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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 2, 2006

TASTE
Old-style prune cake recipes easier with dried fruit

 •  The perfect prune cake

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Frostings enhance the prune cake's flavor. Choose from butter/fruit, cream-cheese or 7-minute icing.

JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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PREPARING CAKE PANS

Old-fashioned method: Grease with butter or shortening, sprinkle flour over, and tap and tilt pans to coat entire inside surface.

Contemporary method: Spray pans with prepared oil/flour spray.

CAKE TECHNIQUE

Read recipe carefully.

Butter should be soft but still cool to touch, not releasing its oil.

Measure all ingredients before starting.

Heat oven and prepare pans before mixing.

Most cakes follow this progression: Cream together butter and sugar; add eggs and beat; alternately add dry ingredients and wet ingredients; add flavoring.

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Old-style prune cake recipes often call for stewed prunes, or direct you to stew dried prunes by simmering them in water. Stewed prunes seem to have disappeared from grocery stores, but no matter: Today's dried prunes are moist and soft and need no cooking before they're used in cake recipes. All you need to do is throw the desired amount of prunes in the food processor and give them a quick chop. Some recipes call for prune juice, or suggest that you use the water in which the prunes were cooked. Rather than buying prune juice, I found you could just add hot water to the prunes right in the food processor, process them together and add to the recipe.

Old-style recipes also often suggest that you add baking soda to prune juice or boiling water or other liquid; the soda will foam up a bit. This lightens the mixture and helps it rise more.

After experimenting with more than a half-dozen recipes sent in by readers, it was Edna Mae Gouveia Esona's prune cake that pleased me the most as well as my tasters.

The recipe was her mother's. "We got complimented every time we had family gatherings and she brought this as a potluck dessert," said the Wahiawa woman.

The thing that sets this cake apart from the others we tried is the addition of coffee, which seems to enrich the flavor. Most of our testers agreed that this was the most moist and tender of the cakes. Because it's baked in three layers, this is also a rather dramatic-looking cake. We like the idea of filling and topping the cake but not frosting the sides; it adds interest. (You can, however, bake this cake in a 9-by-13-inch pan, if you prefer.)

OLD-FASHIONED PRUNE CAKE

  • 1 1/2 cups dried, pitted prunes
  • 2 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup boiling coffee

    Heat oven to 375 degrees; 350 degrees if using a glass baking dish. Prepare three 9-inch layer pans (or single sheet pan) as suggested on this page; set aside.

    Place prunes in food processor and chop; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift or stir together flour, salt, mace, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of the baking soda; set aside. Cream butter; add sugar and cream until light-colored and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Add prunes and mix.

    In a bowl, combine coffee with remaining soda. Alternately add dry ingredients and coffee mixture to creamed mixture; stirring well between each addition.

    Pour into prepared pans and bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until centers spring back when lightly touched and toothpick inserted into center emerges clean. Cool and frost as desired.

    Makes 8 generous servings.

  • Per serving: 580 calories, 20 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 90 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 47 g sugar, 8 g protein

    If you're planning a big lu'au, the following prune cake from reader N. Terazawa is the one to use. This makes a LOT of dense cake. and although you can do the whole thing in a 9-by-13-inch pan, we suggest you get your hands on one of those 10-by-14-inch baking pans they use in school cafeterias, or bake the cake in two 11-by-7-by-2-inch pans. This will make a slightly shallower cake with more reasonable-sized portions. Begin checking for doneness at 45 minutes if you use two smaller pans.

    The tradition of adding cocoa or chocolate to prune cakes goes back a long way and, with the cloves and allspice, renders more of a dark and spicy flavor that some tasters said overpowered the prunes but others liked.

    This recipe is a little tricky because, after making a large amount of batter, you have to fold in a large volume of whipped egg whites. Turn the batter out into your largest bowl and mound it to one side so you can slip the beaten egg whites in on the other side. Then use a rubber or silicone spatula to lift and fold batter over the whites in tubular motion. Do not stir horizontally.

    BAMBOOCHA PRUNE CAKE

  • 8 medium eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 2 cups chopped prunes
  • 1 1/2 cups butter or margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees; 325 degrees if using a glass baking dish. Prepare pans as outlined on this page.

    Separate eggs into two bowls; set aside.

    In a medium bowl, combine and sift together flour, baking powder, spices and cocoa powder; set aside.

    In a food processor, combine hot water and prunes and process until prunes are chopped. Pour into bowl and set aside.

    Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg yolks. Add baking powder to prune mixture (it will foam up a bit) and begin to alternately add flour and prune mixture to batter, mixing well in between.

    Beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Place egg whites in large bowl with prune batter and fold egg whites into batter.

    Pour into baking pan(s) and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until top of cake springs back when lightly touched and toothpick inserted into center emerges clean.

    Makes 16 servings.

  • Per serving: 460 calories, 20 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 140 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 66 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 35 g sugar, 7 g protein

    There are three distinct frosting traditions among prune-cake enthusiasts:

  • Simple butter-sugar frostings, to which canned fruit are added. Apricots were most traditional, for some reason, but you'd also see peaches and pineapple. Sometimes, chopped prunes were used.

  • A variation on the butter frosting theme that combines cream cheese with butter.

  • Fluffier cooked icings, usually the so-called 7-Minute Icing, with chopped prunes added.

    Here are recipes for all three. My preference is for the butter-pineapple variation, but a lot of people believe the only proper icing for a prune cake is a cooked icing. Cream-cheese frosting has a nice tanginess.

    BUTTER/FRUIT FROSTING

  • 1 cup well-drained canned fruit apricots, peaches, crushed pineapple or chopped prunes
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

    Drain fruit thoroughly and crush into small pieces with a fork; set aside.

    In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, cream butter and gradually add sifted confectioners' sugar. Add crushed fruit and blend until evenly distributed.

    Makes 8 servings.

  • Per serving: 520 calories, 45 g fat, 29 g saturated fat, 1.5 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 29 g sugar, 1 g protein

    CREAM-CHEESE FROSTING

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 ounces butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk or prune juice, as needed

    Cream together cream cheese and butter. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Add vanilla. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of milk or prune juice to reach desired spreading consistency.

    Makes 8 servings.

  • Per serving: 400 calories, 27 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 0.5 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 37 g sugar, 2 g protein

    7-MINUTE ICING

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Dash salt
  • 1 cup chopped prunes

    In the top of a double boiler over simmering (not boiling) water, combine egg whites, sugar, water and cream of tartar and beat with electric mixer for about 7 minutes, until whites stand in peaks. Stir in prunes.

    Makes 8 servings.

  • Per serving: 160 calories, no fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, 25 mg sodium, 40 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 35 g sugar, 2 g protein

    Reach Wanda A. Adams at wadams@honoluluadvertiser.com.