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Cook this: Plum and black pepper cake from The New Way to Cake

Our cookbook of the week is The New Way to Cake: Simple Recipes with Exceptional Flavor by Benjamina Ebuehi. Over the next two days, we’ll feature another recipe from the book and an interview with the author.

To try another recipe from the book, check out: Pistachio-cherry cake .

Benjamina Ebuehi pairs a dose of freshly ground black pepper with plums in one of her many delicious spice cakes. In The New Way to Cake , she adds pink peppercorn to madeleines, hawaij (a Yemeni spice mixture) to coffee cake and sumac to an apple-spelt cake. The likes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom make appearances too, but she pushes past the seasonal go-tos. “In the same way that we would use spices all year round in our savoury cooking,” says Ebuehi, “we can use them in our baking as well.”

Not too sweet and great with a cup of coffee, her plum and black pepper cake easily falls into the breakfast cake category. (Don’t skip the crème fraîche, which provides a smooth, slightly tart contrast.) “I like an everyday cake that I can have in the morning and not feel too bad because it’s not got a load of sugar in it,” she says. And if the black pepper is giving you pause, rest assured it brings warmth rather than bite.

When Ebuehi first started experimenting with the recipe, her mom was a bit incredulous but she pushed on. “My mom was like, ‘Why are you going to put black pepper in a cake?’ and I thought, ‘Trust me. I can see it. It makes sense,” says Ebuehi. “It’s not full of pepper but it adds a really nice depth to it. It’s really subtle but you can taste that it’s there. And against the plums and almonds in the cake, it’s one that I really love.”


1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (225 g) superfine sugar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla bean paste
4 tsp (8 g) coarsely ground black pepper, divided
3 eggs
1/2 cup (65 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
2 cups (200 g) ground almonds
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1/4 cup (60 mL) milk
4–6 ripe plums, pitted and quartered
Handful of flaked almonds
1 tbsp (15 g) apricot jam, to decorate (optional)
Crème fraîche, for serving

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a springform or loose-bottomed 9-inch (23-cm) cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Step 2

Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and 2 teaspoons (4 g) of the black pepper until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and if the mixture starts to curdle, add 1 tablespoon (8 g) of flour. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Add this gradually into the butter mixture, followed by the milk, and gently stir until combined before pouring the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the plum quarters on top, working your way around without pushing them too much into the batter. Sprinkle on the remaining black pepper and the flaked almonds.

Step 3

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool. Brush with some warmed apricot jam, if using, to give the cake a glazed finish before serving warm or cold, with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Excerpted from The New Way to Cake: Simple Recipes with Exceptional Flavor by Benjamina Ebuehi. Copyright © 2019 Benjamina Ebuehi. Published by Page Street Publishing Co. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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