Plum cake has historically referred to an early type and style of fruitcake in England since around 1700. Raisins and currants were used, which the English referred to as plums since around 1660. Plum cakes during this period were raised by whipping air into the cake batter, rather than by the use of yeast. In Great Britain, the term plum cake still typically refers to what most Americans refer to as a type of fruitcake, and the term plum originally referred to prunes, raisins or grapes in England. In Old English, the term plūme was "from medieval Latin pruna, from Latin prunum, which equated to prune. Plum pudding is a similar dish prepared with similar ingredients, cooked by steaming the mixture rather than baking it.
In contemporary times, plum cake may also refer to a type of cake prepared using plum as a primary ingredient. In some versions, after cooking, the plums may become jam-like inside of the cake. Some versions may be prepared using plum jam. Plum cake prepared with plums is also a part of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, and is referred to as pflaumenkuchen.
Prune cake is a type of plum cake.
In the 1881 book Sweet Dishes, Colonel Henry-Herbert says that "a good English plum cake...is a national institution".
The English version of plum cake also exists on the European mainland, although these may not contain as much fruit and may be drier compared to English versions.
Plum cake in the United States originated from English settlers around "the turn of the eighteenth century", and was prepared in the English style. During this time, it was prepared in sizes ranging from small, such as for parties in celebration of Twelfth Night and Christmas, to large, such as for weddings. This original fruitcake version of plum cake in the United States has been referred to as a reigning "standard American celebration cake through the time of the civil war".
During colonial times in the U.S., a virtually identical cake was called election cake, and was prepared with currants, raisins, molasses and spices, with the addition of brandy in the recipe occurring later. Election cakes were typically leavened with yeast. In New England, large election cakes weighing around Script error: No such module "convert". would traditionally be served while people waited for election results. It has been stated that the first published election cake recipe appeared in 1796 in the book American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons.
After 1830 in the U.S., plum cake was often referred to as fruit cake or black cake.
In 1885, plum cake in the U.S. was described in the book Some noted princes, authors & statesmen of our time as a solid, dark-colored, thick cake with copious amounts of plums, gritty notes from raisins, and as "mucilaginous".
In popular culture
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