Autumn Bake: Almond and Plum Crumble Cake

The flavours of autumn are everywhere. The colours are too. Look at these beautiful colours I found in Greenwich Park last weekend. The vibrancy and variety of hues is unbelievable and one of the great charms of autumn is that it seems so fleeting.

Suddenly all I want to cook with are pears, mushrooms, aubergines, beetroots… It’s so nice to start wrapping up (while it’s still light until seven-ish) and indulge in cosier tastes. I decided to get well into autumn baking with this almond and plum crumble cake. I baked it as a dessert for a family meal I hosted at my house in Greenwich. However, large slices found their way into my bag for work during the week and went down a treat with a green tea of an afternoon. I really enjoy baking with ground almonds and substituting part of the flour content in fruity cakes in particular. I think it works so well when baking with fruit because the ground almonds soak up some of the moisture that most baked fruits produce or the syrups that are sometimes used to pour over fruity cakes to penetrate the bake with its flavour (a la lemon drizzle). This cake has a subtle almond flavour which is lovely and sweet when paired with the tangy plums.

The cake batter is quite thick and needs spreading when you add it to your cake tin. I suppose this is to support the plums as this is a relatively long bake and sunken plums is not an option! Decorative eh?

The cake batter with plums arranged on top, before adding the crumble mixture. My advice is to stuff as many plums onto the top of the cake as you can as the whole effect of them is wonderful when baked - the purple colour is vibrant and the plums become soft and slightly sweeter during cooking - you definitely want a bit of plum in every mouthful.
The cake batter with plums arranged on top, before adding the crumble mixture. My advice is to stuff as many plums onto the top of the cake as you can as the whole effect of them is wonderful when baked – the purple colour is vibrant and the plums become soft and slightly sweeter during cooking – you definitely want a bit of plum in every mouthful.

I added extra brown demerara sugar to the crumble topping for extra crunch and caramelisation. Sometimes I’m a bit of a maverick with crumble and add all sorts to try and achieve crumble perfection: oats, honey, dried berries cut up finely, chopped brazil nuts… it’s all getting a bit granola isn’t it? The extra demerara was as far as I went with this one! Luckily I didn’t find there was any need to cover the cake with foil while it’s baking, even though it’s a long bake, to stop the crumble from colouring too quickly or getting burnt.

This bake doesn’t rise too much while cooking; it stands at about 6cm tall when baked and the crumble is about a half centimetre of this height. A fair amount of my previous baking experience has been layer cakes with inches of cream and frosting so setting it on my cake stand felt very strange! Where’s the rest of it, I thought. Nope, the beauty of this cake is in its autumnal rusticness and simplicity. I served it slightly warm with pouring cream or a dollop of custard (custard wins for me every day! Everyone else around me favours cream).

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 175 golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 22g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 85g sour cream
  • 6 plums, halved and stoned

For the crumble topping 

  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g plain flour
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a 22cm springform round cake tin, as deep as you’ve got, with baking paper.
  2. Make the crumble topping first. Add all the crumble ingredients to a bowl and rub until it reaches your desired texture. It should look something like this:


  3. Now move onto the cake, which is really ridiculously easy. Add the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, ground almonds and soured cream into an electric mixer or big bowl. Sift in the baking powder and flour and beat with your mixer or hand-held electric whisk until smooth.
  4. Tip all of the mixture into your tin and level out with a palette knife.
  5. Arrange the halved plums (cut side up) over the cake mixture and push in so that only the top centimetre or so of the plum is visible above the cake. It should look something like my earlier picture.
  6. Then scatter the crumble on top as evenly as you can. It should look something like this:

    The crumble mixture on top of the cake batter and plums. The quantity of crumble produces a good half a centimetre of crunchiness. I found there was no need to cover the cake with foil at any point during the bake to stop the crumble getting too dark.

