MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
It's time now for a found recipe that's perfect for August because August is perfect for Damson plums.
GERSINE BULLOCK-PRADO: They're not like your normal plum. They're not round. They're oval and very dark purple, almost black.
BLOCK: That's Vermont-based pastry chef Gersine Bullock-Prado, an unabashed fan of Damson plums.
BULLOCK-PRADO: The flesh is this lovely olive green when barely ripe. They're very firm and tart and just these lovely little orbs of joy.
BLOCK: But they're not just lovely little orbs of joy. Damson plums are also the key to today's found recipe. It's a summer dessert, a favorite of Gersine Bullock-Prado's late mother, and it's called...
BLOCK: One more time.
BULLOCK-PRADO: Zwetschgendatschi. A Bavarian word for plum cake.
I grew up half German and half I call it Alabamonian, my father's from Birmingham, Alabama. My mother was an opera singer and met my father in Germany while he was stationed there. My mother, Helga, was fantastically funny and vivacious and she would wear leather pants to PTA and always wore fake eyelashes because she was so used to wearing them on stage that she always kitted out in the most glorious zany clothes that the PTA moms just - they were totally awed and frightened by.
And her name was also Helga, so that was frightening in and of itself. Zwetschgendatschi was the dessert we always had in the summertime. It looks like a flower in full bloom. It's gorgeous. The way it's traditionally made is on a sheet pan, so it's large and rectangular and you line up the plums like good little plum soldiers.
When we were in Germany, we'd often go to a bakery to buy the Zwetschgendatschi and then we would bring it home for coffee and (unintelligible), which is coffee and cake. But in the States, no one made this, so my mom would make it at home and we'd all share it with some whipped cream or zona(ph) as the German's would say.
It almost felt like a once in a lifetime treat because these plums were so in the season for only a week or two. And I remember once in my pastry shop a few years ago, a man walked in and he said, I was in Germany during the war and he had these really fond memories of this cake and he didn't know the name of it.
And I said, that is a Zwetschgendatschi. And he said, can you make it for me? I said, yes, I can. And I walked back into the bakery and I thought, oh, you know, this is going to be tough. And it wasn't tough because it's a tough thing to make. The tough part was that I hadn't made it since my mom died.
So I was sitting there thinking, I don't want to do this because it'll bring back so many memories and I'm going to break down in the kitchen and I'll just look silly to my employees. And when the day came when the plums were available, I made the dough, I pressed it in, all very pretty. I put it in the oven. I'm like, that wasn't so hard. I did it.
And I opened up the oven when it was done after 40 minutes and that smell came to me and it was my mother, my mother was in the room, and I started to weep. I mean, that smell that comes from that cake is so specific. And since it was my mother's joy to make in the summertime, it was Helga coming from the oven.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BULLOCK-PRADO: The funny thing was is having all these kids come in and just seeing me weeping in front of the open doors of the oven, thinking that something must have exploded inside, that I'd done something horribly wrong. But when, in fact, I'd done something incredibly right.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BLOCK: Gersine Bullock-Prado's newest cookbook is "Bake It Like You Mean It." And we're listening to the voice of her mom, late opera singer Helga Bullock. The recipe for Zwetschgendatschi is on the Found Recipes page at NPR.org.