Plum Cake for Rosh Hashana

Plum Cake

The Jewish High Holidays are quickly approaching, and as it seems like they creep up on us each year, this year is no exception. Today, I have a very special treat that comes straight from one of my mother-in-law’s additions to my family cookbook, and has elevated our Rosh Hashana table for several generations.

Everytime I ask Bette Jo, my mother-in-law, about this recipe, a big smile spreads across her face as she remembers the story behind it. It’s amazing how cooking techniques and recipes change over time. My husband’s great-grandmother, Ruth Sunshine, was famous for her plum cake, and it has remained a true family treasure.  When Ruth handed down the recipe to Bette Jo, then a newlywed, Bette Jo was shocked to see that there was no mention of specific oven temperature, and that the only mention of cook-time was “bake until done.” Lucky for us here at, my dedicated mother-in-law tested and tweaked until she determined the missing details in the recipe. Maybe cooks in the old-world had a better sense of their kitchens, but today, baking is a precise science.

Our family’s High Holiday feasts would be incomplete without this classic, Eastern European, hand-me-down recipe, and I have yet to try one that comes close to being as good as Bette Jo’s. After a decadent meal, this dessert is the perfect ending, as it is not overly sweet. The juice from the plums moistens the thin, dense layer of cake, and the sprinkling of cinnamon perfumes and adorns every bite. I should mention that it is hardly surprising that one of Bette Jo’s most favored dishes includes lots and lots of cinnamon, because this is her signature spice. Each serving of this cake is ornamented with its own plum half sitting like a ruby gemstone sanded with cinnamon and sugar, and according to my sweet-toothed husband, begs to be crowned with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Although traditionally found on our high holiday menu, this plum cake recipe would also make a perfect pairing with an afternoon tea.

Bette Jo's Plum Cake (adapted from Ruth Sunshine)
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish
Serves: 24
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Old world, no-fuss approach to a simple and classic dessert.
  • 12 prune plums, sliced in half lengthwise
  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1¾ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cinnamon
  • ¼ cup melted butter or margarine
(See note below)
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar.
  2. Add egg and mix well.
  3. Alternately add flour, baking powder, and milk. Add vanilla.
  4. Spread batter in greased jelly roll pan.
  5. Lightly sprinkle the top with flour, and place plum halves on cake. Mix sugar and cinnamon topping together, and sprinkle as much as you want on top of cake.
  6. Drizzle melted butter over cake.
  7. Bake at 300 degrees for ½ hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
This makes a lot of the cinnamon/sugar mixture. You do not need to use all of it. Use what you want, and save the rest for cinnamon toast!


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3 Replies to “Plum Cake for Rosh Hashana”

    1. If you are going to substitute a fruit, I would choose one with a similar consistency. Stick to stone fruit for this one.

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