  7. Bake for 1 hour until all the usual signs of a baked cake are evident (skewer comes out clean, no wobble, no instant deflate, etc). It should look something like this:


  8. Cool in the tin and then tip out to cool fully. Cut into chunky slices and serve with cream or custard. I stored the cake in an airtight tin and it was still yummy for about 2 days. After that the plums were a little too soft for my liking so my partner and I ate all remaining cake for fear of wastage.
On baking the cake has this super mouth-watering hint of the lovely juices that the plums have released into the cake and crumble while baking.
On baking the cake has this super mouth-watering hint of the lovely juices that the plums have released into the cake and crumble while in the oven.

I can’t wait to get going with some more seasonal cooking. I picked up a handful of wild mushrooms from the nearby green grocer which I’m planning on having for brunch tomorrow: fried with some garlic, butter and parsley and served on toast with a poached egg. Actual heaven on a plate. Seasonal cooking can be every day too right?! Enjoy the cake!

Clerkenwell, Sunshine and Stationery

What a day. Every so often the sun throws her English expectations out of the window and comes out in full force. Today was one of those days: blue skies, no clouds, warm breeze, people everywhere. It’s impossible not to be enamoured by a day like this in London. I spent the opportunity being outside as much as possible. Unfortunately a good part of this outdoor pursuit involved visiting a site I’m working on in Hammersmith, right on the Broadway. Heat and exhaust fumes don’t make for the most charming summer memories. But this afternoon when I skipped out of work I took a long walk to Clerkenwell.

One of life’s great pleasures for me is stumbling upon a new place. Luckily there are endless possibilities for this to happen in London. I found a green space called Spa Fields, just south of the wonderful Exmouth Market. It’s not the largest park in the world, and probably took me about 5 minutes to stroll through in its entirety. I thought it was incredibly characterful though, with some interesting landscape architecture elements including a rolling set of mounds comparable to a mini BMX track, a lavender plantation, vine covered arches and a pyramidal centre building. The yellow grass shows quite how warm it’s been recently.

 

What was noticeable about this park was the range of people using and enjoying it. There were locals and young people, office workers with their trousers rolled up and families. There are many playful elements wrapped up in this green space that make it seem a bit quirky.

Coming out of the park I headed towards Arlington Way, just past Sadlers Wells theatre on the way to Angel. I was intentionally heading here to visit the fabulous Present & Correct shop. Clerkenwell is so full of fantastic architecture. The street layout, other than the trunk-like Farringdon Road, is fine, organic and dense lending itself to a range of functions; churches and old school buildings are found in the centre of small neighbourhoods that are definable because of their common architectural features. One standout building for me was this residential complex on Rosebery Avenue called The Laboratory Building. Predictably it was an old laboratory. I loved the art deco features on this building, the curvature of the frontage and its floor-to-ceiling windows. If you look around the building these windows delineate the height of three floors, and all the floors have their own window type.

Arlington Way itself is a typical Islington street in many ways. On one side there is a 60s style fabricated estate development, with traditional two-up two-down town houses opposite. A number of these town houses have ground-level retail functions with beautifully decorated frontages. There are also some vintage features that have remained such as a traditional painted wall advertising funeral services.

Present & Correct was really the highlight of my day. It’s a beautiful and tiny shop devoted to stationery and products associated with everyday artistry. It’s full of unique designs with a quality and bespoke feel. The shop is also immaculately presented. I would like to devote a whole post to this shop soon. If you are a fan of the genuinely written word as I am, check this shop out for yourself. It’s probably my favourite shop in London at the moment.

My purchases. Detail is everything. My shopping bag from Present & Correct comes complete with a record card a la 1950s library. And yes I continued to Angel and stopped off at the Hummingbird Bakery for my favourite pick, the black bottom cupcake.

Here is today’s haul. It consists of a Palomino Blackwing 602 graphite pencil, a “from the desk of” stamp and Lion ink pad and a vintage telegram. I’m going to save the telegram to write a letter to someone that I know will appreciate this as much as I would! Honestly, if I received a letter like this from a friend, it would be in a frame and up on the wall. I’m intending to do a review of the Blackwing soon.

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful London evening!

Oh and also, while I was loitering in Spa Fields, I read an interesting Guardian article which is essentially a dummy’s guide to building a city. I’ll probably write a response to this article in more depth but as an urbanist I think there are some good points here, but also some critical considerations missing. Disaster-proofing for example. Thoughts welcome.