Gail Monaghan


About the Recipe

Plums tend to have a deeper and more complex flavor than peaches and nectarines, their what-you-see-is-what-you-get cousins. Plums are far and away my stone fruit of choice in regard to dessert.

Plums come into season in early summer and abound for at least a month after peaches and nectarines have gone by the wayside. However, plums peak in late summer and early fall. As days shorten, I push to eat outdoors while I still can. And make as many plum desserts as possible. Light-sweater dinners are perfect occasions to pull warm yummy, plummy concoctions out of the culinary hat.

When a recipe calls for cooked plums, roasting, stewing or grilling will do, but nothing beats the luscious richness achieved by caramelization. This may sound complicated but in reality involves nothing more than a few minutes of sautéing the plums with butter and sugar until their juices thicken and darken in color. 

With its hint of corn and grainy texture, the polenta in this caramelized plum pound cake offers a complementary contrast to the sweet-tart and slightly yielding quality of the cooked plums. The recipe begins with a plum and citrus sauté, unexpectedly including rosemary. The woody herb adds gusto to the dish and pairs surprisingly well with the plums. The rosemary-infused cooked fruit is alternated with layers of cake batter (to which a few tablespoons of cognac have been added for an extra tender crumb)in a loaf pan and baked until golden. Served warm with whipped cream or vanilla creme fraiche and some extra plums on the side, this dish is my favorite early fall sweet treat. 

Caramelized Plum and Rosemary Polenta Pound Cake

Serves 8-10

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes


Prepared Plums:

  • 6 large plums, pitted and cut into 6-8 wedges each

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary 

  • 2 tablespoons cognac (or rum or any brandy)

The Pound Cake:

  • ½ pound unsalted butter, plus more for buttering loaf pan 

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary 

  • Zest of 1 lemon 

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3 eggs 

  • 2 tablespoons cognac (or any brandy)

  • Prepared plums (recipe below)

    Note: All ingredients should be at room temperature


Prepared Plums:

  1. In a medium saucepan, cook plums with sugar, salt, lemon zest and rosemary over medium heat until fruit is very soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes.

  2. Remove from heat.

  3. Add cognac.

The Pound Cake:

  1. Butter a 5½x10-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter paper. Set pan aside. 

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, cornmeal and salt. 

  4. Cream together butter, rosemary, lemon zest and sugar until very light and fluffy. 

  5. Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

  6. Beat in flour mixture, alternating with cognac, just until well-combined. Spoon 2/3 of batter into pan. Evenly distribute one-quarter of prepared plums over batter. Add rest of the batter. Spread remaining fruit over the top and, using a spoon or fork, push pieces down a little. 

  7. Bake for 60 minutes or until done, testing with a toothpick after 50 minutes. Cake should be nicely brown, pulling away from the edges of the pan and not too dry. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto your hand or a rack and quickly re-invert it onto another rack. 

  8. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The cake is also delicious sliced and toasted.)