I made a really good cake

Andy and I are in a bistro club. There are 14 of us, who like each other a whole lot and get together every so often and swoon over incredible food and wine. We always have a theme and last weekend’s meal was locavore. In November in Montana, that means lots of meat, cheese, root vegetables and squash. And, yo, it was spectacular. I made a plum upside down cake, which I entirely followed an actual recipe for and that I didn’t entirely mess up.

It is remarkable what you can do with *mostly* local-ish food. Meat and veggies are easy, Lifeline Farm for everything dairy, Wheat Montana for flour, backyard chickens for eggs.

For the plum upside down cake, I used non-local sugar, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Otherwise, it’s a Montana Plum Upside Down Cake Yo. And with all the steps of adding in batches alternating with milk and separating eggs and whipping to firm peaks and perfectly arranging once-frozen plum slices, I am proud to report that I did it all as the recipe called for (except a few ingredient substitutions) and it was worth it. Turns out, steps like that are there for a reason and not to induce craziness in a nine month pregnant person with a toddler assistant. Maybe I’ll even start sifting.

Margot and I had the most fun baking together.

The recipe adapted from Mary Jo Thoresen, published in Food & Wine

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 pounds Italian plums, pitted and quartered
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet (or if you don’t have an giant, ovenproof skillet, improvise with what you have and a homespun double-boiler) melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly in the dish. Turn off the heat and arrange the plum wedges in the dish in several concentric circles.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. It was at this point that Margot reached in the bowl and carefully scooped out the lump of baking powder resting atop the flour and ate it. No no Margot I said as the ingredient passed her lips. Yummy mama! she said through a chalky grin.

In a medium bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the remaining stick of butter with the granulated sugar until fluffy.

Beat in the egg yolks, 1 at a time, until incorporated, then beat in the vanilla. Beat in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, stir one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Spread the batter over the plums and bake for about 55 (it only took me 47 minutes), or until a butter knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a plate. Cut the cake into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

It’s really excellent and all that jumping through hoops while juggling regarding adding stuff in the right order with the right prep yields a moist, fluffy but hearty cake. Make it. I tried to take photos of the gorgeous finished cake but they all turned out looking like an organ. So, instead, the most telling photograph.

And, it is amazingly fabulous served chilled for breakfast with thick coffee. Or, for little ones, a sliver served with tea.



We have several toasting occasions per meal as instigated by Margot. She proclaims CHEERS! This is a Holt trait. I come from a family of prolific toasters.

the bistro club menu:

fried pumpkin ravioli with sage cream sauce
empanadas
creamy squash soup
baked lake trout
oven roasted squash and apples with fennel
beef stroganoff
potatoey cheesy heaven with bacon
chocolate peanut cake (not remotely local but it was Anne’s birthday and she is local)
plum upside down cake

16 Responses to I made a really good cake

  1. Kelle says:

    just about to go to bed and…voila. a post. and i half expected you to be in a birthing tub moaning or something. no, you’re making cake. ha. only you. love the belly shot with margot’s little face looking right at the camera…and that sweater. love that it’s always on her.
    the toast. lainey loves to toast. cheers to frogs. and lizards. and books. and, i swear, once…cheers to…poop. :o)

  2. Katie says:

    Kelle shares my anxiety with each new post of yours – is it time?! Is it happening! Nope, just the worlds best cake and assistant, yo.

  3. TRB Holt says:

    I LOVE your posts Burb! AND Sunday…what a treat!

    Where do I sign up for the bistro club? My God what feast…the plum cake sounds/looks amazing!

    Margot my Sweet Bea ~ Yes you do belong to “THE Holt” club of prolific toasters…so hone your expertise now! (Bacca will be watching…he is the aficionado of us all). Also be ready to be prolific at cribbage & pinochle, mind your table talk….(I’ll teach you!) I LOVE your sweet cherub face while cooking & am so pleased with your know-how…you come by that naturally!

    I love you both..no that’s now three…

    xoxo, Mom/Gram

  4. Erin O. says:

    Oh, how I enjoy your posts. You inspire me so much. Thank you.

  5. Katie says:

    Nici~if you don’t already have it, you have to get Margot Thundercake by Patricia Pollaco (sp?). It’s one Theo’s favortie books (and one of my favorites to read to him). We make various ‘thundercakes’ often, and always have to have a cup of tea with them. Gads, Margot and Theo would be adorable together. Praying that a Montana trip is in our future this summer.

  6. Lifeline Farm rocks!

    Everytime you post I get excited! Baby?.. no a cake.. a very good looking cake too :)

    I should tell you our snow is melting, I was out playing baseball with Otto this afternoon. Oh, those snows of the olden days in Montana, the ones that stayed.

  7. FinnyKnits says:

    Ooh good call on the frozen plum usage there – I’ll have to remember that for next year when someone door ditches me another bag of french plums.

    What else are you using with these frozen beauties?

    The cake looks FAB.

  8. Melissa says:

    only you are baking an amazing cake with Margot about 5 minutes before you have the next little girl. so fun.

    i made cupcakes (from a mix! gasp!) with avi for a shower we hosted this weekend and he was eating the dry mix out of the bowl like gangbusters; it was everywhere. they are pretty hilarious!

  9. Pam says:

    I take it Bug has sufficiently “risen” by now. The pics are ALL too stinkin’ cute – I see a Food Network show for the Holt Cline girls in the making.
    Also, having food hallucinations after reading the menu. So, ya know, thanks for that…

  10. April says:

    hey there, dig!

    just thought i’d drop you a line and let you know how the nelson clan is loving up your seedy bread. i made it for the second time yesterday (w/homemade soup), and it is fabulous!! one of the many things i love about it is the texture.

    thanks again,
    april

    ps – bug is adorable in that sweater, i love how she’s always got it on! and those jammies of hers are pretty darn cute, too.

  11. Sage says:

    Nici! Love you and your strong conscience. It is so empowering to be a localvore… my mom & stepdad have a small farmstead cheese business, Rockhillcreamery, in northern Utah. They make raw milk cheeses, with their beautiful brown swiss. I sell for them in the summer at SLC’s downtown market, and over the last 4 years have relished in the simpleness of buying food local, being part of the movement to slow down and appreciate food, and support my family. I feel so lucky to share this with annica….

    Love these pics of margot baking, you have much more patience than I. I get so crazy trying to get annica to not eat the entire bowl of creamed butter & sugar…but who doesn’t love butter & sugar!

    Anyhoo, thanks for the post. xoxo

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