Prune cake. I know it doesn’t exactly sound very sophisticated or decadent but every time I make this cake it gets gobbled up…fast. This can be made very simply as a loaf and eaten with a pat of butter. Dress it up by serving with a crème anglais, garnish with blackberries and a dusting of icing sugar and there you go…you have an impressive dessert. The French call plums, “prunes” and they call prunes, “pruneaux”. I can change the name to “dried plum cake” or “Pruneaux Gateau” if you like, but the fact of the matter is this is a Prune Cake recipe.
A plug on prunes: Prunes make excellent compotes when stewed with warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves and served with pork, rabbit, ham or any poultry. They are often added to cookies, cakes, muffins or puddings. We used to eat Pyrizhky or Pampushky stuffed with prune filling when we were kids.
This recipe comes from an old Ukrainian cookbook called “Culinary Treasures” by St. Basil’s Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League, printed in 1959. My sister loaned it to me when I opened my restaurant and made me promise to return it when I was finished with it. Well, that was over 5 years ago and, sorry Kelly, but I’m not finished with it yet.
I do not like to follow instructions and almost always change the recipe, even when I bake. It is, however, important to follow the step which tells you to mix the buttermilk with the baking soda. Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda in powder form and is used as a leavening agent in baking. It reacts with acid (buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar etc.) creating carbon dioxide which causes the baked goods to puff up. The first time I made this cake I missed that step and added the baking soda in with the dry ingredients. The cake was a little tough on the edges.
I’ve made this cake several times, made a few mistakes, replaced ingredients and over-baked and still it manages to disappear, so a very forgiving recipe it is. My favorite replacement for the perfect prune cake: I replaced all purpose flour with a local Spelt flour from Gold Forest Grains. When you sift the spelt flour you will end up with the caught material (bran). I simply added this to the sifted flour instead of setting it aside. The results are a light, moist, sweet cake.
This cake keeps well and actually tastes better the next day.
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
3 eggs, well beaten
1 ½ cups spelt flour (or all purpose)
1 t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
½ t allspice
¼ t salt
4 T buttermilk
1 t baking soda (add together with buttermilk)
1 cup boiled, well drained, pitted and chopped prunes
Boiled prunes: Add 1 cup of prunes (pitted and chopped) to 1 cup of water. Bring to boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain well.
Cream butter and sugar. Add well beaten eggs. Mix well. Sift flour with spices and salt and add to creamed butter alternately with sour milk to which baking soda has been added.
Finally add the chopped prunes and mix until well blended.Pour into a greased 8×8” square pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Serve with a crème anglais, garnish with fruit and a dusting of icing sugar….
Photos by Iwona Faferek