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Food and Drink

This plummy dessert takes the cake

  • Author: Kim Sunée
    | Alaska cooking
  • Updated: July 25, 2019
  • Published July 25, 2019

Plum cornmeal cake (Photo by Kim Sunée)

Hot July days inspire lots of activity, but turning on a hot oven is not quite at the top of the list. However, when it comes to fresh fruit and the potential pleasures of cake, there’s nothing better than a simple confection that carries with it the promise of summer.

I’ve been making this cornmeal version for years — sometimes switching out the cornmeal for almond meal — and I’m always impressed at how, when the cake puffs up warm and fragrant from the oven, the edges stained from sweet plum juices, it seems to imply lots of bowls and multiple steps. Instead, you need one bowl, and some ripe fruit and then your choice of everything from citrus zest and almond extract to some slivered toasted, almonds or even warming spices like cardamom and nutmeg. I make this with sweet, ripe, dark plums, and sometimes fresh apricots and peaches; wild berries and sour cherries in late summer; apples and pears into the fall. It’s a year-round favorite that can be enjoyed as is or served with whipped cream or crème fraiche for a fancier presentation.

Plum cornmeal cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal

Pinch salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

10 ripe plums, halved and pits removed

Optional: cinnamon, sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch or 8-inch cake pan or line with parchment; grease parchment.

2. Combine butter and sugar together in a bowl and beat, using electric hand mixer or stand mixer, until well blended. Add flour, cornmeal, salt, eggs and vanilla. Spoon batter into prepared pan and place plum halves, skin side up. Top, if desired, with ground cinnamon and about 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake 40-45 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out mostly clean. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes in pan before slicing/serving. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Note: To make ahead, cool completely, wrap and freeze. Before serving, defrost and reheat for 10 to 15 minutes in a 300-degree oven.

Kim Sunée is the bestselling author of “Trail of Crumbs” and two cookbooks. A former food editor, she’s based in Anchorage. For more food, follow her on Instagram/kimsunee or visit