The Plum Tart from “The Light Years”

A baking recipe inspired by literature found on
The Plum Tart from “The Light Years”

They all had dinner – fourteen of them round the immense three-pedestal table extended to its uttermost and even then they were crammed round it. They ate four roast chickens, bread sauce, mashed potato and runner beans followed by plum tart and what the Duchy called Shape – blancmange.

From “The Light Years” by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Serves 6

8-10 ripe English plums (Victoria plums are lovely here)
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tbsp caster sugar
200 g [7 oz] plain flour
20 g [0,7 oz] icing sugar
Pinch salt
100 g [3,5 oz]unsalted butter, cold from the fridge
1 egg yolk
Frangipane: *
125 g [4,4 oz] unsalted butter, softened
125 g [4,4 oz] golden caster sugar
125 g [4,4 oz] ground almonds
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

* Frangipane (/ˈfrændʒᵻˌpæn, -ˌpeɪn/) is a filling made from or flavored with almonds. Frangipani Italian pronunciation: [ˌfrandʒiˈpaːni] is derived from frangere il pane (Italian for “that breaks the bread”). This filling can be used in a variety of ways including cakes and such pastries as the Bakewell tart, Conversation tart, Jesuite and Pithivier.


[1] Preheat the oven to 170 C / 340 F (fan forced). Slice the plums in half through the centre. Remove the stone, and arrange them, cut side up, in a roasting dish. Push the cinnamon sticks in amongst the plums, and sprinkle the tablespoon of caster sugar over the fruit. Roast them in the oven for 30 minutes, and then set aside to cool.

[2] While the plums are roasting, make the pastry. Tip the flour, icing sugar and salt into the mixing bowl, dice the butter into cubes and rub it in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and knead the dough together with your hands until combined. Try not to overwork the dough here; stop as soon as it comes together in a ball. Leave the dough to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

[3] Once the dough has rested, roll it out until it is the thickness of a pound coin. Grease the tart tin* and carefully transfer the pastry into it. Push it carefully into the corners, and patch up any cracks or tears. Trim any overhang of pastry. Leave the pastry to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

[4] Scrunch a sheet of greaseproof paper up into a ball, then lay it into the tart (it will go in easier this way). Fill this with baking beans or rice that you use for blind baking, making sure you press them into the corners. Transfer the tart to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the baking beans and paper and cook for another five minutes, until golden.

[5] While the tart shell is baking, you can get on with making the frangipane. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Fold through the ground almonds. Once the tart shell is golden, spoon the frangipane into it and bake in the oven for another twenty-five minutes.

[6] Remove the tart from the oven, and let it cool in the tin for five minutes. Remove it from the tin, cool to room temperature, and then spoon the plums on top of the frangipane. Serve with something sharp – crème fraîche, sour cream or yoghurt all work a treat.