By spring of 1920, twelve year-old Johnny Welles had made up his mind to leave the only home he’d ever known. As hard as it was to say goodbye to his beloved stepmother, Collie, Johnny was determined to escape the tragedies that marred his childhood.
His three older siblings, Stanley, James, and Eunice, supported Johnny in his decision even though it broke their hearts to see him go. His Aunt Prudence, who would take over Johnny’s care, was thrilled by his choice to reside with her in Baltimore and even more so with his pronouncement that he wanted to become a doctor.
In the months after his youthful declaration, Johnny spent all of his free time with Doctor and Mrs. Hager. The Hagers, German immigrants with no children of their own, welcomed Johnny when they discovered his passion for all things medical. The Hagers, aware of and sensitive to Johnny’s heartbreaks, couldn’t resist the opportunity to share their medical knowledge with the young boy.
Whenever possible, Doc and Mrs. Hager included Johnny in consultations and examinations. Between patients, the three would pore over medical journals and Mrs. Hager’s pflaumenkuchen (plum cake). The following recipe is the one I had in mind when I wrote the scene above. This rich, delicious cake is quick and easy to make. The beauty of this recipe is that you can substitute any stone fruit for the plums. Consider peaches, nectarines, or cherries as an alternative.
Little Italian plums are my favorite when making pflaumenkuchen with black plums as a close second. Italian plums aren’t available in my area until July, so I’ve presented this cake with black plums which are also quite appealing. If using Italian plums, cut them in half and pit them. The same goes for cherries. For large stone fruits, cut them in half, pit them, and cut into slices.
The Gibson household enjoys this cake still slightly warm and served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
1 c sugar (I used raw)
½ unsalted butter
1 t vanilla
1 c flour
1 t baking powder
Plums, pitted and halved
2 T sugar (I used raw)
1 t cinnamon
Powdered sugar (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease an 8 X 8 glass baking dish.
Cream the sugar and butter. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat well. Add the flour and baking powder, and mix thoroughly. The batter with be thick like soft cookie dough.
Spread the batter into the baking dish and level it with a knife or spatula. Place the halved plums (if using Italian) cut side down in even rows across the surface. The same applies to cherries. All other stone fruits should be placed in single-layer rows across the surface.
Combine the two tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture across the top of the cake and plums. Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
When cooled, sift powdered sugar over the cake if desired.