This Walnut, Olive Oil and Plum Cake has a delicious combination of flavors that you won’t find in too many other cakes – but it’s a combination of flavors that really works here. The cake batter is made with walnuts that are very finely ground to take the place of some of the flour that would typically be used in a cake like this one. The batter is also made with olive oil, which has a slightly stronger and sharper flavor than the plain canola or vegetable oil that is typically used for baking. It is also studded with fresh, ripe plums that get even sweeter as the cake bakes and give the finished cake some lovely pockets of color.
The combination of walnuts and olive oil produces a cake that is very tender, with a moist and soft crumb. It has just enough texture to support the weight of all those plums. The cake has a reasonable amount of sweetness to it, but it also has a savory note that is difficult to describe that comes from the combination of walnuts and olive oil. It makes the cake taste quite sophisticated, like something you would get at a trendy farm-to-table restaurant, rather than the kind of cake that your grandmother might have whipped up on special occasions. It is unique and full of great flavor.
When working with plums, I chose plums that were ripe, fragrant and had a little bit of give to them. Plums that are too firm don’t have a tremendous amount of flavor. I also left the plum skins on, rather than peeling them. I like to do this when I work with plums because the skins give the plums some extra color as they bake. They’re also very thin, so they don’t detract from the plums themselves when you’re eating the finished cake.
I used untoasted walnuts in this recipe and, if you don’t have any walnuts, you could also try working with untoasted pecans. Because of all the fresh fruit, this cake is at it’s best within a day or two of baking it. If you live somewhere really hot and humid, you might even want to store it (well-wrapped) in the fridge to help it last a little longer. It is excellent for both dessert and breakfast/brunch.
Walnut, Olive Oil and Plum Cake
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup (4 oz) untoasted walnuts, very coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large plums
2-3 tsp coarse sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, walnuts, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whizz until walnuts are very finely ground. This can be done in a large bowl if you are working with pre-ground walnut meal/flour.
Add eggs, olive oil, milk and vanilla extract to the food processor and whizz until all dry ingredients are incorporated and batter is uniform. Pour into prepared pan.
Halve the plums and remove the pits, leaving the skin on. Arrange the plums cut-side up around the outer edge of the cake, placing remaining plum halves in the center (eg: 6 around the outside, 2 in the center). Sprinkle cake and plums with 2-3 tsp coarse sugar.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cake can be served while it is still slightly warm or when completely cooled.