Gourmandistan

Camille Glenn’s plum tart, or Marian Burros’ plum torte?

Plum tart

It’s a very tasty plum tart. Buttery, jammy yet still light. We got the recipe from a late 20th century Louisville Courier-Journal clipping (the back side of the undated article talks about Seinfeld leading the ratings so we know it had to have been published somewhere in the 1989 to 1998 time frame). And Michelle’s mother’s handwritten note marked it as a Camille Glenn recipe. Indeed, the “Classic Plum Tart” calls for “cognac vanilla,” a signature Glenn ingredient.

Plums

Small, dark purple prune plums are best.

And yet, as we looked for other references around the Internet, we found no mention of Glenn but only site after site citing Marian Burros and her Plum Torte, the “most-requested recipe in the New York Times archives.” Further digging revealed that Burros herself gives credit to friend Lois Levine, who she said “brought this recipe, originally called Fruit Torte, to [TheElegant but Easy [Cookbook], and its appeal comes from its lovely old-fashioned flavor and its speed of preparation.”

Plum tart

We’re not here to dispute Michelle’s mother’s citation, though there is a family history of misremembering things. It doesn’t really matter who came up with the idea. What matters is this cake falls into Michelle’s category of “friggin’ delicious,” and it’s quick and easy to make. (“Elegant but easy,” Glenn Barros Levine might say.)

Plum tart

Glenn’s Courier-Journal recipe is basically identical to Burros’ Times one, except the Southern version is a bit sweeter and calls for pouring cream over the finished dish. We skipped the “pitcher of unwhipped heavy cream” that Glenn’s recipe references, though we did find a bit of sweetened whipped cream and crème fraîche a delightful bonus.

Additional sugar and cream? It's a Southern thing.

Additional sugar and cream? It’s a Southern thing.

Feel free to use the version below, or don’t be the first to request a very similar version from the NYT archives. As you enjoy your tart/torte, you can credit whomever you like.

CLASSIC PLUM TART

  • Servings: approximately 8
  • Print

(adapted from a Camille Glenn recipe)

  • 1/2 c. (4 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla extract or cognac vanilla
  • 8 to 10 plums, cut in half & pitted (small purple prune plums are best)
  • 3 TB sugar + 1 t. cinnamon for topping
  • 1/2 to 1 pint heavy cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream/crème fraîche

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly butter a 9″ springform pan.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla beat until creamy and not the least bit granular.

Sift flour with baking powder and salt.  Sprinkle into the butter/egg mixture.  Blend lightly but thoroughly.

Spoon batter into springform pan.  Place plum halves skin-side up evenly over butter.  Sprinkle with the flavored sugar.

Bake on the middle shelf of the hot oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool a bit and serve with a pitcher of unwhipped heavy cream or whipped cream/crème fraîche.

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31 comments

    • Yes, but only if you FedEx BBQ in return!

      And, as for the cake… There are only so many (minor) variations that can be made to the ratio and still call it cake (or torte or tart). There’s nothing new under the sun, is there?

  1. Whatever it’s called, I would love to have a big slice please! It’s gorgeous and I can only imagine how tasty it is….hm…guess I should just head to the kitchen and make one….imagine no more. 🙂

  2. Beautiful shots….love the colour of those plums. Coming out of a restaurant last week, I picked a plum, just like those in your picture, directly from the tree. It was sweet, warm and delicious. Lovely post. Your pictures just get better and better.

  3. This looks like a classic French plum torte (and they would pour cream over it too). Maybe a little bit goopy with fruit inside? In any event, it looks like another dangerous thing of yours to have lying around on the counter. Too good to pass by. Ken

  4. Janet Rörschåch

    What a gorgeous looking tart. I believe pouring cream over hot desserts is a southern habit. My grandmother certainly did it with most of her desserts.

    • Thanks, Sacha. So rare for us to find plums at all here, much less prune plums. I just don’t understand it. In Europe, they’re everywhere in all varieties! And here, we’re lucky to find a pint or two every year at the farmers’ markets.

    • Thanks so much. Who knew when I bought that barn wood table 20 years ago (undoubtedly because it was cheap!) that it would one day be the workhorse of food photos? Well, except in the winter, as it does sit on a screened porch and it gets mighty cold…

  5. Marian Burros

    Anyone can claim any recipe as hers, or his, and add and subtract, but Lois Levine and I published that recipe in 1960 in the first Elegant But Easy, self-published.

    I just happened upon your web site and thought I’d let you know!

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