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MARGARET PROUSE: Many ways to enjoy chums - a hybrid of cherries and plums

These chums were grown this year in a P.E.I. orchard.
These chums were grown this year in a P.E.I. orchard.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - I often stop at a fruit farm on my way home to pick up whatever is in season. .

Right now, it’s chums.

These chums are not pals or friends, neither are they species of North Pacific salmon, nor fishing bait. As you may have guessed, considering that I found them at a fruit farm, they are fruit.

The word chum tells of their origin. Like motel (motor hotel), smog (smoke fog) and simulcast (simultaneous telecast), chum is a portmanteau word or a blended word. The word chum is derived from cherry and plum, and that’s what chums are, a hybrid of cherries and plums. Apparently they aren’t new at all, but have been around since the late 1800s, and according to that font of all knowledge, the internet, there are numerous varieties. Chums are, nevertheless, new to me.

The ones I have purchased are oval in shape, 5 cm (2 inches) long, with plum-coloured skins and yellowish flesh resembling that of a plum and a small pit in the centre. The skins are tart, and the flesh is sweet in this variety, and I am told that the other variety grown at my neighbourhood fruit farm has sweet dark red flesh.

As I have no recipes that were developed just for chums, I have been experimenting in my kitchen, substituting chums in recipes developed for other fruit and making changes as needed. The recent cooler days have been good for baking.

I tried baking a chum galette, a rustic, free form pie, but the recipe needs some work. It tastes good, but it is too sour unless sweetened with a sprinkle of sugar or a scoop of ice cream at serving time. I’ll be taking another stab at the recipe, with more sugar.

We were happy with this Chum Cake, based on a recipe for Plum Cake. Rather than being scattered throughout the cake, the sliced chums are arranged on the top of the cake. It is good on its own or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The cake has an even texture and cuts well when cool.

If you don’t have a springform pan, bake it in another pan with 2.5 L capacity and serve from the pan, rather than turning it out onto a plate and disturbing the arrangement of chums on top.

It takes some time to pit and slice the chums, so it’s best of do that step before mixing the batter for this cake.  

Late Summer Chum Cake

Adapted from Semenak, Susan: “Market Chronicles: Stories & Recipes from Montreal’s Marché Jean Talon”. Éditions Cardinal, Montreal, 2011.

For cake:

125 mL (½ cup) butter, softened

175 mL (¾ cup) sugar

2 eggs

5 mL (1 tsp) vanilla

375 mL (1½ cups) all purpose flour

5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder

1 mL (¼ tsp) salt

125 mL (½ cup) milk

1 pint box chums, pitted and sliced, but not peeled

For topping:

125 mL (½ cup) packed brown sugar

25 mL (2 tbsp)          all purpose flour

5 mL (1 tsp)  cinnamon (not being a big cinnamon fan, I omitted)

50 mL (¼ cup)          cold butter

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).

Grease a 2.5 L (9 inch) springform pan.

Prepare cake: In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to butter mixture, alternating with milk, beating at low speed until just combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading to smooth top. Arrange chum slices in a single layer over the top.

Prepare topping: In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a fork or pastry blender cut in butter in small pieces until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle topping over chums.

Bake 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden skewer inserted into centre of cake comes out dry. 35 minutes wasn’t long enough in my oven. I baked the cake for an additional 20 minutes, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.  

Let cake cool 10 to 15 minutes before removing sides of the pan.

Makes 8-10 servings

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at


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