Cardamom Plum Cakes

No plum trees here in the UAE (that I know of), only palm trees!  Most of our plums are imported from Spain.  The problem is that I think the process of getting a Spanish plum on a boat and down to the Middle East has not yet been perfected.  They always look amazing, perfectly plump and purplish black, just don't bite into one.  They never, ever, taste good.  I have tried letting them ripen. Nope.  I have tried different varieties. Nope.  Always too tart and a little lacking in flavor. With no way around it...I have stopped biting into them and started baking with them.   
I diced the plums, put them in a little pot, and cooked them down as if I were making jam, with a little sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.  In about 15 minutes I had sweet, juicy, plummy goodness.  (At this point, you can easily grab a spoon, and some vanilla ice cream, and be in utter bliss for the next 15 minutes while you scrape the pot clean.)
When I was a kid, my mom used to make perfect little jam filled muffins.  They were quick, easy  (ideal for when you have three hungry/screaming kids) but incredibly delicious.  (Don't ya just love easy AND delicious!)  The outside was crispy and the inside was soft and buttery, oozing with warm strawberry jam.  You could easily eat about seven.   
With those in mind, I decided to make these little plum cardamom cakes. The batter is simple and doesn't require any fancy techniques or tools.  Put the ingredients into a bowl, and mix!  I did grind my own cardamom by hand, because it takes just a few extra minutes, and the strength of freshly ground spice is so amazing.  After smashing the little seeds into powder, I stood there for five minutes just breathing in the scent!  

Cardamom is a very popular flavor in this part of the world (especially in Arabic Coffee), which has made me appreciate just how interesting it really is.  Just imagine these super aromatic little seeds, hidden in these unexciting little pods that are hanging from this completely common looking plant.  Unless you smash one open, you would never know what potency lies inside.  Good thing someone figured it out!  Apparently it is the third most expensive spice in the world, only beat by vanilla (#2) and saffron (#1). 
 You can try this recipe with other fruit too, like berries or apples or pears.  It is pretty supportive of your creativity (unlike your spouse/roommates/boss).     
Cardamom Plum Cakes (Adapted from Good Ol' Martha Stewart)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe red plums (about 1 pound), pitted and cut into small chunks (If your plums are not too tasty: cook them with some sugar and a little lemon juice until they start to breakdown and condense (about 15 minutes) then cool them)

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 12 cup muffin tin (or you can also make one large cake in an 8in round cake pan). Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, and milk. Whisk in the melted butter. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Divide the batter in two, evenly. Fill each of the muffin cups halfway with one bowl of batter.
Distribute the plums evenly among the cups (about 1 tablespoons per muffin), scattering them over the batter. Spoon the remaining bowl of batter on top, dividing evenly. Sprinkle tops with the reserved cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until the muffins are puffed and golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Turn out the muffins onto the rack to cool a few minutes. Serve warm.


  1. Those sound fantastic with a cup of tea! Thanks for sharing!


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