plum kuchen


This was my birthday cake back in August. No frosting, no chocolate, and, as I’m over thirty, candles are a fire hazard.

The recipe was in the late Gourmet’s August 2009 edition, which came in plenty of time for Deb from Smitten Kitchen to make it first. Prettier than mine, of course, because this was one of my first-ever cakes and I wasn’t very good at the aesthetics and Deb has been doing this a lot more and a lot longer than I have.

It’s an interesting cake in that it’s got both yogurt and yeast in it, the former of which makes it very tender and latter of which means it’s not the fastest dessert in the world because it’s got to rise. Twice. Which was why I didn’t actually take it to my birthday dinner because I didn’t plan properly for a six hour prep/cooling period.

On the flip side, it’s a very fast dessert because you’ve got about 36-48 hours to eat it. After that, it gets stale and the delicate cake base hardens into, well, old cake. It’s not inedible, but it’s also not as much fun. But before then? It’s awesome.

Also, it doesn’t freeze well, so don’t bother. I tried and failed there.

Plum Kuchen

  • 1 package active dry yeast or equivalent
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105-110°F)
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt at room temperature*
  • 1 large egg, room temp (or gently warmed to such)
  • 1.5 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 10 tablespoons (1.25 sticks) softened unsalted butter, divided
  • 3/4 pound firm-ripe plums, sliced thinly into half-moons. I used about 2 large plums, but prepare to use 3-4. Or swap out the plums for whatever stone fruit you like better.

* The recipe calls for whole-milk Greek-style, but I just plopped some nonfat house-brand into a coffee filter and let it drain for a bit and it was fine. Use cheesecloth if you don’t have a coffee filter you’re willing to foul.

Proof the yeast with the water in a small bowl.

In your mixing bowl, throw together the 2 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt, yogurt, egg, zest, and vanilla in the order you prefer and then add the proofed yeast. Mix at medium for about a minute.

Add 1 stick of the butter (8 TB)  in small chunks one at a time and continue mixing for about 5 minutes, until you get a (very) sticky, shiny dough. It won’t look like cake batter and it won’t look like bread dough, but just go with it.

First rise: sprinkle the remaining 2 TB flour on the dough and cover with your preferred dough-rising aid (tea towel, greased plastic wrap, etc.; I use a plastic shopping bag) until almost doubled in volume. Time will vary depending on air temp, but figure 1.5-2 hours.

Pan prep: spread the remaining 2TB of butter in the bottom of a 9” square pan (if you don’t have one, like I don’t, check the conversion table for what you do have and carry on as best you’re able) and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Arrange your plum slices tightly but in one layer and remember that looks count.

Second rise: gently stir the risen dough to incorporate the extra flour and then turn into the baking pan, spreading evenly. Re-cover and let rise until almost doubled, another 1.5-2 hours variable.

Bake in a pre-heated 375°F oven until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.

Leave the cake to cool in the pan for five minutes, then invert on to a rack to cool completely.

The pictorial, which is sadly a how-not-to-do-it, but all’s well that ends well, right? And it did.


The dough, glossy, sticky, and totally-not-like-bread-dough after its first rise. I transferred it to a separate bowl after mixing, but you don’t have to.


How not to stack your plums. But it was my first attempt and I got better at it for subsequent tries. Prettiness counts, as with any upside-down cake. Nonetheless, you get the general idea.


After the second rise. It’s here that I should confess that I was using an 8” pan and this was August, so it was warm and the pan was small. You should not be busting loose like this.


All done, a little overdone on the edges that were spilling over (I trimmed them when I made the cake for other people). Don’t leave it sitting like this for too long, no matter how hot the pan still is, because if you do…


…you end up losing a couple of plums in the flip. But!


It was very tasty, no matter how strange it looked from any angle.


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