Kuchen means cake in German. There are as many different kinds of kuchen as there are kinds of cake.
I saw this recipe for upside-down plum kuchen in the latest issue of Gourmet Magazine, and I just had veganize it. I’m glad I did, because the cake base of this kuchen might now be my favorite coffee cake base ever. It’s light and fluffy, and like my Slow Rise Pancakes, it uses yeast instead of baking powder or baking soda for leavening. I really love the clean, rich flavor of yeast-raised goods, so when I looked at this particular recipe I knew I had to make an animal-friendly version.
They used plums in the Gourmet version, so when I found tiny, sweet organic plums at the Copley Farmers Market here in Boston, it was kismet. However, I’m not sure I’d recommend you use plums in yours.
Here’s the thing. The plums themselves are very sweet, but I noticed a mild bitterness in the skins, even when I ate them fresh. After baking, the bitterness intensified. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s similar to the bitterness of marmalade. If you really love the combination of sweet and bitter in a fruit, then go for the plums. If you’re not sure, choose another stone fruit; peaches or cherries would be completely divine in this. On second thought, I think nearly any bake-able fruit would be great.
Because this is a yeast-risen cake, it does take a while. Two hours for the first rise and ninety minutes for the second rise means this isn’t a fast dessert. If you’re looking for a quick coffee cake, try this crumb cake instead. But the flavor and texture of this kuchen really make all the time worthwhile.
Plum Kuchen (adapted from Gourmet Magazine, Aug 2009)
Makes One 9×9 Cake
1 Packet Active-Dry Yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 Cup Warm Water (105-110º F)
2 Cups plus 2 Tbs All-Purpose Flour, divided
1 Cup Sugar, divided
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tbs Tofutti Sour Cream (or plain vegan yogurt)
2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer Powder mixed with 3 Tbs Hot Water
1 1/2 tsp Fresh Lemon Zest
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs Earth Balance Margarine, divided
3/4 lbs Firm-Ripe Plums or other Stone Fruit, halved and pitted
Combine the yeast with the warm water and set aside to proof until foamy.
In a mixing bowl (one that fits in a stand mixer, if you have one), combine the yeast with 2 cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt, sour cream, egg replacer, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.
Beat at low speed to combine the ingredients, then mix at medium speed for 5 minutes while adding in 1/2 cup of Earth Balance, one tablespoon at a time. Beat the batter for five minutes at medium speed until smooth and shiny, and very sticky.
After five minutes, remove the bowl from the mixer and top with the remaining 2 Tbs of flour. Do not mix it in. Cover the bowl with a non-terry cloth kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours.
After the first rise, mix the the dough to combine the flour on the top.
With the remaining 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance, grease a 9×9 cake pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in the bottom of the pan.
Halve and pit the plums. It may be easier to cut around the pits, rather than to pull them out, if your fruit is very ripe.
Slice the pitted plum halves into five or six slices. I left mine whole because they were very small. Place cut-side down into the sugar, covering the bottom of the pan.
Pour the dough over the plums and let raise for another 90 minutes, covered with oiled plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 375º F.
Bake the kuchen for 35 minutes, until evenly golden and slightly cracked.
Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife and turn out onto a rack to cool completely before serving.