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Spiced Plum cake recipe with toffee glaze

I came up with this cake almost fifteen years ago because I was looking for ways to use all the plums that we had when I was living in California. Northern California becomes plum central during the summer, with thanks going to Luther Burbank who developed a lot of varieties of fruit in the region, including the Santa Rosa plum, named after the town in California where he did his tinkering.

Spiced Plum cake recipe with toffee glazeSpiced Plum cake recipe with toffee glaze

To this day, come summer, I go plum-crazy when I see purple plums at the market and always grab a bag. Purple plums aren’t as popular in France as their sweet, golden counterparts, mirabelles, or Reine Claudes, which I love for eating. But for baking, it’s the big, tart purple plums that I search out for their tangy acidity.

Romain has adopted my habit of nibbling cake at breakfast. (He’s also discovered crumpets from the Marks & Spencer stores that have been opening in Paris.) He was confused about the cake, since it doesn’t quite fit the French definition of cake. They like to categorize and define things, and this one doesn’t quite fit into the classic description of a gâteau, but he’s learned to expect a curve ball here and there. And after several minutes, he let it pass.

Spiced Plum cake recipe with toffee glaze

This cake uses cardamom in both the batter and the streusel almond topping. I buy the cardamom in pods and remove the husks, then grind the seeds myself. The flavor is much better than buying pre-ground cardamom. If you wanted to use another spice, whatever favorites are in your spice drawer, you could certainly call into play. I do like the cardamom a lot, though, and urge you to try it.

Spiced Plum cake recipe with toffee glaze

Am not sure how long the purple plums are going to hold out at the market. Come mid-summer, the markets in Paris become sparse as people take off on their annual vacations, including the vendors. And they are probably going to disappear soon, just like this cake did!

Spiced Plum cake recipe with toffee glaze-7

Spiced Plum Cake with Toffee Glaze

Purple plums aren’t usually sold by variety in France, but tart ones work best, such as Santa Rosa plums. You could use other kinds of plums, such as Italian prune plums (quetsches), although I prefer to use the tartest ones I can find. If you wanted to experiment with other types of fruit, this cake probably lends itself to others. The toffee is drizzled over the top in a modest quantity. But if you are a toffee-lover, you can certainly double the amount and really go for it. Buttermilk is called lait ribot or lait fermentè in France and is available in some supermarkets and Arab markets. You can make a good substitute by using a scant 1/2 cup (125ml) of whole milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar added. Let stand for 10 minutes, then use the soured milk just like buttermilk.


  • 5 medium plums, (12 ounces, 340g)
  • 1 cup ( 85g) sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup (60g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, salted or unsalted


  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces, 115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (175g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminium-free
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk, (see headnote)

Toffee Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform cake pan.
  • Halve, pit, and cut the plums into 8 slices.
  • In a small bowl, make the topping by mixing together the sliced almonds, 2 tablespoons flour, light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoons (each) cinnamon and cardamom, and melted butter, until everything is evenly mixed. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom, and salt.
  • Add to the eggs to the creamed butter one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition to make sure they’re mixed in. Add the vanilla extract. Stir in half of the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk, then the rest of the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Do not overmix.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan. Strew the plums over the top in an even layer, then spread the almond topping over the plums. Bake until the center just feels set, about 55 minutes to one hour. (A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean of any cake batter.) If the top is browning too fast, drape a sheet of aluminum foil over the cake pan and finish baking. Let the cake cool completely then remove the sides of the springform pan.
  • To make the toffee glaze, mix the butter, dark brown sugar, cream, salt, and vanilla in a small saucepan Bring to a boil, stirring gently. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and drizzle the toffee over the cake.


Serving: The cake is best served at room temperature. It can be served without accompaniment, or with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Storage: The cake will keep for up to three days at room temperature. I would not recommend freezing it.


    • Nadia

    I am trying this one today! My neighbour just brought me several kilos of small plums so cake and jam are on the cards.

    • Victoria

    Every year about this time I used to go stay in a little town north of Taos, NM. There was a huge plum tree outside my door loaded with plums that no one paid any attention to, except me. If only I had some now to make this recipe!

      • Robert in Santa Fe, NM

      Hi Victoria- What was the name of the town? I live in Santa Fe and am curious.

