Sugar Plum Cake: And Why I Don’t Want Diamonds


Sugar Plum Cake

There is something about Christmas that makes a body pull all they hold dear close to their heart. Though it may seem to focus on material things on the onset, most of us quickly see right through the commercial aspects to the underlying motive of just wanting to show someone you love how much they mean to you. Christmas day serves as a reminder of all of the gifts we enjoy each day in our lives, things that are far too grand to ever fit inside a box or stocking.

It’s this affirmation of values and sentiment, of the true meaning and wealth of our lives that serves to get us centered the rest of the year. So today, in light of all of this, I’m thinking about diamonds.

Stay with me now, it’ll all make sense in the end and if it doesn’t, at least you’ll have a new recipe, right?

About twelve years ago, I met the man I wanted to marry. Fortunately for him, he had the good sense to want to marry me, too. He was in his last semester of college, I was right smack dab in the middle of getting my degree, and we lived in two different states. Now when you meet the person you want to marry, living in two different states simply won’t do. So as soon as he got closer to graduation, we made plans to get married so that we could remedy the problem.

The day we went ring shopping, neither one of us were focused on “the ring”, but what it symbolized for us. I knew roughly what shape that I wanted but that was about it. We walked into the store and glanced around, looking over all of the cases with stomachs in knots. Some folks thought we were marrying too soon but we were confident that this was what we wanted to do. I was concerned over finances, having no desire to go immediately into debt and also wanting to make sure folks didn’t think I had looked around merely to pluck up the first promising graduate I could find (it is humorous now, me worrying over people thinking I was a gold digger, I know). After a few minutes, I led Ricky over to the case of synthetic diamond rings (czs) and there I saw the most beautiful set of rings I’d ever laid eyes upon.

The entire set cost around $200, which is a drop in the bucket compared to what most sets cost nowadays but even now, I consider that expensive. They were both placed on my finger August 8, 1998 and I have never been so proud to wear a piece of jewelry. The original plan was to replace the czs with diamonds later on but over the years, that ring began to mean even more to me. It became a symbol in my mind of my own value system. Sentiment and meaning – where the heart was in the giving of the ring itself- far outweighed what a jeweler would call the stones.

When Brady was a baby, he used to toy around with them, sliding them around on my fingers and oohing and ahhing at how they sparkled. One day as he got older he asked me what I was going to do with them “when I grew up” and I told him that if he wanted, he could have them one day. His face beamed and sparkled every bit as much as my rings did at hearing that.DSCN5014

When Katy was born, I had a bad habit of accidentally scratching her with the rings and so I took them off for a bit, only to dazzle her when she was out of diapers by beginning to wear them again. To her they were magical jewels that just appeared on her mother’s hand one day and she, too, took to turning them around, watching them sparkle with delight just as her brother had done at the same age.

I’ve worn them for years, sometimes taking them off and placing them in my jewelry box for days or even weeks at a time as life calls me away to extensive cooking or housework, but I always come back to them and pull them out, thinking of how beautiful my rings are and how lucky I am to have just this one particular set – the prettiest I’ve ever seen.

One day my kids will have these rings, the ones they’ve spent their childhood seeing on my left hand. They’ll have grown up knowing what a treasure they are and the meaning behind them and I can’t imagine them wishing “real” diamonds into the settings any more than I would.

At this point, any other stone would cheapen them. I wouldn’t trade my rings for all of the diamonds in the world and I hope my kids will grow up understanding the weight and meaning behind that. Of course, my writing this is not to lessen the meaning of diamonds at all, but to just speak to the sentiment adding value to any piece of jewelry. Sometimes the most expensive items in all of the world ring empty and hollow but the least expensive things turn out to be the greatest of treasures. It is a wealthy person who knows what to truly value.

And now for my recipe (that means y’all need to wake up if I bored you too much with my tangent).

This is a cherished one of my mothers that her mother used to make her as a child, especially at Christmas time. I’ve heard her talk about it for years and it’s been decades since she had one so I decided to snatch the recipe and surprise her with it last week.  Merry Christmas, Mama!

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You’ll need: All Purpose flour, chopped nuts (I used walnuts because they are cheaper than pecans), eggs, cinnamon, sugar, baking soda, allspice, vanilla, buttermilk, oil, and dried plums.

Pretend you see salt in this photo, too. there always has to be a shy ingredient when the camera is out!


and yes, you heard me right. Dried plums. We’re not going to say “prunes” because folks don’t like prunes nowadays but they like dried plums.

This cake is DELICIOUS so just do whatever it takes to get ya through the day…

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Chop those puppies up.

If you get any with the pits in them, remove them and discard (that’s fancy talk for “throw away”)

I buy the ones that area already pitted.

