Plum and Walnuts Mini Cakes

The truth of the matter is that Grandma knows best… even if it isn’t your grandma.  Grandma’s, in general, know best.

I had been eyeing this recipe for Plum and Walnut Cake from Big Girls, Small Kitchen for ages.  It had been bookmarked, researched, and drooled over.  When we got  big bunch of plums from our farm share the other week, I knew it’s moment had come.  It was time to make cake!

But, wanting to make things difficult, I changed the recipe a little bit.  I mean a little bit.  Basically, I added a step of toasting the walnuts and baked the cake in muffin tins to make individual mini cakes rather than a sheet cake.  Otherwise, it was exactly the same.  Why mess with perfection?  Cara’s grandmother, Esther, had been making the cake for years.  The cake was so loved that Cara is planning to serve it at her wedding.  Why did I think I could make it better?!

The batter came together easily and beautifully, no mixer necessary.  Into the muffin tins it went.  The, into the oven.  I was feeling accomplished…

Until I looked in to check on their progress and they were overflowing.  I waited, and they abated but the end result was nearly impossible to get out of the pan.  The muffin tops…well… were quite flabby.

But when I tasted them, my oh my, there was nothing to be upset about.  Because of my changes to the recipe they were ugly but, thanks to the perfection of Grandma Esther’s recipe, they were delicious.  Sweet, nutty, almost caramel-ey, yet with a tart surprise from the plums, these Plum and Walnut Mini Cakes were unbelievably good.

And next time, I’ll just follow Grandma Esther’s damn recipe word for word.  Grandma’s know best.

Plum and Walnut Mini Cakes
Makes 24 mini cakes

Adapted from Grandma Esther’s Plum and Walnut Cake from Big Girls, Small Kitchen

1 cup oil
1 3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 cups plums, pitted, cut in bite-sized pieces

Oil muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the oil, sugar, and eggs.

Toast the walnuts and roughly chop.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Pour the dry ingredients over the wet and fold in. Fold in the fruit and the walnuts.

Pour batter into muffin tins, taking care to not overfill (like I did!).  Bake about 40 minutes, until the top is crisp and brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted in comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.  Gently run a knife around the outside of the muffin tin to loosen the mini cakes.  Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.


Summer Berry Crisp

CrispThis is the world’s best crisp recipe.  Believe me.  I’ve tried my share.

And, it’s also the easiest.

Oats, butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon.


Fruit, sugar, flour.

BAM.  Done.

This is the kind of dessert you can throw together in 10 minutes, bake, and serve warm to friends and they will think you are the second coming on Martha Stewart.  They will grovel at you feet.  They will break their diets and use expletives at the dining room table.  And you?  You will have barely perspired.

They key to success is to use fruit that is in peek season.  In early summer use fresh berries.  When the season starts to turn, move towards peaches and stone fruits.  By fall, you can welcome in the the apples.  Don’t be as driven by the recipe as by what fruit is overflowing at the Farmer’s Market.  I made this crisp in the height of berry season, so that’s what I used but you can substitute any fruit or combinations of fruit… as long as you stick to 4 cups.


makes 5 to 6 servings

 For the crisp topping:
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the berries:
4 cups fresh berries (a combo of blueberries, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, blackberries)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2.  Make the crisp topping by combining the oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the diced butter to the dry ingredients And smoosh together with you fingertips until all of the flour and oats are incorporated and it has the crumbly texture of wet sand.  Don’t go overboard with the smooshing- you don’t want to melt the butter with the heat of your hands.

3. In a 9-inch pie pan or casserole dish toss the berries with the sugar and flour, using a rubber spatula. Cover the berries with the crisp topping.

4.  Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top begins to brown and the juices are bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes.  (HELPFUL HINT: You might want to put a cookie sheet or tin foil under the pan to catch any juices that get overexcited and spill over.  The bottom of your oven will thank you)

5.  Serve warm or room temperature.  With ice cream or without.