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Life Style

Some questions about Italian Plumcake, whose answers you may not know

Hands up who’s never heard of Italian Plumcake! And who’s never tried some? But maybe not everyone knows that what we call Plumcake in Italy has very little to do with English Plum Cakes. Why is that?

Spongy and soft, recognisable not only for its fragrant perfume but also for its characteristic parallelepipedal shape, a homemade Italian plumcake is a delicious treat you’ll want to make again and again: for breakfast, for children’s snacks, or as an after-dinner pleasure, to share with family or friends.

Like all home-baked sweet pleasures, the Italian plumcake too needs considerable care when mixing and when baking, and not only then… As well as asking questions about why there could be complications in making plumcake, we also asked ourselves about the origin of the English name used by Italians. Do you already know all the answers? Perhaps not…

  • Why is plumcake so moist in the centre?
  • Why does it crumble so easily?
  • Why does it have this name in Italy?
come fare il plumcake

Why is plumcake so moist in the centre?


You’ve removed your plumcake from the oven, you’ve left it to cool for long enough and you’re about to cut the first slice when… you realise immediately that the centre is still too liquid. Why has this happened?

One explanation could be the choice of baking tin. The ideal baking tin for Italian plumcake is a metal one, non-stick, and anyway buttered and sprinkled with flour before pouring in the cake mix.

Silicone containers, on the other hand, are not recommended for plumcake baking, because they prolong moisture and also impede the formation of the typical crust on the surface. However, if your only option in the house is a silicone baking tin, remember to let your plumcake cook for longer, until you can see that its surface is crisp and golden.

Why does it crumble so easily?


In this case, you may not be responsible for a cooking mishap: you may just be unlucky. Sometimes, just as you are carefully removing the tin from the oven, the still hot cake may unexpectedly crumble into various parts. An irreparable disaster? Not at all!

Let the largest pieces and the intact part cool down, as though nothing had happened. Then cut these into small equal-sized pieces, lay them on a serving dish and serve at table. The plumcake will be just as delicious as ever, and just as attractive to the eye. And anyway, who said that cakes must always be sliced?

Why does it have this name in Italy?


In Britain, a Plum Cake is, unsurprisingly, a cake made with plums. And it is actually a different kind of cake altogether: low, often cooked in shallow rectangular tins, with a base of leavened dough or puff pastry, on top of which a layer of sliced plums has been laid.

The kind of cake which Italians call plumcake, on the other hand, the British call either sponge cake or “pound cake”, so-called due to the fact that traditionally it contains a pound weight of five ingredients (flour, egg, butter, sugar and dried or candied fruit). And it has no connection whatsoever with plums…

What exactly caused this traditional Italian cake to be called “plumcake” remains something of a mystery. Two hundred years ago, in his famous tome of Italian recipes “The Science of Cookery and the Art of eating well”, the great Pellegrino Artusi ironically commented that the Plumcake was “a sweet liar about its own name” since, after all, it had nothing to do with plums… however, let’s not worry about the linguistics and concentrate on our taste buds. Here’s how to make it.

Plumcake: the recipe


20 g butter

1 egg

1 egg yolk

50 g sugar

100 g flour

2 g candied citron

2 g sultanas

2 g raisins

3 ml rum

2 g fine sugar

lemon zest


  1. Place the butter in a bowl and mix for around twenty minutes until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add one whole egg plus one extra yolk, then add the sugar and the flour and mix well.
  3. When all these have been thoroughly mixed, add the rum and the raisins and sultanas, previously soaked in warm water and dipped in flour; finally, add the diced citron and a little grated lemon peel.
  4. Pour the mixture into a buttered and lined rectangular cake tin and place in the oven. Leave to cool and serve sprinkled with icing sugar.

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