1 ½ cups unbleached-flour, plus more for pan
1 t baking powder
½ t kosher salt
¼ t baking soda
8 medium-size fresh lemon verbena leaves or 1/2 t grated lemon zest
½ c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
2/3 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
¾ c sour cream, room temperature
½ t pure vanilla extract
2 T packed light or dark brown sugar
12 small to medium, firm-ripe prune plums, halved lengthwise and pitted
Lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third. Butter a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside. Stack the lemon verbena leaves (if using), roll up tightly lengthwise, and cut them crosswise into fine ribbons. You will want 2 to 3 packed teaspoons.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and reserved lemon verbena (or lemon zest) until well combined. On low speed, add the flour mixture just until combined. (The batter will be thick.)
Spread half of the batter evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and top with 12 of the plum halves, cut side down. Dollop and spread the remaining batter over the plums. Arrange the remaining 12 plum halves, cut side up, over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar over the plums.
Bake until the cake is golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted near the center tests clean (assuming you haven’t hit a plum), 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan front to back a little past halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
Run a thin knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake sides.
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