Original Plum Torte Recipe (2024)

By Marian Burros

Original Plum Torte Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour 15 minutes
Read community notes

The Times published Marian Burros’s recipe for Plum Torte every September from 1983 until 1989, when the editors determined that enough was enough. The recipe was to be printed for the last time that year. “To counter anticipated protests,” Ms. Burros wrote a few years later, “the recipe was printed in larger type than usual with a broken-line border around it to encourage clipping.” It didn’t help. The paper was flooded with angry letters. “The appearance of the recipe, like the torte itself, is bittersweet,” wrote a reader in Tarrytown, N.Y. “Summer is leaving, fall is coming. That's what your annual recipe is all about. Don't be grumpy about it.” We are not! And we pledge that every year, as summer gives way to fall, we will make sure that the recipe is easily available to one and all. The original 1983 recipe called for 1 cup sugar; the 1989 version reduced that to ¾ cup. We give both options below. Here are five ways to adapt the torte.

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Yield:8 servings

  • ¾ to 1cup sugar
  • ½cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2eggs
  • 24halves pitted purple plums
  • Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (8 servings)

364 calories; 13 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 60 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 45 grams sugars; 5 grams protein; 81 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Original Plum Torte Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Heat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Step


    Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.

  3. Step


    Spoon the batter into a springform pan of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.

  4. Step


    Bake 1 hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream. (To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.)


  • To freeze, double-wrap the torte in foil, place in a plastic bag and seal.



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Cooking Notes


Hi - I'd like clarification on the flour --- 1 C flour, sifted - is that one cup of flour and sift and add, or sift the flour to equal one cup of flour - makes a difference. Thank you.

Jan Wong

In 1988 my Toronto newspaper was about to post me to Beijing as a foreign correspondent. Alas, my house wasn't selling. I'd read that the fragrance of baking helps so I bought a frozen loaf of bread, and warmed it in the oven. No sale. Desperate, I baked this torte for an open house. Ta-dah! With the kitchen infused with the sweet perfume of Original Plum Torte, the house sold.


Sifted flour means sift then measure.
Flour, sifted means measure them sift.


Hello, i'm from Russion Federation. This is exellent. I'm cooced it every weekend. My children very liked this pie. I not very well know English. Sorry for mistake. From Russia with love ;)


Made this last night after tasting the one made by our daughter. Used raspberries and blackberries, one basket each, instead of plumbs, and 1/3 c. cornmeal and 2/3 c. flour. Fantastic!!! The cornmeal adds a very sophisticated "Italian" character to it, very slight crunch, and amazing flavor. Topped with coarse sugar before baking. Did this in a motorhome convection oven for 50 minutes. Perfect dessert with whipped cream, flavored with a few pureed berries and sugar/vanilla. So easy!


This was GREAT. Sliced the plums and arranged them in a fan pattern -- better than halves because prettier and more evenly distributed over cake. Added lemon zest and sliced slivered almonds. Next time I would toss the plums in the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, almonds, and cinnamon, because the cinnamon and the zest clumped up when sprinkled. Will also experiment with other fruits.


A nice recipe for Obstkuchen, the German-speaking bakers' classic! I grew up on this cake and have been making it for many, many years now. It can be made with any neutral vegetable oil too. Use any kind of nice fruit or berries, just make sure that they are firm, otherwise they can release too much juice during baking. Also, grease the the round or square pan, line the bottom with parchment and grease that one too. No springform required, but it's nice if you have one.

J. David Nelson

A 9" pan gives greater height and moisture to the tart than a 10" pan.

Jen in Astoria

Note: My Mom makes this all the time and it's a family and guest favorite. It freezes PHENOMENALLY well--her usual tactic is to wait until it's cool, then into the fridge, THEN when it's really cool you wrap it first in plastic wrap and then in foil REALLY well, like you're launching it into space, and then into the freezer. Also works for leftover torte. If you have more than 1 springform pan make 2 and freeze one for Emergency Company Cake.


A delicious and indeed elegant torte. I have made it twice with these alterations: 50% almond meal; 50%brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. It also freezes well.


Torte, schmorte. It's a delicious, homey dessert you can bake in just about anything - though a springform pan does make for a somewhat ritzier presentation - and top with whatever fruit is in season. My Polish mother made it in a rectangular metal pan all summer long (mmm...placek!), though the household favorite WAS the Italian/prune plum iteration. She used grated lemon rind and 1 t. vanilla in the batter, tightly-spaced skin-side down fruit, and ground cloves instead of cinnamon atop.


