Columbus Day


What’s your favorite holiday?  Christmas?  Aw, how nice.  Thanksgiving?  Lovely.  Halloween?  Spooky.  Oh, and you’re wrong.  Around here, Columbus Day reigns supreme for one simple reason: my husband has the day off work but the kids don’t have the day off school.  Once a year, we are granted six kid-free hours to run amok like sailors in the New World.

Past Columbus Days have been marked by sporty endeavors involving hiking trails or mountain bikes.  Last year was embarrassingly practical – we spent the day shopping for dishwashers.  This year threatened to be another snooze fest as we discussed things like going to the auto body shop (sadly, not a euphemism) and buying a nice ficus for the corner of our family room.

A ficus?  Columbus didn’t traipse around the globe claiming land and spreading disease so we could take a day off to buy a ficus.  Thankfully, we realized the lameness of our ways and went with Plan B: a quick road trip to wine country for lunch at one of our favorite spots that we haven’t been to in years.

We ate.  We drank.  We photo bombed tourists’ vacation snapshots.  We went deep and tackled tough topics such as our entrance songs — music we would want played to announce our arrival at a party, WWE smackdown or beer pong tournament.  It was perfect.

The success of our Columbus Day adventures hinges on playing it cool around the kids to minimize their complaints that it’s not fair – boring Monday morning for them, best day ever for us.  We were able to hold it together long enough to maturely wipe the shit-eating grins off our faces, get the kids ready for school, and feed them cake for breakfast as a peace offering.

Not just any cake, but a plum cake that has achieved cult status since appearing in the New York Times way back in 1983.  It only takes a few ingredients and a few minutes to put together.  It has as much fruit as it does batter, so it totally counts as a healthy breakfast (consult your doctor about which healthy breakfast is right for you).  And it’s best  served on the second day, meaning an enterprising cook could bake it on Sunday afternoon so it’s ready Monday morning in honor of, um, Columbus Day maybe?

But do yourself a favor and don’t wait a full year to try this cake.  Chores and ficus shopping can wait, some days need to be celebrated with breakfast cake.

Marian Burros’ Famous Purple Plum Torte
I got this recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, who got it from Amanda Hesser’s  Essential New York Times Cookbook, who got it from Elegant But Easy, etc. etc. 

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
large pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar plus additional 2 teaspoons
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
6-12 purple Italian plums, halved and pitted (I used plums labeled “sweet plums” at the farmers’ market and it turned out great)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350°F. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl, then the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into a buttered 9-inch springform pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar and the cinnamon over the top.

Bake until cake is golden (about 40 to 50 minutes). Cool on rack.

Once cool, let cake stand covered, at room temperature, overnight.  Delight kids by shouting, “surprise, it’s Columbus Day and we’re having cake for breakfast!”