In one of the fallow fields, never farmed because it is too wet, the bedrock only inches below the soil, the first frost of the autumn burned off in the morning sun The air smelled like winter, no odours of earth or plants, just cold, clean, frosty air. The burdock and mullein have died back, leaving only the teasels standing tall.
We bought it for a song a few years ago, and tore everything out of it. Then, using the top of a old oak desk for the counter-top and building in benches and a folding table it became my writing studio. Over time D. added a gas cook top for making tea and snacks, a little sink that takes water from a reservoir, a cable to tap into the electricity in the barn, a little fridge and even a little sofa that folds down into a bed. In the summer I usually leave this made up as a bed with lots and lots of pillows and cushions. When I'm blocked, I lie there and daydream and nap.
In the winter I adapt and write in any corner of the house that has a comfy chair and a bit of sunshine but I miss my cosy retreat.
With all my books and papers back in the house I knew I ought to be working on my website. There are pages and pages to be rewritten or reformatted. But when I went to the fridge for a glass of juice my eye fell on six black plums sitting on a lower shelf and I suddenly remembered my mother's plum cake, a treat from my childhood.
I put on St Germain's Tourist CD and began to gather the ingredients.
|Fresh nutmeg from a friend in Barbados|
|Stiff cake batter|
|Plums on top of the cake batter|
|Streusel on top - ready for the oven|
With the dishes done there were no excuses left, so I opened the laptop to start work and found this note inside.
Christine's Plum Streusel Coffee Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
For cake batter
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound plums (5 to 6 medium), sliced
confectioners' sugar for sifting over cake
Preheat oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9-inch round or square baking pan at least 2 inches deep.
Streusel: In a food processor pulse together streusel ingredients until combined well and crumbly.
Cake batter: In a bowl with an electric mixer beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and vanilla. Sift in flour with baking powder and salt and beat until just combined.
Spread cake batter in pan, smoothing top, and arrange plum slices over it in slightly overlapping rows. Sprinkle streusel over plum slices and bake cake in middle of oven 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool cake slightly on a rack and sift confectioners' sugar over it. Serve coffeecake warm or at room temperature.
Note: I have never used the icing sugar on top, but this is Mum's recipe and I am sure it was served with icing sugar carefully sifted through a stencil in a lovely pattern for optimum presentation.