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They need to be about the size of raisins (or dried grapes)


Of course, you can use a chopper or food processor to chop these up but I’d just as soon save the trouble and grab a knife. Besides, makes me feel all pioneerish and rustic, like cooks in the old days who didn’t have food processors and choppers and all these gidgets and gadgets.

They just used a good old knife.

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Place them in your mixing bowl and add your flour.

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Toss that up a bit. This will help the dried plums to keep from singing all the way down into the cake when it is baking.

(~giggles~Lisa Botts pointed out my type-o here. It is supposed to say “sinking” in that previous sentence but Lisa and I got such a good laugh out of the Type-O that I hate to change it! hehehe Thanks, Lisa!)

Now don’t you be thinking “prunes” in your head…say it with me in unison now: Dried Plums.

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Add oil

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and milk

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and eggs

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and nuts (which you can leave out if your life is nutty enough)

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and vanilla

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and spices, baking soda,

and salt…

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and sugar

Okay so I could have just said “add all other ingredients” but then we wouldn’t have gotten to see all of those purty pictures, right?

I knew you’d see it my way :)

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Go grab some child labor and have them flip the switch on your mixer for ya.

My child laborers are just a sitting around at all times in my house and every time they hear me in the kitchen call out “OOH! Can I help?”

Of course, this only works for the fun part. They poof pretty quickly when it comes time to clean up.


Can’t says I blame ’em.

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While your munchkin is mixing that up really well, grease your cake pan. I’m using a bundt but Mama says her mother used to use a 9×13 so go with whatever is easiest for you. If you’re going to use a 9×13 though, just spray it with a little cooking spray and you’ll be fine.

Us Bundt users need to smear shortening in our pan …

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and then sprinkle some flour in…

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Pat that around a bit to coat it and then discard the excess (I used that fancy word again…)

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Here is our batter all mixed up.

Go ahead, you know you wanna lick the beater!

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Pour that in your pan…

and bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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When that is getting ready to come out of the oven or shortly after, you need to assemble your sauce ingredients.

Vanilla, buttermilk, sugar, margarine, and baking soda.


You can use real butter here, too, if’n ya got a hankerin’ to.

I don’t have those kind of hankerin’s often myself. Why?

~chorus calls out in unison~

“Because you’re too cheap!”

That’s right!

~smiles proudly~

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Add all of that together in a pot.

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Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. It will foam up a little but that’s okay.

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Keep stirring and cooking until it thickens a bit, about two minutes.

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Poke holes all over the top of your hot cake.

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and pour sauce over.

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Let sit for about ten minutes or so in the pan until it absorbs all of the sauce.

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Then turn it out.

Serve warm or cold, excellent with homemade whipped cream!

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Now I see why Mama has missed this cake so much. It was WONDERFUL!

Old Fashioned Sugar Plum Cake
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ C Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon*
  • 1 Cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 Cup dried plums, chopped
  • 1 ½ Cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1 stick margarine (or butter)
  • 1½ C sugar
  • ½ tsp soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ C Buttermilk
  1. Grease and flour bundt or 9x13 cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until well combined. Pour into prepared cake pan and bake for one hour.
  2. Just before cake is done, place all sauce ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and continue boiling gently until sauce is thickened, about two minutes. Remove done cake from oven and poke holes all over top with a fork. Pour hot sauce over hot cake. Allow to sit in pan until sauce is absorbed.
*This recipe calls for 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp nutmeg but I really, really, really don't like Nutmeg and so willingly and continually discriminate against it in all of my recipes. Feel free to give Nutmeg a chance :).
Serve to thrilled guests, remember to call it "Sugar Plum Cake" to the younger crowd, but you can tell the older folks its just good old fashioned "Prune Cake"!


And speaking of things worth more than diamonds…


Check out Patrick here!

He is the son of Dora, a member of our Southern Plate Facebook Family. She posted this on the SP page, what a treat!

Dora made this reindeer shirt from the tutorial found here.

I don’t know who is luckier, Patrick for having such a fabulous mom or Dora for having such a handsome son!

The difference between an ordinary life and an extraordinary life

is finding extraordinary things in an ordinary life.

~Submitted by Judy. Submit your quote here.


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  1. Janet Ernst says

    Christy, I loved your story and it even made me weepy. So great to read these beatiful stories about a Beautiful family!!!!!!

    Dried ‘plums” are on my list for tomorrow. This will be a fantastic dessert!!!!!

  2. Pamela Franklin says

    I love the comments about diamonds. We live in a materialistic society full of pride. An attitude of thankfulness pushes aside pride and makes us better people. What ever we have, we should develop a sincere heart of thankfulness and contentment will flow. Judging from your comments you have true contentment. Enjoy your rings and all your other blessings.

