Let them eat cake!

Maggie Alderson, who writes a regular column in the Good Weekend magazine on Saturdays in “The Age” newspaper, spoke last weekend of how she feels she has deluded herself into believing home-made cakes and baked goods, cheese, butter and home-made smallgoods are actually health foods. She writes that it is delusional and deranged thinking, but she is really not so far off the truth!

One very useful tip that can be taken from Michael Pollan is to never eat anything your great Grandmother doesn’t recognize as food and nothing will drive that point home faster than a quick read of the ingredients list of a packaged, store-bought cake! Depending on the product, these baked goods can have anything up to 20-25 different ingredients in them, including things with very long names that look as though they have come straight out of the science lab – certainly not out of any kitchen my great Grandmother would recognize.. Chemicals are used to tweak texture, flavour, colour and shelf life, often in an effort to imitate the home made product, we then blithely feed these to our families without much thought. However, a basic, homemade cake has only four or five natural ingredients in it – flour, sugar, eggs, butter and/or milk. These cakes are not meant to last for weeks on the shelf. They are meant to be, and in this house usually are, consumed/devoured within a day or two and are made with pure, familiar, whole foods. Of course,excessive consumption of any foods, including homemade, whole food goodies, does not contribute to a healthy diet, but there can be room for treats in a nutritious, well-balanced diet.

One of the justifications often used for the purchase of artificially coloured, flavoured and preserved snacks is a lack of time to bake, but in reality baking can take as little or as much time as you like. It is a skill that can be taught to kids from a relatively early age and using one of the inexpensive mixers, processors or stick blenders freely available, it is often quicker to mix up a cake and stick it in the oven than it is to drive to the shops. It is certainly more satisfying and the end result is far better tasting than anything out of a plastic wrapper.

The following recipe is for one of my late summer favourites – an upside down plum cake. I look forward to our plums every year so that I can make a couple of these and because of the birds, as mentioned in a previous post, you can imagine my disappointment when I thought I had missed out this year.  But, thanks to the folks at Food Connect, I was thrilled to find some beautiful, sweet, juicy blood plums in my last delivery and wasted no time in getting this recipe into the oven.

This is a particularly forgiving recipe and I often substitute, depending what is on hand.  Sometimes I use buttermilk, sometimes light sour cream, other times yoghurt – using sour cream (full or low fat) gives a lovely rich cake.  If you use sour cream or yoghurt you may need to add a little milk to loosen up the batter.  I just love making this with plums, but apples or even bananas would be pretty good too. I serve it with a good dollop of whipped cream, but yoghurt or ice cream would work as well. In fact, when I’m not looking, the husband likes to keep all the options open.
Again, I use the good old Thermomix, but any processor or blender will do.


2 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
4-6 plums, sliced

1 cup SR flour
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla paste (or natural vanilla essence)
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 165C. Grease sides of a 20(ish) cm round cake pan.
Coat bottom of cake pan with the melted butter, sprinkle with the brown sugar and arrange plum slices.

Place remaining ingredients into processor and blend until well combined – 30-60 seconds. Spoon batter evenly over plums.
Bake for approx 35 mins, or until skewer comes out clean.
Leave in pan for 5-10 minutes, then invert onto serving plate. Serve warm or cold – anyway you serve it, it is great!

Printable recipe PLUM UPSIDE.


11 responses to “Let them eat cake!

  1. That plum cake just looks divine but I am tempted to try this out with banana for a total and truly different take on banana cake !!

  2. Amanda – my most Favorite. Your recipe will be made in my kitchen as soon as the plums become ripe on my part of the planet… Southern California, USA. At this time plums are being imported and I want to wait for the home-grown ones. In a former life I had a plum tree in the back yard so I could make this without having to buy the plums.
    Today I made bread using a recipe I found on Chowhound. I’m having to refrain from eating the whole loaf. I’m sure I’d eat the whole plum upside-down cake if I’d made it. How can you resist??????

  3. Having the grand-children on Friday Amanda and was wondering what we can cook together. Thanks for this, it will do perfectly. Only have 3 plums in the house so will do 1/2 plum and 1/2 banana – one side or the other will then suit the kids.

  4. Ooh that’s so pretty the way you’ve laid out the plums! Yes real home made food doesn’t last for long-because it’s good and because it doesn’t have preservatives! 😀

  5. This went down well the the grandies and of course they had to take 1/2 home for their parents because GD cooked it. Ended up using some strawberries, not bananas but will make sure I have plenty of plums next time. Delicious.

  6. 2 days later I just had to make this one again Amanda (shouldn’t have given half of the first one away) but decided to use up a tin of plums I’ve had for ages in the pantry. Finish was not as nice looking but it tasted great and I served it this time with pouring custard made in the TMX. You can go to all the trouble in the world with desserts but something as simple and tasty as this is hard to beat.

  7. Kathy Inverarity

    Couldn’t agree more about the virtues of home-cooked baking with real milk, real butter, FR eggs, fresh fruit, naturally dried fruit, etc, etc.
    I feel fully supported in this view since reading “Nourishing Traditions – the Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition & the Diet Dictocrats” by Sally Fallon. Sally is from the Weston A Price Foundation which campaigns vigorously for a return to whole foods including animal fats and meat from pasture-fed animals, traditional vegetable oils, whole grains, home-made meat stocks & unrefined salt. She chided Michael Pollan for not being bold enough in advocating “real” food!

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