Island family enjoys recipe passed down from German ancestors
An irresistible cake with tart plums and warm, spicy nutmeg has been a delicious indulgence for four generations of Maggie Fuller’s family.
The Galveston ceramic artist is known for her organic, shape-shifting work that tells stories about her life and experiences. In addition to art, food is a passion for Fuller, who loves to cook for friends and family. Visit her home and you’ll likely leave with a full stomach, some freshly grown produce and her latest spice mix.
The upside down plum cake is her absolute favorite, she said.
“I love it, my husband loves it, and it’s my ‘go-to’ dessert when I have guests,” she said. “It’s so good. It’s the real thing.”
Fuller learned to cook from her mother, Barbara Graham, who is a retired chef and caterer now focusing on art and furniture-making. As a teenager, Fuller would help in her mother’s Mediterranean restaurant and with the catering business.
“We are great in the kitchen together,” she said. “it is like a choreographed dance.”
As well as being delicious, the cake is the source of two sweet memories for Fuller. When she was 4 years old, she wanted to be as accomplished as her mother in the kitchen, and so asked when she could use the oven. Her mother suggested waiting a year until she was at least 5.
“Then, when my daughter, Georgia, was about 11 years old, she wanted to make the cake,” Fuller said. “My mother doesn’t use written-down recipes and neither do I. So, I told Georgia she would have to call Granoo to get the recipe. Georgia carefully wrote it down and I still have the paper, which is all splattered and worn.”
Georgia is now in her 20s and keen to continue learning to cook the family way. Mediterranean food remains a family favorite, along with European fare Graham learned to cook from her German great-aunts.
“For mom and me, food is our conversation,” Fuller said. “We talk about it all the time in the same way some people talk about the weather. She lives in Maine and when I call her I say, ‘Is this Dial a Chef?’ When we are together, it’s all we talk about. When we are eating breakfast, we’ll be talking about what we’re going to make for lunch and dinner.”
During the interview, Fuller calls her mother to find out where the plum cake recipe came from. And true to form, Graham, 81, offered her own expert advice.
“It’s from my German great-aunts,” Graham said. “It’s not so good for you, but it’s how everyone baked back then, in the ‘30s. Plum trees were common, and it’s a good way to use fresh plums. Make sure to use real, fresh grated nutmeg and dot the cake with extra butter and sugar, it really elevates it.”
UPSIDE DOWN PLUM CAKE
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup white sugar
½ stick of butter
½ cup of brown sugar
4 firm plums (purple, red or yellow are all good)
Whipped cream with vanilla and sugar to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F.
For the batter, whisk eggs and cup of sugar in a bowl. Add flour, baking powder and nutmeg and stir to combine. Set aside.
Cut the plums in half and twist to remove stones. Cut in half again lengthways to make 4 thin half circles for each plum.
Melt butter in a pan and pour into an 8-inch cake pan. Sprinkle brown sugar over the butter. Artistically arrange the sliced plums on top of the butter and sugar mixture. Pour the batter over the fruit. It’s a thick batter, so use a spatula to spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes.
Let it cool, then put a serving plate over the tin and, keeping the plate close to the tin, turn the tin over so the cake is placed on the plate. Dot with extra butter and sugar. Serve with fresh whipped cream.