Plums must have been a lot smaller in 1982. I only needed 4 plums (8 halves).

The size of the pan is also going to affect cooking time, rise height, and so on. I used a 9" pan and increased the recipe for the batter to 1 1/2 times. Perfect.

It only took 45 minutes to cook. It would have burned if I'd left it an hour like it said. I could smell it and tested with a toothpick and stopped at 45 minutes when it came out clean.

Sue Llewellyn

Springform or not, shouldn't we grease (butter) the pan?


Dear god, this is good.


My favorite recipe from NYT - annual ritual for 20 years!
Baked with - apricots, apples and cranberries when off season.
Also used half whole wheat flour and was perfect. This year sliced the plums thinly and layerd tightly like rose petals - still the best.


Can olive oil be substituted for the butter?


We have two Italian plum trees, so we make this often. You can also make with frozen plum halves, or you can make and freeze the torte itself. I have never met a person that didn't like it. It's dessert, it's breakfast, it's a snack!


For the love of God, can we please specify weights in grams ?? The cuppa cuppa cuppa days are over, It's time to catch up.

Mary Jo

Less sugar is just as good. Great recipe to use up fresh Italian plums from the tree. Frozen plums work fine too.


This is a no fail cake. Everybody loves it no matter how you tweak it. Today it was subbing 1/3 of the flour with corn meal and blueberries/fresh apricots instead of plums. A little vanilla ice cream on the side doesn’t hurt either.


Yup, a winner. Delicious, easy, and so versatile as you can see by reading all the notes. One thing I’ve done successfully that I haven’t seen noted is using dried fruit. I soak dried plums (or any fruit) in liquor for several hours and use those instead of fresh. Also delicious! The best liquor I’ve used is a sweet, spiced pear cordial but many others have worked well too (e.g., rum).


Original Plum Torte is my new favorite item. I’ve made three since I saw the recipe - plums! All sorts. Sweet. But this time I made it with black figs! Yum. Lemon juice and sugar and cinnamon liberally. You can’t “pour” the batter. I’d say “spoon” but you can also add a little bit of milk. Best at room temp or cold.


Tried this for thanksgiving but was very disappointed. It didn’t rise to the cake consistency shown in the photo but stayed flat - more like a plum cookie. I tried twice! Even after brand new baking powder and following the original recipe precisely, the second version was the same (in the first attempt I tried a recommended alteration and substituted 1/4 cup cornmeal for flour). Anyway, the flavor was good but I won’t make it again - there are too many other things to try.


Plums unavailable for the time being. Think I could use frozen peaches??!


Ok to cut sugar down to 2/3 cup


would like to make this with apples and cranberries, and I’m wondering for those who have already done so, do you cook the cranberries with sugar and drain? I’m putting them in whole they would release too much liquid and be way too tart. Advice?

Seattle Stef

Don’t make this. Make this instead - https://www.sugarsalted.com/easy-plum-streusel-coffee-cake/


Made as directed in 8 in springform pan. Although the top baked nicely the inside of the center of the cake was still batter-y! Not sure if I will try again.


I always have more plums than indicated for this, but I heap the fruit on anyway, wiggling the plums into the batter tightly. delicious!Followed others’ suggestions and loved this most:- cut sugar overall by 1/4 cup and did 1/2cup brown and 1/4 cup regular sugar - subbed half of the reg flour for almond flour - used juice of half a small lemon- light dusting of cinnamon across top before baking.


Has anyone tried this with frozen sour cherries?

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Original Plum Torte Recipe (2024)


Where did plum cake originate? ›

Plum cake traces its origins to medieval England, where a fasting tradition preceded Christmas. This practice aimed to prepare the body for the festive indulgence on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, a porridge-like dish, considered the precursor to plum cake, was prepared.

What is the difference between a plum cake and a normal cake? ›

A Fruit Cake is a normal vanilla cake with fruits in it. Whereas a Plum Cake is made with dry fruits soaked in alcohol/orange juice for more than a day. A Fruit Cake's colour is white to yellowish inside, whereas a Plum Cake's colour is brown to dark brown inside.

Do you have to peel plums before baking? ›

Not at all. The skin on plums is very thin and breaks down easily while cooking. You don't need to peel plums when using for baking, roasting, jam, crumbles etc.

