Waiting all year for Ruth’s Plum Cake

Mom knew she needed 27-1/2 plums for this cake.

Navigating my mother’s recipe book is tricky—to make her famous plum cake you must look for the Cherry Cake recipe card. I don’t think I ever tasted the cherry cake, only plum and occasionally peach.  Italian plums, or prune plums, are only available for a few weeks every autumn, which in our home meant that we traditionally ate this around the High Holidays. In the off season, Mom sometimes substituted canned peaches, which is also delicious.



  • 28 Italian plums (prune plums), halved and pitted
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ²/₃ c. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. milk



1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and sugar, then cut in the butter. Take off one cup and set aside for topping.

2. Mix in 2 eggs.

3. Spread the very thick batter over the bottom of a
10″ x 15″ pan.

4. Place the plum halves, cut side down, in even rows and columns over the batter.

5. Beat together remaining 2 eggs, the ²/₃ c. sugar and milk, and spread over the plums. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs.

6. Bake at 350° for 45–55 minutes, until golden brown.

Green Tomato Chutney

Here's a jar from last year. You can buy sheets of printer-friendly large, round adhesive labels, and make something special for your canning lids.

I learned about this chutney from Jani Greving when we lived in Ft. Collins. It’s a good way to use that final tomato harvest when the frost warning is issued. This particular chutney is not spicy, but is more like a chunky relish. We take out a jar when we’re having a roasted lamb or turkey, and sometimes with chicken or pork, just to add a little zest, a little something extra for the meat. It’s not unlike the way we use cranberry sauce with turkey.

Green Tomato Chutney (makes 6 pints)

  • 9 c. coarsely diced unpeeled green tomatoes
  • 6 c. coarsely diced, peeled and cored green cooking apples
  • 4-1/2 c. coarsely chopped onions
  • 2 c. coarsely diced celery
  • 3/4 c. golden raisins
  • 1/2 c. candied ginger, cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. salt

Combine everything in a 4-5 quart pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, sirring occasionally. Reduce to low, simmer uncovered for 3 hours or until liquid has cooked away and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape in a spoon, stirring frequently. Ladle into hot sterilized jars. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Applesauce two ways: cherry & blueberry

The kids and I went apple picking at the local orchard right before Rosh Hashana. It was a beautiful day and we picked a wagon-full of apples. Tonight I turned them into apple sauce. We picked golden delicious apples—the variety that was ripe that day—which are great eating apples but not particularly tart or full-flavored. A great applesauce would best be made from a tarter apple. My neighbors brought me some homemade sauce yesterday, made from an apple perfectly suited to a sugar-free, stand-on-its own apple sauce. These golden delicious apples, however, all two pecks of them, needed a boost, so I added some sour-cherry juice to some; blueberries to the rest.

When you make your own apple sauce you can taste as you go, adjusting the flavor by adding some sugar, other berries, cinnamon or even some lemon juice. As I tasted, I used the black board in my kitchen to keep track of my adjustments, so that I could jot down the final recipe.

I have a blackboard on my kitchen wall, which I made by painting blackboard paint directly onto the wall. I use it to jot down quantities as I add ingredients so that I can keep track of a new recipe.


Quarter and core the apples, place in a large pot with about 4 inches of water. Cook until the apples are tender, which should only take about 30 minutes or so. Run through a Foley food mill. Discard the peels.

Cherry-applesauce (makes 4-1/2 pints, plus some to taste)

  • 8 c. pressed apples (see above)
  • 2 c. sour cherry juice (freeze the juice next time you pit some cherries)
  • 1/2 c. sugar, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice, to taste

Heat to a boil, can into hot, sterilized jars, water process for 20 minutes.

Blueberry-applesauce (makes 4-1/2 pints plus some to taste)

  • 8 c. pressed apples (see above)
  • 3 c. mashed or blended blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice

Heat to a boil, can into hot, sterilized jars, water process for 20 minutes.

Is there anything prettier than jars filled with bits of summer?

Performance art: tortellini, cauliflower and a pot too small

Throw the vegetable right in the pot with the pasta. You'll loose a bit of nutrients to the water, but maybe some of them are absorbed by the pasta, right?

While in the middle of making two kinds of applesauce, in the largest pots I own, I noticed that it was 5:30 and thought, “Shoot, I bet those kids will be expecting some dinner soon.” I grabbed the package of 3-cheese tortellini that I keep for such emergencies, and a head of cauliflower (must have a vegetable with every meal!), and threw them all together into my barely-big-enough pot.

Everything was going swimmingly until the pasta expanded and things started flowing over the rim of the pot.

We ate it anyway.

If you want to enjoy a bit of performance art right before you eat, simply use a pot that's a bit too small to boil the tortellini.

Lunch: a Mélange of leftovers

Try it—you'll like it!

My daughter Molly requested that I write a post about this “recipe,” which is one of our favorite ways to create a bowl of lunch. It calls to mind stories I’ve heard about my husband’s grandfather, Lloyd, who used to take leftovers for lunch, made from the previous night’s dinner foods, all poured together inside a mason jar. Lloyd worked in a bakery and he’d set the big mason jar—heaped full of leftover mashed potatoes, meat, green bean casserole, and whatnot—on top of the bakery oven to warm. Apparently it drove Mrs. Lloyd a little crazy watching all of her lovingly prepared dishes spooned all together into one lump.

Along those lines, today for lunch I took the little bit of left-over mixed vegetables from last night, topped them with a dab of leftover spaghetti from last Wednesday’s pasta night along with the remains of the baked chicken that we had from Yom Kippur. Delicious. This would be at least $12.50 at a fancy restaurant, and they’d have a fancy name for it, too.

