Because of reader demand, this recipe has been published in one form or another in the New York Times almost every year since I went to work there in 1981. Lois brought this recipe, originally called Fruit Torte, to Elegant but Easy, and its appeal comes from its lovely old-fashioned flavor and its speed of preparation.
When I had been married just a couple of years, I had worked out an assembly-line process for making many tortes and putting them in the freezer. A friend who loved the tortes said that in exchange for two she would let me store as many as I wanted in her freezer. A week later she went on vacation for two weeks and her mother stayed with her children. When she returned, my friend called and asked:
"How many of those tortes did you leave in my freezer?"
"Twenty-four, but two of those were for you."
There was a long pause. "Well, I guess my mother either ate twelve of them or gave them away." Her mother must have liked them as much as I do. And the children. And possibly the neighbors.
1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream the butter and the 3/4 cup of sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch springform pan. Cover the top with the plums, skin sides down. Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle over the top.
3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.
4. To serve, let the torte return to room temperature and reheat at 300 degrees until warm, if desired. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream.
From The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook, by Marian Burros and Lois Levine.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.