My Great-Grandmother's Plum Cake Won First Place in MoMA's Recipe Contest

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My Great-great-grandmother's German Plum Cake recipe won first place in a competition sponsored by MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art, New York). (You can see a video of the event here, complete with yours truly all dressed in chef's clothes, and then saying a few words about the dessert at the dinner for which it was made). Here's the story.

So back in October I was planning a trip to the MoMA to see their exhibition called Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen (which, by the way, is on view until March 14, so you can still see it). The show is part of a series called Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, which seeks to highlight some of the (often overlooked) contributions made by women to the history of modern art. Counter Space celebrates MoMA's acquisition of a complete Frankfurt Kitchen, designed in 1926-1927 by Grete Shütte-Lihotzky and manufactured for public housing projects in and around Frankfurt after World War One. The show also features a collection of design objects and period kitchen appliances.

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In conjunction with the show, MoMA hosted an event that combined art with food called Kitchen Culture, a dinner held for about 100 guests that featured a napkin-folding lesson, performance artist Nicholas Dumit Estevez and his 'performative recipes' and musician Robert Rotifer's 'musical ode' to the Frankfurt Kitchen. For the dessert to be served with the meal, MoMA held a recipe contest in order to find German dessert recipes that dated from before 1950. Well, my Great-grandmother Erna Welp's Pflaumekuchen, or German Plum Cake recipe won first place (it was actually her mother's recipe).

I got to go to MoMA the day before the event and make a very scaled-up version of the cake with pastry chef Cristina Nastasi (who was about the nicest, least intimidating pastry chef ever, not that I have a lot of experience with pastry chefs). My sister and I were both given the opportunity to attend the event, and I talked about my family's German Plum Cake at the end of the meal as it was being served. And now for the grand finale: MoMA recorded much of the event, including the baking of the cake, and a few of my brief words about it for a 5 minute video. So if you want to see the video, go here. I show up about half-way through.

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And because I wouldn't want to leave you without a new recipe, when Cristina Nastasi was considering what to serve with the cake (genius that she is), she settled on something called 'Country Cream.' Normally we just serve it with whipped cream or a dusting of powdered sugar, but country cream is really delicious, with a bright dairy tang, and relatively unusual. Of course I asked her about it, and then I found a recipe for you. It's adopted from Jill Norman's encyclopedic The Cook's Book, and is meant to accompany her Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cheesecake.

Country Cream
Adopted from Jill Norman's The Cook's Book

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place all of the above in a mixing bowl that's been set over a larger bowl filled with ice. Whisk the mixture until it holds soft peaks and looks like heavy whipped cream. Serve over, or alongside, Erna Welp's Pflaumekucken.


Unknown said…
Congrats to her, it looks so lovely.
Anonymous said…
Looks really Yum! I bet it must be tasting so as well...
What would you suggest replacing the egg with in the recipe? I would love to bake, but eggless though..
Wow, congratulations! It looks beautiful, I can see why it won.
JerryNJ said…
Wow! My booming congrats!! My hope is that your grandmother is still around for you to tell her about this.

Merith said…
Congratulations my dear! And at MoMA - damn. Btw, I love that recipe and must make it again soon.

Deeba PAB said…
WOW...congrats on the win. That plum cake looks worth every crumb! It's gorgeous!!
Val said…
Happy new year! Hoping for a prosperous year for all.
Jenné said…
I bet it was incredible to see your cake served to so many people. It looks delicious, I want to grow a plum tree in my backyard :)
Sarah said…
It's beautiful and I can see why it won the competition. Congratulations. :)
Elizabeth said…
This dessert looks divine! There is nothing better than making a recipe passed down from family! Thanks for sharing!

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