"The Sweetest of Plums"
In late summer, Fiorenza
gathered plums from the orchard.
She washed them and sliced them
in half and took out the pits.
She made batter flavored with
almond meal and vanilla paste
and a little bit of orange zest.
She arranged the plums atop
the batter in a pleasing pattern,
then put the cake in the over to bake.
As she waited, Fiorenza thought about
Nicilo the veteran and how he was,
slowly, settling into village life again,
at least enough to find a girl.
Speranza was sweet and
full of hope, exactly what he
needed to enjoy his life -- and if
they were blessed with children,
surely that would help too.
It was often said that,
in all of the wedding cake,
hope is the sweetest of plums.
The cake came out of the oven,
plums submerged in its top
like hidden treasure.
Fiorenza took it out of the pan
and put it on a pretty pedestal
while she ground sugar.
As she made a cake
for someone else's wedding,
she thought about her own,
still little more than a figment
far away in the future.
Abelie and Margherita
would need time to grow up
before they could take over.
Still, Fiorenza loved Giacinto,
and believed they would
make a fine match.
He was worth waiting for.
She dusted the top of the cake
with the powdered sugar and
thought that it looked delicious.
It would be a late summer wedding,
Fiorenza decided, so that she too
could have a plum cake and
the sweetest of hopes.
* * *
Nicilo -- He left the village to become a soldier, returning wounded after the siege of Fermo in "From the Free City." He asked Fiorenza to take charge of Ercole. Introduced in "From the Free City."
Speranza -- The bride of Nicilo. Introduced in "The Sweetest of Plums."
* * *
In all of the wedding cake, hope is the sweetest of plums.
-- Douglas Jerrold
Italian plums belong to the group of prune plums. They are among the best plums for cooking.
The above quote clearly implies that some sort of plum cake, probably with whole or half plums, has long been popular as a wedding cake in Italy. Searching for an Italian wedding cake brought up recipes for cream cake, which could certainly be made with plums but seems not so today. Not listed as a wedding cake now, but quite possibly used as such historically, is this Italian plum almond cake. It seems pretty close to what Fiorenza is making. Another option is Zuppa Inglese (which is neither soup nor English) that includes layers of pastry and custard; one possible filling is plum jam, so logically stewed plums could be included in that layer.