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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Summer Harvest Salad

Summer Harvest Salad

One of the things I miss most about my time spent living in the Midwest is the changing of the seasons. Don’t get my wrong. I understand that living in Southern California, I am certainly spoiled by the weather, but with the two options being hot and hotter, I sometimes reminisce about a cool fall breeze, or a refreshing spring shower (I don’t get too carried away about missing Chicago winters, however).

Fortunately for me, we’ve been experiencing a particularly unusual summer, and have had several days of rain. If I could hand-pick any sort of rain from the sky, it would undoubtedly be a warm summer rain. I can probably count on one hand how many times we’ve had them here in the So.Cal., but I love them just the same. To me, they act as a gentle reminder to appreciate the amazing weather we have every other day of the year. But more importantly, just as April showers bring May flowers, summer rains promise even more than the average colorful and delicious bounty of crops.

My latest venture to the local farmer’s market left me overwhelmed by the season’s harvest of crimson-colored berries, stone fruit in every hue of the rainbow, and the  techni-color array of vegetables available. And after tasting my new favorite herb, the sour-lemon-like sorrel greens at the beloved Saly Cortile Cucina a few weeks back, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bundle of such greens for the picking at my favorite stand. Traditionally, sorrel is a spring green, but with Southern California’s climate the way it is, it was a welcome find on this hot summer day. Needless to say, I left the market with my arms full of produce and the wheels in my head turning.

When I got home, I knew exactly what I’d serve alongside my grilled chicken that night. Making quick work of the strawberries and plums, I arranged them atop a generous pile of peppery arugula and the tart sorrel greens. I then whipped up a quick balsamic vinaigrette, and called it a day. Kenny gave me his stamp of approval when he went for seconds of this Summer Harvest Salad a la Jenny, and I made variations for days, only stopping when I ran out of ingredients. I can’t wait to see what else they have for my salad fixings next week!

I’ve included the basic recipe for you, but know that it is very easily adaptable. Want to make this a main dish? Add goat cheese or slivered almonds for some protein. Don’t have plums? How about fresh peaches, instead? Use your imagination, and get inspired by what you find in your garden or local farmer’s market.


5.0 from 2 reviews
Summer Harvest Salad
Recipe type: Main, Side
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Prep time:
Total time:
This light, fresh salad takes the best of Summer's bounty, and combines it into one dish.
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups sorrel greens, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup fresh berries (I used strawberries, but blueberries would be nice here, too)
  • 1 cup fresh stone fruit, sliced (I used plums, but apricots or peaches would work)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. In a large bowl, combine the arugula with the sorrel greens, and toss to combine.
  2. Add the berries and stone fruit.
  3. In a separate small bowl, make your vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad, and serve.


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