      My best-Robert

        • Bill Schmitt

        Years ago I picked beautiful purple Italian plums off a tree outside the Fetchin museum in Taos

    • Cynthia

    Does the cake need to cool before adding the toffee topping?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, at the end of step #7 – “Let the cake cool completely then remove the sides of the springform pan.” So you would do that before glazing the cake.

        • Cynthia

        Thank you. I read the recipe twice and still missed “let cake cool completely” I’ll be making this next weekend. I love your recipes, especially that polenta cake.

    • tatiana

    What madeleines were to Proust, plum cake is to me. I grew up with it. The delight of coming home from school to it’s sweet scent, the sight of my mum coming up to the house with it neatly covered with a scrupulously clean tea towel for my own children to enjoy is held so fondly in my heart that this recipe will see it’s first run in our home today! Thank you for this post!

    • Nancy Long

    I know what I’m doing with the plums I bought yesterday!

    • Liz W.

    This sounds great. I have a plum tree and am always looking for new ways to use the fruit. Do you think this same recipe would work with apples in the Fall?

    • Ellen

    I frequently substitute yogurt (which I usually have on hand) for buttermilk in baking, and have been happy with the results. Do you think this would make a huge difference?

    • italian girl cooks

    Nice recipe – may skip the glaze and top w/Greek yoghurt as coffee cake for breakfast/brunch!

      • nadia@maisontravers

      Do not skip the glaze. It is the best part!!!

      • tunie

      Do both! There is nothing better than a toffee or honey with yogurt.

    • CK

    I cannot wait to try this. Plums and cardamom and toffee–sublime. Thanks for sharing your recipes and bringing beauty to the world!

    • Betsy LeBleu Curry

    Hi, I’m a new subscriber. I noticed that you don’t have a symbol for printing your recipes. Why not? Please add this to your site. Thanks, Betsy

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s because a print option wasn’t available when I started the blog so I have to find someone who will go back through 1000+ posts & recipes, and reformat them, which I hope to find someone to do. More info here.

    • CHN

    That looks lovely. But dare I say Marion Burros? In lipstick and heels, of course, but still, it’s the grandmamma. ;>

      • Hope Anderson

      I’ve been making MB’s plum cake for 35 years–with a lot less sugar than she calls for–but this one looks better. I can’t wait to try it!

    • Ginger Smith

    Your plum cake looks incredible. I will definitely put this on my must bake list.

    • Marleen Deane

    Is there a easy way to print a recipe? Maybe I am missing it.

      • Leslie Donoviel

      I find if I can’t print it out I email it to myself, then print it out. It works.

    • Lily

    Hello David
    Is there any way that I can use almond flour for the batter? Also what quantity do you recommend to get the same consistency
    Thanks so much for your contribution to our kitchens!!!!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve not tried it but am sure you could substitute some almond flour for some of the regular flour, but without testing it, I can’t say for sure. You’d have to experiment.

    • Janice

    This cake is fantastic. I made it out of “ready for dessert” last year when plums were in season and I’m keeping close watch for them to be at their prime again in the northeast so I can make it again. Super-delicious!

    • suz

    I also would like print capability.

    • Sarvani

    As an Indian, I adore cardamom…have it everyday as a mouth freshener after a meal.. and love it in baked goods..its a welcome change from the oft-used cinnamon. The cake with fruit and streusel on top has become my favourite way to bake cakes.. the fruit always lends such a fresh taste and the slightly tart taste always balances out the sugar!!

    • Gerlinde

    The Santa Rosa plums are great here in Northern California, but I miss the Italian plums or Zwetschken as we call them in Germany. They make great cakes. Your recipe is fantastic, I especially like toffee glaze.

    • Chabor

    You really got my attention with this post. Luther Burbank developed fruit varieties? My husband’s HS was named after him. He developed the Santa Rosa plum? That’s the variety of plum I finished picking yesterday in my Oregon backyard. Everyone who tastes our plums is surprised at the out-of-this-world sweet tart flavor that is so distinctive and rare. Also, these plums seem earlier than the other plums people are growing up here. I am going to try to make your plum toffee cake this week! Thanks so much for this post!!!

    • Patricia Pond

    Lovely! Just in time for plum season; got my first black plums today. Definitely going to give this cake a go!