Molly’s favorite is leftover rice, mixed with vegetables and just a bit of chopped up meat. We call that one “not-fried rice.”

Make it a fruit PLATTER!

Throw away the plastic containers and make it pretty!

The next time you volunteer to take fruit to the pot luck, please do me a favor and take 5 minutes to plate the fruit with some deliberate care into a tiny work of art.

  1. Pick an unusual-shaped platter. I like this little oval server.
  2. PLACE the fruit onto the platter—do not DUMP it out.
  3. Place each strawberry, one at a time, green side up.
  4. Take a moment to appreciate your masterpiece before it is quickly consumed.

The circle of life: Round Challahs

Slices of the round challahs. Apple on the left; raisin on the right.

Last night as I said kaddish for my dad during the Kol Nidre service, I remembered all of the times I sat next to him and my grandfather as they stood in temple to say kaddish for their parents. The melodic cadence of the prayer was effortlessly recited by them both. But in that Reform temple of my childhood only the men said kaddish—a throw-back to more traditional practices. In my current, more traditional yet also more modern congregation, everyone recites the prayer, and I’ve been practicing for the past few years knowing that at any time it might be my turn, and I did not want to disappoint. There was no way to anticipate how emotional that moment would be for me.

My father died three weeks ago. Yesterday, before going to temple, I felt like baking again. And how fitting that the first thing I baked since his death were the holiday challahs, round to symbolize the circle of life and the cycle of the seasons; extra sweet so that we’ll all have a sweet year.

The round challahs are unique to both of the high holidays: Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Our local Jewish Federation has a group that does outreach programs for the seniors in our community. Over the years I’ve been asked to bake dozens of very small, individual, round challahs to contribute to one of their outreach programs. For Chanukah, Purim and the High Holidays they distribute little gift bags to Jewish elderly shut-ins around town, and when my father first moved in with us two years ago, he began receiving these bags. At first I thought it was a silly gesture, after all, my dad had the real thing, right here in our home! He didn’t need the little hamentaschen, or the tiny challahs—mine were baked for him fresh! But to my surprise he loved the bags. He happily showed the contents to me when I got home from work, and he took great pleasure in having little candies of his own that he could share with my children. For Rosh Hashana he would receive a small bottle of grape juice, applesauce, honey, a small round challah, some chocolates, some raisins and a one-page summary of the holiday which he would read carefully with his magnifying glass. What a lovely mitzvah (good deed) this is!

Ten days ago, right before Rosh Hashana I was surprised by a gift bag which was brought to me by Lee, the former director of our local Jewish federation. She brought me a giant version of the bag that they make for the seniors, with enough of everything to feed all five of us, including a full-sized challah, made fresh that morning by Lee herself. She said that she felt funny bringing a challah to the challah baker, but my heart was not in baking that week, and her gift couldn’t have been more appropriate. I was so moved by that gift.

For the raisin bread, drizzle on some honey, sprinkle on raisins and cinammon.

Arrange a thin layer of apples for the apple bread. Or grate an apple and wring out the juice before spreading over the dough.

Roll it up. Use both hands and work evenly across the length.

Pinch the ends.

Make the coil. Place it seam side down, and tuck under the end.

Here the coils are ready to rise. They can sit together like this on the same baking sheet. It’s okay if they kiss a little when they bake!

Here are the just-baked breads. It’s okay if they come together while baking. Just gently pull them apart.

Here’s Macey in his favorite chair, hoping for a hot plate on the dinner table and a taste of some hot, fresh challah.



For the dough:

  • 1 package yeast (2¼ tsp.)
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 c. warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs. oil
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 4 c. (about) white flour

Mix together and brush on before baking:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs. honey

Sprinkle with:

  • sunflower, poppy and/or sesame seeds, about ¼  cup total



  1. Proof the yeast: Mix together the yeast and sugar, add the warm water, stir, and let it sit for 20 minutes. It should get foamy.
  2. Add the rest of the dough ingredients, putting in just enough white flour to make a smooth, not sticky dough.
    Knead for about 10 minutes.
  3. Cover and let rise for about 3 hours, or until doubled in size. Shape into two small loaves or one large loaf. Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet or into greased loaf pans if you want sandwich-shaped loaves. Cover and let rise for one more hour.
  4. Brush with the egg/honey mixture and sprinkle with some seeds. Bake at 350˚ for 35–40 minutes. (Add 5–10 more minutes for a challah that’s stuffed and rolled, covering with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent the top from burning.)


You can find more tasty bakes in my newly released cookbooks:

You Can’t Have Dry Coffee: Papa’s Excuse to Have a Nosh And Nana’s Perfect Pastries

Dry Coffee promo

“You can’t have dry coffee,” was what my grandfather would say when reaching for one of my grandmother’s delicious cookies or pastries. Elegant rugelach and mandel bread, tart plum cake, delicate cream cheese cookies, and sweet babka—these fancy treats started me on my life-long love of baking. Along with those classics, this collection has challahs, bagels, bialys, plus modern-day luscious treats like chocolate cream cheese brownies, and the best chewy, peanut butter chocolate cookies I’ve ever had.Whether my grandfather was being ironic, or if something was lost in translation from Yiddish, I’ll never know. But ironic or not, a cup of coffee needs a good nosh, and this book is a compilation of our family’s best.

The Plate is My Canvas: Recipes and Stories from My Family’s Interfaith Kitchen

Plate promo shot

Written in the style of a family memoir, with stories from my family, this book includes all of the Jewish classics, from rugelach to latkes. Married to a Lutheran man, I learned to cook my husband’s family’s classics as well—with help from my mother-in-law’s handwritten recipes. Stunning photographs accompany each recipe. A perfect gift for an interfaith family.