Learning to the Love the Italian Prune Plum

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

There are only a few weeks every year (typically in September) when the little purple fruits known as Italian prune plums pop up in local supermarkets. That means that while they last, you can experience the deliciousness that is prune plum coffee cake. The plums are smaller than the varieties of plums you’re probably familiar with, and the inside reveals a firm yellow flesh and a stone that’s easy to pit, as opposed to most other breeds of the fruit.

While you can eat these raw like any other stone fruit, they are best cooked. Their firmer texture holds up well, even when made into a jam or sauce, and their more concentrated but less sweet flavor means that they are a wonderful addition to baked goods like coffee cake or scones. The taste of the Italian prune plum also pairs well with stronger flavors like almond or cardamom.

If you fall in love with this sassy fruit, take note: They freeze very well. Simply pit as many pounds as you’d like to store, pack them in zip-seal bags, and freeze for up to a year.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Prune Plum Coffee Cake
(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated July & August 2007)

2 tbsp jam (raspberry, currant, or strawberry)
3 tbsp brandy (we often use Calvados)
1 lb. Italian prune plums, halved with pits removed
¾ c flour
½ c sugar
⅓ c slivered almonds
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond or cardamom extract (check out our recipe here)

Add jam and brandy to a non-stick pan and heat through at medium-low heat. When warm, add prunes, cut side down, to pan and saute until prunes start to soften, about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F; grease and flour nine-inch spring form pan.

Process sugar and almonds in food processor in pulses until almonds are ground. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add butter and mix until mixture resembles course sand. Add eggs and extracts and process until smooth.

Transfer batter to pan and use spatula to spread it to edges. Batter will be very thick and sticky. Arrange prune plumbs cut side up on top of batter (use the plums to push down and spread out the rest of the batter to the edges).

Bake for 40-50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before serving.
Of course, if you don’t want to take the time to do all this, you can add cut prune plumbs on top of any basic yellow or white cake recipe, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake until the cake is done.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


  1. artsy

    These are actually one of my favorite plums to eat raw- I like the tartness with a touch of sweet in them. So..are these what is dried to make…prunes?

  2. Tim & Julie

    It’s 11:30 pm, dark & cold & my wife and I just picked 15 gallons off these gems from our 4 trees. We were concerned that the hard freeze tonight will have ruined them.
    Our favorite is plum jam, but this year we are going to try other things starting with the plum coffee cake.
    This is the best harvest we have had.
    Greetings from Montana.

  3. Andrea

    This was okay. When I saw it I was thinking it would be like a cinnamon/brown sugar sort of coffee cake, but it was more of just a bread with the prunes in it.
    We liked the brandy/jelly sauce though!

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