[Point Reyes National Seashore, January 2013.]
Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,
the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back
from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries — roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay — how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures. ~ Mary Oliver
I feel on the cusp. Summer spins into fall, Indian Summer lays its light hands across the city, the sun shines hot and bright. The sky has turned into that deep blue and yesterday was the Equinox. Everything feels about to change (and so it will); where will the path lead? What comes next?
Maybe what comes next is a batch of plum-cocoa cakes, fragrant with cinnamon and rich with hazelnuts. I’d almost call these ‘pudding cakes’ for their fudgy texture but really I think they are more ‘cake’ than pudding. They are dairy-free and this recipe calls for coconut milk but if you prefer to use soy, almond or regular whole milk feel free to substitute. These cakes also freeze well, which is perfect for when you make a dozen and then find your appetite has disappeared (soon enough it will be back, I imagine).
Fall is my favorite season despite the promise of winter that lingers during the blue hour that comes ever earlier each day. Perhaps that is why I love it so: it is fleeting, it is lovely, it encourages us to savor this moment, as brief as it may be. Hold on.
Use plums here that are not overly ripe; for best results they should be on the firmer side so that they will hold their integrity when baked and not turn into mush. Make sure to let the cakes rest for at least a few hours before serving to firm up the crumb a bit.
Makes 12 cakes
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetned cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut milk
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 plums, pitted and thinly sliced
1/4 cup raw sugar
Heat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
In a food processor, finely grind the pistachios and hazelnuts. Place in a large bowl and whisk in the brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the coconut milk until well blended. Stir in the olive oil and add mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir with a spoon and then whisk until the batter is smooth and silky.
Divide batter equally between the cupcake tins. Arrange about 3 to 4 plum slices on top of each cake and sprinkle the 1/4 cup raw sugar across the tops of the cakes.
Bake for 30 minutes until tops of cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Cakes will firm as they cool. Chill or let sit at room temperature at least 2 hours before serving.