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Purple Plum Torte

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Chef notes

This is both the most often published and the most requested recipe in the Times archives. By my count, Marian Burros (who was given the recipe by Lois Levine, with whom Burros wrote "Elegant but Easy") ran the recipe in the paper twelve times. And when I asked readers for recipe suggestions for this book, 265 people raved about the torte. The torte happily lives up to its billing: crusty and light, with deep wells of slackened, sugar-glazed plums. I've thought a lot about why this torte struck such a chord with people: The answer, I think, is that it's a nearly perfect recipe. There are only eight ingredients, all of which, except for the plums, you probably already have in your kitchen.

There are just four steps, most of which are one sentence long. You need no special equipment, just a bowl, a wooden spoon and a pan. The batter is like pancake batter, which most everyone is comfortable making. And baked plums are sweet and tart, making the flavor more complex and memorable than a hard-hitting sweet dessert.

Technique tip: I like this best with oval Italian plums, available in early fall. To freeze, double-wrap the torte in foil, place in a plastic bag and seal.

September 21, 1983: “Food Notes,” by Marian Burros.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large pinch salt
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, or more or less, depending on the tartness of the plums
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 purple plums, halved and pitted
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more or less, depending on the tartness of the plums
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon



Heat the oven to 350 F. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt.


Cream 1 cup sugar and the butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer (or in a mixer) until light in color. Add the dry ingredients and then the eggs.


Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Cover the top of the batter with the plum halves, skin side up. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and the lemon juice, adjusting to the tartness of the fruit. Sprinkle with the cinnamon.


Bake until the cake is golden and the plums are bubbly, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack, then unmold.