entertainingfoodFood & Drinkin the kitchen withkristina gillrecipes

in the kitchen with: cerentha harris’ plum cake

by Kristina Gill

I love cake. I won’t say any kind of cake, but most kinds of cake. And I am always mesmerized and drawn to tall, soft, one-layer cakes. This week we have a recipe for a simple and delicious plum cake by Cerentha Harris, journalist and editor of the Herman Miller Lifework blog. Cerentha’s first recipe for sausage rolls was a hit, and I hope you love this cake as much as you liked the sausage rolls. If you aren’t in an area with plums, Cerentha suggests trying pears. I’m betting that even apples would work for this. Let us know what you try! — Kristina

About Cerentha: Cerentha Harris is an Australian journalist and editor of Herman Miller’s Lifework blog. She indulges her passion for design and architecture (and food) at this is a design blog and at Because Sometimes I Forget. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two children and a very energetic puppy.

The full post continues after the jump…

Plum Cake


  • 10–12 medium-sized plums (sounds like a lot, but they cook down)
  • 11 tablespoons (150g) butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling on top of the cake
  • 2 cups (250g) plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) milk



1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Grease an 8″ (20cm) pan with a removable bottom and then line with parchment paper. Greasing helps the paper stick.

2. Wash the plums, cut them into halves and remove the pits.

3. Whip the eggs in a bowl with the vanilla and the 3/4 cup of sugar until they are pale and fluffy. Add the flour and baking powder and mix. Whisk in the melted butter and the milk. You can do this all in a stand mixer — just don’t overmix it.

4. Put half the plums on the bottom of the pan in a nice ring, skin side down — just use as many as you need to cover the bottom — but not too tightly, as you want the cake batter to get between them and form the base of the cake.

5. Scoop all the batter on top of the plums. You can dump the rest of the plums on top of the batter, or you can arrange them neatly in slices — it’s up to you. Some will sink into the batter, but most will stay near the top and be visible once it has cooked. The plums shrink a lot, so it’s okay to err on the side of more rather than less on top.

6. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the sugar. This gives the top a yummy, crispy quality.

7. Place the cake tin on a baking sheet and then put it in the oven. Bake for an hour or until it’s a lovely golden color and a skewer comes out clean. The plums will also have caramelised a bit.

8. Take it out of the oven but let it cool for a few minutes in the tin before you remove it, and be careful of any syrupy liquid that may have formed.

I serve it with whipped cream, but the kids like it with ice cream.


Photography by Kristina Gill. Wooden tray is vintage Swedish; butter dish and bread plate (milk and plum) by mud australia; cake plates by Sabine Csampai; linen napkin and milk glass from merci; sugar dish by Christiane Perrochon

Why Cerentha Loves This Recipe

Despite initial skepticism about my baking skills from a friend of mine who teaches baking for a living, this plum cake is famous on my street and has won me a reputation as an amazing baker. It is a dessert I make as soon as plums come into season. It’s simple and delicious and impressive. And you can’t really ask for much more from a dessert. Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of plums. They cook down and shrink during baking, and the cake rises in a lovely vanilla mass around them. You are creating the perfect fall dinner party dessert. I promise it will impress your neighbours — and maybe even your friends who teach baking for a living!

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  • I’m ready to make this pronto! Thanks for sharing, Cerentha!

    @Chrissy@MABSOOTA – check around…gorgeous produce, including plums, are pretty readily found in most areas I’ve lived in or been to in the US . Regional varieties that don’t have to take such a long, bumpy voyage are sometimes the best. Cerentha is lucky living in California…tons of great fruit producers on the West Coast!

  • Now THIS looks like a nice recipe! Simple essential ingredients, nothing excessive and it doesn’t look too hard to do! I think I will definitely have to try this. Thank you very much for the recipe!!

  • @Y.Ung We try to share recipes that are all like this! Though occasionally we do have some recipes which are a bit more involved, but of course worth the effort (we think!)

    Let us know how it works for you, and if you decide to use plums or substitute with another fruit.


  • So glad you all like the look of this cake – you are going to love the taste of it too! It’s well worth a try…and Chrissy, I actually live in Los Angeles. There were lots of plums this season – from the farmer’s markets to a steady supply at Trader Joe’s. I also bet you could try any stone fruit or even pears now that we’re in Fall. Good luck experimenting!


  • This worked out great! I had to use yeast b/c I didn’t have baking powder (I read you can do that somewhere online) and I sprinkled brown sugar on top instead of white. I had to keep it in longer about 10 minutes, though because I had trouble cooking it all the way through. Next time, I will add some rum. Then it can be a Rum Plum Cake ;p Thank you for this recipe!

  • Yum! This recipe came just in time, I had a whole bunch of plums that needed to be used and this worked beautifully. I only had 6 plums so I used pear for the bottom of the cake and plums for the top – delicious! The cake is perfect vanilla cake and the fruit adds welcome moisture. I love the idea of adding rum. Definitely worth trying and retrying :)

    • Cristina-

      What browser and version are you using? Sounds like an issue an upgrade could fix :)

      The site shouldn’t appear the way you’re describing.


  • Thank you for the inspiration! I technically did everything wrong but expect tons of right when this comes out of the oven. I only had 4 old plums, I skipped the parchment paper (we’re out), I used a 9″cast iron pan that was hot from the oven to melt some frozen butter in (figured it would be the equivalent of greasing it) haha, had to use whole wheat flour (out of white), replaced the milk with rum and a leftover of homemade fruit liqueur my mother gave me eons ago (otherwise I was going to be out of milk for coffee tomorrow morning a big No No!) Did the mistake of forgetting my eggs that were totally getting a beating with the sugar and vanilla in the mixer! They passed the stage of fluffy and entered a luscious, thick looking one instead. It looked very appealing but probably very wrong for a cake. I covered the batter with the fruits that I quartered (to stretch the small amount that I had) and it was just enough for the top (none at the bottom). Since I did it all wrong, I decided to go all out and sprinkled more rum on top (er… rather generously) and then sprinkled a generous amount of sugar because the right spoon was in the dishwasher and the wrong spoon was 1.5 tbsp x 2. A happy good 3tbsp! Starts to smell so gooood. I can’t wait! : )

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