    • Gran says

      So good to see that I’m not in the boat alone with nutmeg…I choose boiled custard (Or I think the calling it Holiday Custard now) over Egg Nog…Egg Nog has a taste of nutmeg in it! So if you don’t like Egg Nog ..try Boiled Custard~

  3. Joyce says

    Used to make this when I was a kid and I still love a good ole Prune Cake ! It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who does not like nutmeg ! Funny how when you call them prunes, nobody likes them, call them dried plums and they’re the “in” thing to have !

      • Linda says

        Gran, I would love to have copy of that recipe for fruit cake. My MIL made them every Christmas. I don’t have access to her recipe file. She also made a wonderful moist coconut cake. She passed away a few years ago just before her 90 th birthday.

  4. Kolene says

    Your rings are beautiful. I don’t know where I learned the proper way to wear wedding rings but I heard a long time ago that the wedding ring goes on first and then the engagement ring. The reason is “the wedding ring is suppose to be the one closest to your heart”!
    Has anyone else ever heard this???

  5. Charlotte says

    My wedding rings were CZs too and cost around $200 and I think they are the most beautiful of all my rings. My lovely husband died about 3 1/2 years ago and I still love to wear my rings. I have been told that I shouldn’t wear them because I am no longer married but the rings are a reminder of a dear love that I do not want to forget.

  6. says

    I can relate to your story, but in a little different way. We too were told that we were too young. We waited until I had graduated from high school and in Aug. of 1976 we too were married. Being that we were just 18 and 21 we didn’t have a lot of money and did not want to go into debt either as we had what we thought was debt enough. In April we had already purchased a little house and 10 acres that we were paying on. We chose a ring set that cost $399 whict at that time and for us was a LOT of money. We put them on layaway the spring before we got married and had them paid for in a couple of months. I too take my rings off when I’m gardening, cooking or doing some heavy duty house cleaning. Last year for my birthday, my husband bought me a plain gold band that I can wear instead of the diamond set…….he still likes seeing that little gold band on my finger after 35 years.

  7. Kathy says

    Lovely story and sentiment. Cake sounds good too!
    (Several years ago I told my Hubby about the “wedding ring first” theory (to protect it, per the version I heard) and his response was that with the price of diamonds, the wedding ring should do the protecting!) Makes sense to me!
    ~ snicker ~.

  8. Von Jenkins says

    Christy; I love your diamond story. It sounds so much like my wife & I. When we met, I lived in Tenn. she in Georgia. We fell head over hills for each other, dated for a year, when we went to buy rings, she did the same thing as you, she loved that zc like its was worth a million. We married in 1998, she passed in 2004, it was the best years of my life! Thanks for sharing your love story, and I love all your recipes! Merry Christmas!!!

  9. PATIKAKES says

    Thanks so much for the recipe. This sounds like the one my mom made when I was a child. My brother and I didn’t like fruit cake; so she made this for us. I never had the recipe for it, but I always remembered it. She called it prune cake. It was OK with us since we liked them anyway. I don’t remember having the sauce, I think she put a frosting type drizzle on it. I just know it was the best cake, especially since it wasn’t fruit cake.

  10. Darla Smith says

    I make this cake every year for my grandparents since they are now in their 90’s and in the nursing home. My grandmother made it when we were growing up and I can’t make it without thinking about her. We called it prune cake too but I like sugarplum better. That way nobody really has to know about the prunes in it!

  11. Diana H. De Vries says

    Great Story and great looking recipe. I think I will make it as our Happy Birthday Jesus Cake this year. The grandkids look forward to a cake for Jesus.
    Merry Christmas to you and a Blest New Year

  12. Philphil says

    This cake was one my mom made in the 70s, calling it a prune cake. She even added a small jar of baby food prunes. It was one of the moistest cakes ever. Enjoyed your story about the rings too. Gary and I will be married 40 years next June and our wedding rings cost $200 back then. My little diamond still sparkles as brightly as our love for each other. Merry Christmas to all your readers and your family.

  13. Jeanie says

    We called this “Plum Nutty Cajun Cake” and my mother in law made it very often and she also added a jar of baby food plums. We used pecans. I still make it and we call it “Granny’s Plum Nutty Cajun Cake.” (can’t buy the baby food plums anymore tho.)


  14. Lynn says

    I’ve also read that the wedding ring should be worn first then the engagement ring, and that’s how I wear mine…….
    Christy, my husband bought my rings for me for $128 in 1972 and I’m still wearing them, they only come off to be cleaned or for me to put on hand lotion…..I’ll wear them forever………..

  15. Brooks says

    I love your story. I feel the same way about wedding/engagement rings. When we were talking about getting rings, I told him that I did not want a diamond because everyone has them, I wanted something more personal, so he bought me an emerald ring. We both have really green eyes and the symbolism behind emeralds goes deeper than just that. The emerald symbolizes true love, loyalty, devotion, adoration, friendship, new life and new possibilities.