    • Lisa | Garlic + Zest

    This reminds me of a buckle. Essentially a rich cake batter, piled with tons of fresh fruit and dotted with more cake batter and streusel. I love cardamom too – I will definitely try this recipe!

    • Maggie Phillips

    I would like Print Capability, too.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Maggie, Suz and Marleen: Thanks for your inquiry about the print option. There are thousands of posts on the site that need to be reformatted so they are “print friendly” and I have been looking through the documentation on how to do it and it’s way, way over my head. (I’m a baker, so the tech side of blogging sometimes overwhelms me.) I’ve tried to find someone else to do it and they would have to go through all the recipe posts on the site and reformat them. So it’s quite a task. All the technical stuff is just too much for me to handle but am hoping to find someone to do it. More here.

      • Suz

      OK, thanks for responding. Tech only invades my life to a point, too.

      Love your writing and recipes. Being in the BayArea, also enjoy when you write about your visits.

        • timothy bourne

        this at least makes it easy to learn copy and paste. ctrl c and ctrl v

        On the flip side David, could you just add it in now and leave the others without the print button?

          • June2

          Second that. The print icon could have a tiny note that floats when the cursor hits it to notify people that only these posts forward have a print option and older posts must be cut and pasted, or something like that…

    • Bites for Foodies

    This recipe looks fantastic!! We have a few plum trees in our yard so obviously we have a ton of plums! I usually resort to making compotes or roasting them. I’ve not once added them to a pie of cake.

    • Sharon

    Here’s how I print your glorious recipes. I copy and paste as much as I want to save into a Word document. I usually then reduce the size of the photos for printing.

    • Janet

    An easy way to print off directly – left click mouse holding it down while scrolling over the text you wish to print. When you have the text highlighted in blue, right click your mouse and you will see a print option on the screen. Click print. Voila!

    • Lisa McDonald

    This cake is in the oven now. Most recipes don’t use enough cardamon so I am delighted with this. The best way to print is copy and paste into word document and then print. You can then save the recipe to file and print it anytime you need it. I would much rather see David create new recipes then spend time on tech.

    • LeeLee

    This sounds like a great combo. I just bought plums today. I cannot wait to try this out.

    • Lilli

    I use an online recipe file called Basil for my iPad. It’s so nice to have everything on that instead of rummaging through mounds of recipes in a paper file. No need to spend money, time on ink, paper for printing ever again. And you can import photos too.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Shelli/Lilli/Victoria/Vikki: It’s confusing when you leave comments using various names on the site as the comment form reprints and publishes all of them.

      • Shelli Victoria Lilli Vikki

      Whenever I tried to publish my comment, I got a message saying I couldn’t publish since I’d just commented. So I tried to publish under a different name. I only clicked once but still got the error message.

    • Malotraktory

    A good use for plums is known as Slivovice. It’s homemade liqueur and it is quite strong. About 50% to 70% of alcohol. Slivovice is a popular liqueur from the Czech Republic. Have good one.

    • Francesca Bruzzes

    This looks beautiful! I might give it a try with strawberries this weekend. The toffee glaze looks swoon-worthy as well.

    • Lauren

    I made this for a potluck a couple of nights ago and it was fantastic! Due to some time constraints I ran out of time to make the toffee, but it was still delicious and I imagine quite a bit lighter.

    I’ll definitely be saving this recipe and making it again. Might try it with some other seasonal fruits also!

    • Katie

    1. This looks delicious. Can’t wait to make it once the heat in Southern California (and especially my kitchen…) becomes bearable.

    2. Would you guys have a mental breakdown if you had to copy-paste this into Word or something in order to print? Really.

    • Janice

    This looks lovely. Do you suppose it will ruin it not to include the almonds? (Nut allergy in the family). Thank you for all your wonderful recipes and for letting us share your days.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      You could try substituting oats and/or some seeds for the almonds. I haven’t tried it but think that would be the way to go.

    • Laura | Tutti Dolci

    Gorgeous cake, I love that you paired cardamom with plums!

