I have been looking forward to the plum season for weeks – we’ve had some damsons, which one of our neighbours kindly let us harvest, but nothing quite beats the rich juiciness of ripe plums. And what better to do with them than make a cake!
The name of this very traditional traybake, Zwetschgendatschi, literally means ‘squashed plummy mess’, or something like that, in Southern German dialects. You’re not going to sell this delicious cake with a name like that, you might think, but it’s an incredibly popular treat during plum season in Southern Germany, and I would guess that the ‘squashed mess’ bit merely describes the fact that the cake is made on your oven tray instead of a ‘proper’ cake tin. In German bakeries you will often find the whole tray on display, wasps excitedly circling over it, and the baker will kindly cut off the pieces to your specifications.
I have used a simple yeast dough for the base, the same I would use for another traybake, apple crumble. The plums I simply topped with cinnamon, sugar and flaked almonds, but crumbles are also quite common, in particular crumbles made of stale sourdough bread, grated and mixed with sugar and cinnamon, to complement the tartness of the fruit. Whatever you do in terms of a topping, don’t forget to add the cinnamon as it complements the plums perfectly.
To complete this treat you will need whipped cream, slightly sugared with vanilla sugar. Go, treat yourself!
Zwetschgendatschi, Plum Traybake (for one large oven tray)
For the yeast base:
- 250g plain flour
- 2 tbs sugar
- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 1 egg yolk
- 60g unsalted butter, softened
- 125ml warm milk
- a pinch of salt
For the topping:
- 1.5-2kg plums, washed, de-stoned and cut into halves
- ca. 20g butter, unsalted, for greasing the tray
- 2-3 tbs breadcrumbs
- 3-4 tbs granulated sugar or Hagelzucker (if you can get hold of it: small lumps of sugar, like hailstones)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Mix the ingredients to a firm dough: with yeast, the dough eventually forms a relatively firm ball that might even display rather large bubbles when your knead it. Cover and let it rest until it has doubled in size. This takes around 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 160C and grease your big, oven-sized tray carefully using the extra butter.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface and place it in the tray. You don’t need to leave a rim: the dough will rise wherever the plums will permit it and form a lovely rim. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly on the surface to soak up surplus juices.
Cut the plum halves once more, lengthwise, as far as you need to open them up a little bit; place them in straight lines, the second row slightly overlapping the first, like roof tiles. The closer you place the plums to the end the smaller your edge will be (good to know if you are one of those people who don’t like the edge of their pizza …) .
Finally sprinkle the cinnamon, sugar and almond flakes over the plums and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Don’t forget to serve it with cream. Whipped cream. Lots of it!
If you’re lucky enough to have your own plum trees, you’ll probably have lots of ways with plums; I can think of plum compote (lovely with cinnamon parfait …) and, at a stretch, slivovitz. Any other ideas?