  16. Lee Cooper says

    LOL – I solved the ring ‘problem’ by having a single colored stone for the engagement ring, and my wedding ring surrounds the stone. The engagement ring originally just slipped into the other one (like a ring guard), but we eventually had them joined permanently so I wasn’t always trapping water, dirt, flour, etc in them. I don’t always wear mine (especially not while smooshing up hamburger or pulling the innards out of a bird) but I love them dearly.

    And did I mention that my Mama had the tourmaline and set the stone? The ring guard / wedding ring was made with the gold from my daddy’s wedding band. Lots of love packed into a tiny object. <3

  17. Heide says

    I’ve already told my boyfriend that I want a synthetic diamond when he gets around to proposing. I don’t want any village, or it’s citizens, in another country being destroyed so I can wear a shiny rock. And I’d rather spend that money on an amazing honeymoon! 😉

  18. Rhonda Lambert says

    I have been with my husband for 40 years now, 32 of them married. My first set of wedding rings cost a little over $100 and we bought them at Best Buy. I, sadly, lost them but I never really wanted to replace them because it just wouldn’t be the same. My Mom got new rings and gave me hers eventually so when I do wear rings these are the ones that get pulled out of my drawer. I suppose most people wouldn’t think they are much, little teeny diamonds, but they mean everything to me. Not only do they signify my marriage to my husband when I wear them but they were also given to me by my mother. You cant buy a diamond in any store that could compare to that.

  19. Freda C says

    Love, love, love your story. I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for almost 40 years and we both have our original rings….small diamond in my engagement ring while both of our wedding rungs are small, plain rings. I never understand when ladies buy new rings that are bigger and flashier. Where is the sentimental value in that? I would never trade my rings for something bigger. Love you & your family! Hugs!!!

  20. Judy says

    What a magical love story!! :) Thank you for sharing it with us!! Also, thank you for sharing another great Christmastime recipe to add to my collection!! My to do baking list is getting quite lengthy!!! I better get to it!!!! 😀

  21. Laura says

    Aw that made me smile. My ring was cut off my finger during an operation about 4 years ago. We are just waiting to get the money together to get it fixed. I think your engagement ring and wedding band are the most special item you can have from your husband. My husband had to have an engagement ring to give me before he would ask me to marry him, even though I told him it was ok – I didn’t need one. Have a blessed day!

  22. Mary Paquette says

    Well, you made me think about my beautiful ring! But first let me tell you about the most expensive Apple pie I ever made! Make the crust, peel the apples,add sugar, and bake. Clean off your cutting board of of apple cores, and put the apple cores in the garbage disposal., Now turn on the disposal, and say ” My those apple cores are tough just listen to that grinding sound! ya you guessed It! When I served the apple pie to my family, I said”enjoy the apple pie, It cost $500.00 ! Ladies, Never take off any rings for any reason, a dirty ring on the hand, is better than your engagement ring DOWN THE DRAIN! love all your stories and recipes!

  23. Cheerlyn says

    I wanted to relate a story about rings. I have 3 kids – 2 girls and a boy. The girls had gotten my moms wedding set, but I told my son he could have mine when I died.
    At the time I had had colon cancer and survived, 2 liver transplants w/in a year. The docs at that time said I would probably survive 5 years, enough time to finish raising my kids – 11,13 and 19.
    That’s when I promised my son my rings. Well, I survived and am still going strong at 20 yrs transplanted. 5 years ago my son found his wife and said, ” Mom, I know you’re not dead, but can I have the stones in your engagement ring for my engagement ring?” He was almost ready to graduate from college, had just gotten out of the navy and was poor. So before Christmas, we had the stones reset in his future wife’s new ring.
    Those stones had already seen a number of miracles w me, but they continue to see miracles. My granddaughter was born at 24 weeks weighing 1 lb 2 oz and 11 1/2 in long. She spent most of the past 1 1/2 yrs in the hospital, many times not being given much chance of survival. But she’s stubborn like me. Tell her she can’t and she will.
    Personally, I believe that God personally blessed those stones and our family. After all, doesn’t He have a southern drawl!!

  24. Elizabeth (Liz) says

    Christy, love your ring story. I wore a set OF CZ RINGS FOR 32 UNTIL MY FIRST HUSBAND PASSED AWAY.I NEVER WANTED ANOTHER SET. my eyes are teary also. I remarried but still have my old set of cz rings plus A new husband of 14 years. I love you Christy and thank you and God bless. I got to make this plum cake. smiles.

  25. Amanda says

    Christy, I enjoyed this post very much. When I met the guy I wanted to marry, he lived in a different state too. We married a year later and people thought we were getting married too soon. I didn’t care. What did they know anyway? Been married now for almost 3 years.

  26. Mary Glynn says

    This cake has been common at our house since I was a little girl, but we used that other name in the title. It was Prune Cake, and I just love it. Your name is a little more exciting. Maybe I’ll use it. :-)

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