Today's cake is brought to you by the letter P. This is the "mystery ingredient" cake from my last post - have you guessed it yet? (If not, you really weren't trying. This is not rocket science.) It's prunes!
This cake hails (again) from the Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook, and is has the oddly dolled-up name of Prunella Cake. I'm not sure why they "fancied up" the starring ingredient's name, but I'll bet you a dollar that there is some unfortunate soul whose mother really thought the name was pretty and gave it to her daughter, who in all likelihood was homely as hell. I can only hope that the poor girl developed great fortitude from the teasing she endured in her childhood, studied hard and became a highly respected physician, and that she didn't just end up with low self-esteem, marrying a hard-drinking, abusive sloth of a husband that she supports by working the split shift at Waffle House. But I digress. And wish we had a Waffle House here, roaches and all. Well, maybe not the roaches. Oh, and try not to think about roaches when you are working with prunes, but especially when you are working with dates. It's scary how much a dried date looks like the body of a cockroach.
Back to the cake - there are many Southern cakes that used dried fruit, mainly apples and raisins, but also other fruit including dried plums (aka prunes). There are also several fruitcake recipes that use a variety of dried fruits. Two prune cake options were available; I chose this one because of the name.
Despite the name, this is mostly just a spice cake with some chopped prunes tucked inside. A bit of prune juice (made from soaking the prunes in hot water to plump them) is also added to the frosting. Even this addition does not draw as much attention to the prunes as you might think - no one in my office guessed that prunes were in the cake. Everyone thought they were (very soft) raisins. And the cake was well received.
So if you have a special someone that needs a little help to get things moving (and won't eat Activia), slip them a piece of this cake. They'll never know what hit them.
Makes one 9 inch cake
1 cup prunes, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8.5 ounces) sugar
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all purpose flour; divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 cup buttermilk
Put prunes in a small bowl. Bring water to a boil and pour over prunes. Let prunes soak for at least 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons juice for frosting.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment or waxed paper and butter edges of pans. Set aside.
Cream butter and gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down bowl and beat a few more seconds.
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour and remaining dry ingredients; add 1/3 to creamed mixture. Add 1/2 of buttermilk, then another 1/3 of flour, remaining buttermilk, and then remaining flour. Scrape down bowl halfway through and at end of mixing.
Toss prunes with remaining flour and fold into the batter. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pans and cool completely. Fill and frost with buttercream icing. Please note that the icing recipe just makes enough for a thin filling and frosting for the cake. If you want to decorate the cake, make 1.5 batches of icing.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
16 ounces powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons prune juice
Cream butter until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar. When mostly blended add juices. Beat until smooth.