it set a very different tone to the softly sensual romance of Willoughby and Marianne.

In other ways, it is exceptional. Charity Wakefield is a beautiful Marianne -- not at all evocative of Kate Winslet's performance which is a little too Ophelia for my tastes. And, best of all, the sisters are close in age -- as they are in the novel -- so that you really see the friendship, the agony, the similarities, and the extreme differences in their characters.

While watching, we baked one of the easiest little cakes I've ever made. And delicious too. I know little about baking, but I am assuming I can adapt this sort of basic batter fairly easily, using buckwheat, or whole-wheat, or raw sugar, or what-have-you. (I'm dying to try it with buckwheat and peaches, and a dash of maple syrup.) The cake is light, with a crunchy top, and not too sweet. And the plums melt into the batter, in the most charming way.

adapted from The Kitchn

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
a dash of vanilla extract
6 - 8 plums, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 8" round cake pan. Cream sugars and butter in a bowl. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat well.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter, being sure to crowd the pan. You may have to use an extra plum or two, depending on how big your plums are. Sprinkle lightly with the cinnamon and sugar.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the middle is set. Cool on a rack.


  1. Anonymous8:51 AM

    Lovely recipe and a fun write up! I'm an artist living in Devon, England and made this cake today to serve to my Open Studio visitors.

  2. Thank you. I have watched both versions of this movie and prefer the bumbling Grant and the Opheliaesque Marianne. But I know just what to do with my last bits of apple harvest sitting on the kitchen counter.