When I was a very young girl I made this cake pretty often, but I have not done it for more than twenty years. Somehow, I have never been a big fan of it and I forgot about it readily when I learned to make more complicated desserts. However, I have learned recently that there are Polish people somewhere in America who miss it a lot and, from all that Polish cuisine has to offer, this cake is what they crave most. So I decided to post this recipe, which somehow over the years has become another Polish classic.
Plesniak or plesniawiec, as this cake is sometimes called, is a funny name, because it translates as "moldy" or "rotten" cake. But do not be put off by the name, which comes from the moldy appearance of the cake, when it is cut in portions. This look is achieved with nothing more than a sweet meringue mix, which is baked between dark coco and vanilla layers of the crust.
What makes this cake very Polish is the use of plums or black currant preserves (powidla) that give it a unique taste. Any of these are hard to buy in the US. You can replace the plum powidla with the plum pie filling or with plum preserves that you can buy here but they will be much sweeter than Polish plum preserves and would not contain as much fruit. I liked this cake most with black currant preserves with whole fruits inside which gave this plesniak a characteristic, almost spicy and burning taste.
I dedicate this recipe to my homesick compatriots and their American friends.
5 eggs, at room temperature,
1 and 1/3 cup icing sugar,
2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour,
1 cup Wondra flour (if it is not available replace it with one more cup of all purpose flour),
2 sticks unsalted butter,
1/2 tsp baking powder,
4 tbsp cocoa powder,
1 jar of plums preserves or 1 can of plum pie filling,
1 tbsp of butter for the form.
1. On a large cutting board mix both flours and baking powder. Add butter and using a sharp knife chop it until it will combine with butter and resemble small crumbs.
2. Separate eggs. In a small bowl mix egg yolks with just one cup of sugar (keep the rest for the meringue mix) and pour over the flour. Quickly mix it, but do not form an integrated dough but try to create bigger and smaller lumps. It will not be difficult as the dough is rather dry and hard to gather together.
3. Divide the dough into three part, where one will be bigger than other two.
4. Preheat oven to 350 F ( 180C).
5. Butter a 9-inch baking form with higher walls. It will help if walls are removable. Spread on the bottom the largest part of the dough and gently push it to adhere to the bottom of the form, so the are not gaps in between the form and the dough. Put it in a refrigerator while making the meringue mix.
5. Using a whisker or an electric mixer beat egg whites until stiff. At the very end add 1/3 cup of sugar. Beat again for about one minute, or until the meringue mix becomes almost shiny.
6. Take the form out of the refrigerator and cover the dough with a layer of plum preserves. Then spread the meringue mix evenly on top of it.
7. Put the second part of the dough in a medium bowl and add 4 tbsp of cocoa powder to it. Rub it in with fingers until the dough becomes all chocolaty in color. Toss pieces of it on top of the meringue mix and press them in (this will create later this moldy look). Cover the top of the meringue mix with the third (vanilla) part of the dough.
8. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the crust on top becomes gold. Cool down. Remove the walls of the form, cut the cake, and serve.