    Re: The printing issue – if your blog is a WP site, try the Print Friendly plugin:

    I believe you can place it just about anywhere in your posts, so you could probably add it at the end of the recipe, next to your social sharing buttons. Just a thought!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks Laura. The issue with that plug-in, from what I’ve read, is that it’s ad-driven, and I like to control the type and quantity of ads on the site. However readers can pop the URL into the field at their website and choose which pages to print out – until we are able to make the recipes on the site print-enabled.

        • Robert in Santa Fe

        Whine, whine, whine! I’m betting David wishes he never put this recipe on his site. I’m figuring that all of you who just can’t print the recipe have never thought for yourselves. For two years I lost the highlight and selection capability on my computer so I just estimated how many pages down on David’s article until the recipe started. Then I would print say page six and see how close I was. It took maybe two tries and I had it. Of course for those of you who must be bottle-fed this won’t be a good approach!

    • Ben

    Geez, people, just select the text, copy and paste it to a word file!

      • Linda

      It will not paste into Word

        • Judi

        Am using Windows 10 and MS Word 2010. I have NO PROBLEM doing a copy and paste and then reformatting it to be more efficiently laid out on paper to print.–Judi

    • MeganNJ

    Cardamom! Last year I was looking for a new spice, something to replace all the cinnamon I was using in desserts. I like cinnamon, but it was becoming too regular, too common. Enter the spices of India.

    Cardamom was a great find. I can’t get enough of the smell either! The taste feels like a cross between a fruity flavor, lemon, mint & spearmint. I used it in ALL the baked goods for a while, apple pie was especially good & peach went well also. My favorite though was finding Dutch tea cookies, they make for Christmas. I thought this was a very good flavor for Easter cookies.

    (The next spice I mean to find is Grains of Paradise.)

    My real question ….

    Do you have any tips for using the mortar & pestle?

    I also shell the pods & grind the spices, but I can’t tell if I’m doing it “right.” Is there an angle of attack, or way of movement that makes the grinding work the best? Next time I might just buy the pre-shelled, un-ground type. Also, how fine do you go? Do you strain out the papery parts?


      • Li-hsia Wang

      Chinese five-spice is a good sub for cinnamon. It varies, but include five of the following: star anise,cloves, ginger, fennel, Sichuan peppercorns, nutmeg, and cinnamon (obviously the first one to consider omitting is cinnamon).

        • MeganNJ

        Sweet! Thanks

    • Rochelle

    Cardamom is great! I add this spice to my Challah recipe. Just a little so that it is not very identifiable. About 1/2 teaspoon to a recipe with 3&1/2 to 4 cups of flours.

    • ISM

    My kitchen smelled amazing while baking and I have just finished putting on the toffee glaze. Funny, it looks like your picture. Can’t wait to taste it tomorrow at a brunch I am hosting. Thank you for many of my successful endeavors.

    • Gina

    Buy the cookbook Ready for Dessert. This recipe is in there

    • Cynthia

    We just had this for dessert. It’s a lovely cake.

    Do you have any tips for getting cakes off the springform pan and onto the cake stand?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I use a glass-bottom springform pan and run a knife (I use a serrated bread knife) to horizontally release it from the bottom and slide it onto a serving plate or stand.

        • Cynthia

        Thank you.

    • Ilana Schumacher

    Amazing cake! everyone loved it!
    Works very well with peaches as well and spelt flour (I used half + half)

    • Donna

    The plum cake was wonderful. The toffee glaze was “over the top”. Thanks for posting.

    • Pat Federico

    Spectacular…… I was baking at 10:23 last night…..couldn’t wait for it to totally cool….had to have a piece….. Best midnight snack…….EVER…!

    • Linda

    I would very much like to try this recipe, but I am unable to find out how to print it, and I am unable to copy/past. Thank you.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      As mentioned above, there currently isn’t a print option on the site due to the fact that there wasn’t one when I started the site in 1999 and going back and updating 1000+ posts is a task I haven’t had the time to tackle.

      I’ve hired someone who is going to work on implementing that, although it’s going to take a few months to install the code and reformat and recode all the recipe posts on the site. Thanks for your patience.

    • Leora

    liked the look of it, printed it, baked it, absolutely delicious. Thank you.

    • Dede

    Made this this past weekend for a birthday party and it was freaking delicious! Mine is a 10″ springform pan so I shaved a few minutes off the baking time. Thanks, David.
    I would love to make half a recipe for my own selfish self. Any tips?


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