‘Looking Glass’ Plum Cake

One of the best college events I ever helped with was a Science Fiction and Fantasy Feast – a potluck replicating foods featured in favorite SF/F books, tv shows and movies. Great imaginative descriptions can extend to food as well, and there are certain books that just make you hungry. So, I have declared a tiny personal quest to recreate recipes suitable for such an event.


  • No one has published a recipe for butterpies, from Diana Wynne Jones’ A Tale of Time City! Aargh!
  • Every child reading Lewis Carroll should have the opportunity to make a Plum Cake that cuts itself, after it’s handed round…
  • Terry Pratchett excels (as usual) with Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook, but most of the other published works are simply collections of recipes from sff writers (like Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking out of this World and Serve it Forth, although they do contain the party-ESSENTIAL liquid nitrogen ice cream instructions), or semi-lame tie-ins (wookie cookies might taste good, but were definitely not part of the original series. ;))

I will begin with my contribution to the original event –  Alice’s Plum Cake, from Through the Looking Glass.  Recipe and Instructions For How to Hand it Round follow the break.

This recipe is nice to hand out with the fall’s bounty of plum preserves, if your backyard tree is producing more than you can handle.


  • 2 c flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed (can substitute cloves)
  • 1 1/2 tsp soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt, if using unsalted butter or oil
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup melted butter (If your plum puree is on the liquid side, use less butter. If it’s on the thick side, use more. You can also substitute oil, but it will have less flavor).
  • 3 eggs
  • 12 oz of plum puree. This can take the form of 2 large jars plum baby food, or plum preserves, or the thick pulp left behind after extracting plum juice for jelly or wine.

Combine dry ingredients, add rest and beat 4 minutes. Pour into well greased and floured bundt or tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test.

Icing (I normally omit this, as it’s rich enough without-)

Boil for 2 minutes:

  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 Tbls milk

Remove from heat and add:

  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pour on cake immediately. Add a little sugar if too thin.

To Make The Magic, or, How to Hand It Round and have it cut itself…

You will need: Dental Floss or strong sewing thread, plus a tweezers or other long grasping tool to help pick up the thread through the central opening in the cake.

When the cake is ready to be removed from the pan, still warm from the oven and therefore at its maximum flexibility:

  1. Decide how many pieces you’ll need.
  2. Cut half that many good lengths of thread. If you’re intending to hand the cake round a circle of people, you’ll want the threads long enough that people on opposite sides of the circle can comfortably grasp an end.
  3. Drape the threads across the opening of the pan, in a star shape – like you’re outlining where you’ll cut slices. Woo crappy Paint diagram!

    Drape threads across pan opening

    Drape threads across pan opening

  4. Invert the cake and remove the pan.
  5. One by one, fold a thread end into the center opening of the cake. Gingerly use a spatula to lift that section of the cake, grasp the end of the thread and pull it underneath the cake to drape off the edge of the plate. Pull snug. Repeat for all threads. After all threads are threaded round cake, you may want to roll up any long ends and tie each with a bow or something, for purty-ness.

    Thread's path goes in direction of arrow


  6. Glaze, if you like, to camouflage the threads.
  7. Assemble your Circle of Cake Eaters, and hand the platter round with directions to each take a thread in order as it passes by them. When everyone is radially attached, have everyone pull gently and steadily… and the thread should neatly pass through the cake dividing it into slices.
  8. Eat.

Note top of cake smushing from trying to do this after the fact – bundt cakes don’t like being multiply inverted. 😛

Thread passes neatly thru!

Does anyone else remember Mr Wizard’s trick to slice a banana without peeling it? 😉


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