Italian Plums

Plum and Lemon Layer Cake

Layer cake-10.jpg

It has always been a dream of mine to have my own fruit trees. We used to have a guava tree at my mum’s place, and I just loved the guava jelly mum used to make. Nothing tasted better to me than something that came from our own backyard. I envy people that can harvest their own fruit and vegetables, and would love nothing more than to have more plums/peaches/apples than I know what to do with! My boss keeps bringing plums from his tree into work, bowl after bowl of them. I’ve been waiting a polite amount of time for other people to help themselves before packing up the remainder and bringing them all home! So far I have made a plum and tarragon shrub (which makes for a wonderful cocktail) and a big batch of plum jam that I decided to sandwich between layers of delicious lemon cake.

It has been a while since I made a proper cake. I’ve been baking and cooking a lot lately, but layer cakes are not something I do very often. I had no special reason to make this, apart from the fact it was the Labor Day long weekend and I had a bucket load of plums. It made for a wonderful weekend of baking.

A few notes on this recipe:

  1. Feel free to use store bought jam instead of making your own. That said, it is a very easy process and I highly recommend making it yourself. This jam recipe will make far more than you need for the cake - the rest will be brilliant on toast.
  2. The lemon skins are included at the boiling stage to add pectin – my plums were especially ripe and therefore likely to be low in pectin. You really want the jam to set otherwise you might get run away cake layers when you are trying to assemble. If you would rather add powdered pectin instead, just follow the instructions on your pectin packet for amounts.
  3. To check whether your jam has reached setting point, I like to use the cold plate test (this is the method my mum taught me). Stick a plate in the freezer when you start making the jam, and when you think the jam might be nearly there put a small amount on the cold plate. Put it in the fridge for a minute, then using your finger test to see if the jam wrinkles. If it does, then it’s ready!
  4. You can make this into a three or four layer cake, depending on what you prefer (and how many tins you have). I have only two loose bottomed tins here of the same size, so I baked two cakes and cut them in half to make a four layer cake.

This recipe is adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, Home Sweet Home.

Plum jam
750g pitted plums, chopped
juice and skins of 2 lemons (after juicing, chop the skins into chunks)
750g granulated sugar
100mL water

Lemon cake
110g unsalted butter, softened
380g caster sugar
320g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
320mL buttermilk
zest of two lemons
3 large eggs

Lemon and plum cream cheese icing
900g icing sugar
zest of two lemons
150g unsalted butter, softened
375g cream cheese
3 tbsp plum jam


Making the jam
Bring the plums, lemon juice, lemon skins and water to the boil, then turn down and simmer for around 15 minutes until the fruit begins to break up.
Fish out the lemon skins and discard; they have done their job.
Add the sugar and bring the mix back to a rolling boil.
Continue boiling the jam until you reach setting point.
Transfer into sterilized jars (you will have some left over).

Making the cakes
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and line your cake tins with baking paper.
Mix the butter, sugar, flour and baking power together until sandy in texture.
In a separate bowl or jug, whisk the buttermilk, lemon zest and eggs together.
With your mixer running on a medium speed, gradually pour half the liquid into flour mixture.
Mix until smooth, then add the remaining liquid and mix until combined.
Divide the batter between your prepared tins and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown (though mine took closer to 40 minutes as they were larger).
Remove from the tins and cool completely.

Making the icing
Gradually mix the icing sugar, lemon zest and butter together until sandy in texture (use a low speed otherwise your kitchen will be covered in icing sugar).
Add the cream cheese and jam and beat until light and fluffy.

Assembling the cake
Place the first layer on a plate or cake board and spread with a generous layer of jam.
Top with a few spoonfuls of icing and smooth using a palette knife.
Refrigerate for around 5 minutes to allow the icing to solidify slightly. Trust me, this will make your assembly so much easier.
Top with another layer of cake and repeat the jam/icing steps, then refrigerate before adding the next layer of cake.
Repeat until you have used up all your cake layers, finishing with a layer of cake.
Coat the top and sides with a thin layer of icing to trap in any loose crumbs (this is known as a crumb coat). You want to create an even layer of icing that completely covers the cake, but don’t worry if you can still see the cake through the icing.
Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to set the icing.
Add another coat of icing, making this one a thicker than the last one. This will be your final coat, so make sure it is nice and smooth.
Finally, finish off the cake with slices of fresh plum and enjoy!