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Upside-Down Cardamom-Spiced Plum Cake
1½ hours 35 minutes active, plus cooling
Claire Ptak, proprietor of Violet Cakes, taught us a trio of simple but sumptuous loaf cakes during a recent visit to her bakery-café in East London. This one, an upside-down affair, features a caramelly layer of sliced fruit that becomes syrupy and supple with baking, and a sturdy, buttery cake made with almond and rye flours (but no wheat flour). Sweetened with brown sugar and aromatic with cardamom and grated orange zest, the dark, moist crumb is more akin to steamed pudding than a light, delicate cake. Ptak used fresh figs, but since figs are highly seasonal, we used plums instead. For an autumnal dessert, pears work beautifully, too; use two ripe but firm small pears (5 to 6 ounces each), peeled, halved, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick. An 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan is best; if baked in a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, the cake will sink in the center and also is rather squat. If you like, serve slices dolloped with crème fraîche, which complements the fruity, molasses-y notes with cool, creamy, tangy richness. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.
For the caramel-plum layer
grams (3 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into 3 pieces