What is a good substitute for canned plums? ›

Replace the plums with almost any seasonal fruit: apricots, halved and pitted; cranberries or any summer berry; sliced apples, nectarines, peaches and pears. Canned and frozen fruit can stand in for fresh. Made this for the first time using 4 cups of blueberries and raspberries (mixed).

What is plum cake called in USA? ›

Terms. The term "plum cake" and "fruit cake" have become interchangeable.

Why do Christians eat plum cake? ›

According to custom, on the eve of Christmas, a rich porridge was cooked and eaten to “line the stomach” for the upcoming feast. The porridge, said to have been made with oats, dried fruits, spices, honey, and sometimes even meat, can be called the grandfather of the Christmas — or plum cake.

Why is plum cake so expensive? ›

Plum cake is generally costlier since it has loads of nuts n berries. Moreover it tastes good in butter and for the rich color brown sugar is added in it rather than normal sugar. Moreover for Alcoholic version it uses Alcohol for soaking , so all these things make them costly.

Is plum cake junk food? ›

It also contains a lot of vitamin C. It is a concentrated type of enormous energy when compared to other dry fruits like figs, raisins, cashews, almonds, and walnuts. They also include iron, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other nutrients. These dried fruits also contain healthy cholesterol.

What is the tradition of the plum cake? ›

The plum cake's history can be traced back to medieval England, where the weeks leading up to Christmas, called Advent, saw a period of self-denial, fasting and abstinence. This was supposed to prepare the body for the festive season of feasts and indulgences, and also to save food for the celebrations.

How ripe should plums be for baking? ›

When ripe, the flesh of most plum varieties should give slightly when squeezed gently, though green and yellow plums remain firm even when ripe. Under-ripe plums are best for cooking or making preserves. To ripen them, place them in a brown, paper bag for a couple of days.

Is it OK to eat plum skin? ›

The skin is edible, but if you want raw plums without the skin, drop into into boiling water for around 15 seconds, then plunge immediately into cold water and it should come away easily. If you're cooking plums, they're easier to skin afterwards.

Why are cooked plums bitter? ›

That is an interaction of proteins and sugars. A free amino group of a protein reacts with a carbon-R group of a sugar, producing something called N-glycosylamine. This is unstable and is basically a downstream product. It breaks down into something called the melanoidins, which can be bitter to taste.

What is the closest fruit to a plum? ›

Nectarines: Nectarines have a similar texture and flavor to plums, but they are slightly sweeter. They work well in recipes where plums are the main ingredient, such as tarts and cobblers. Peaches: Peaches have a sweet, juicy flavor and a similar texture to plums.

What fruit tastes like a plum? ›

Not only do sweet apricot qualities balance out the sour hints from a traditional plum, but each variety has its own distinctive fusion of flavors, size, and color.

Why aren t plums more popular? ›

U.S. plum consumption has plummeted by nearly half in the past decade. Perhaps because the supermarket varieties imported from California or abroad are harvested when they are still hard and never ripening to a pleasing softness. Most of the recent batch of small local plums were ideal for a quick snack.

Why is plum cake related to Christmas? ›

Since individuals fasted in the weeks before Christmas to prepare their bodies for the excess on Christmas day, plum cake has been a part of Christmas traditions since the Middle Ages. Dried plums are soaked in brandy or rum for several months, giving plum cakes their thick structure and somewhat bitter flavour.”

Where did Christmas cake originate from? ›

Humble beginnings. Christmas cake began life in the Middle Ages - as plum porridge! Christmas Eve was a day of religious fasting, and this was a hearty meal afterwards, with a consistency more like that of a pottage or soup, made of boiled beef, fruit and spices, then thickened with bread and oats.

What is plum cake famous for? ›

The Origin of Plum Cakes in India

It is believed that the first plum cake was made in 1883 when an English planter brought back a rich plum cake from England and asked a local baker, Mambally Bapu, to prepare something similar. Bapu replaced yeast with a local toddy made using cashew apple and kadalipazham.

Where did the traditional fruit cake come from? ›

The Roman fruitcake was a mash of barley, honey, wine and dried fruit, often pomegranate seeds. What you might recognize as a modern-style fruitcake – a moist, leavened dessert studded with fruits and nuts – was probably first baked in the early Middle Ages in Europe.


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