Plum Spice Pound Cake

My good friend at Glaukôpidos was bugging me for an update, which I've been putting off because I lack an ingredient for my next planned baking project. After being unmotivated to bake anything that wouldn't require two or three days of proofing, I remembered and idea I'd had over the summer, but wanted to save for winter, when the taste might be more seasonally appropriate. And if you can't bake a wintery cake on a day when most of the city is shut-down due to snow, then when can you?

When my sister came home from Japan late last summer, her host-mom sent her with a carton of Choya Ume-shu and a jar of ume soaked in shochu (a distilled Japanese rice liquour), which was apparently popular at the time, that my sister and her host-mom called 梅だけ, 'just plums'. Technically, they're not even plums, though that is the most popular translation. Apparently, they're more closely related to apricots, but they're very sour and are most commonly eaten soaked in alcohol to make ume-shu, or dried as ume-boshi.

So, I like to use an ume or two as a garnish when I'm drinking ume-shu, and the number of ume sitting at the bottom of a bottle are usually the perfect number to eat this way, but I was a bit overwhelmed by the jar of just plums. The official Choya website offers a recipe for a chicken dish I didn't find particularly appealing or cutting them up and putting them in cake doughnuts. I decided they'd be good in a poundcake with some spices, since spiced plum is a fairly common winter dessert flavour. The jar of ume sat in the fridge (with me sampling some every once in a while) for eight months until the seasons turned and I remembered it.

I used a fairly basic pound cake recipe, but cut down on the sugar because the ume are sweet, and upped the flour to compensate for both the lessened amount of sugar and the extra moisture the ume would add. I used the liquids from the ume to make a glaze, which I poured over the cake when it came out of the oven. It was still a little too warm when I cut it (but it smelled too good to wait) so the cake looks about to collapse, but it's moist and delicious. I think mine turned out exceptionally delicious because I went to the trouble of grinding fresh spices my parents brought back from their vacation to the Caribbean a few years ago.

Plum Spice Pound Cake

2 1/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup chopped shochu-soaked ume

Butter and flour for pan.


1/3 cup liquid from shochu-soaked ume
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
A slurry of 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water

1. Sift together the 2 1/4 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. Cream in the butter, eggs and vanilla extract.

3. Add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.

4. Gradually mix in the milk.

5. Add the chopped ume with the extra 2 tablespoons of flour on top, and stir in gently.

6. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9" x 5" loaf pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes in a 350*F oven.

7. While the cake is baking, heat the ingredients for the glaze over medium-high heat. Once it boils, lower heat to a simmer and reduce the liquid to about 2/3 the original amount.

8. When the cake is done (toothpick comes out clean), let cool slightly, remove from the pan and drizzle with the glaze.