Posts Tagged ‘disasters’

Spiced Chocolate Prune Cake

While perusing Joy with my mom, I came across this recipe and said, “Hmm, spiced chocolate prune cake!” To which she replied, “Ew.” “No, it sounds good,” I said, sure that I would be right. “Ew” was Eliav’s response too, and the kids were excited that I was making a cake until they found out that I would be adding prunes, on purpose. Nonetheless, I perservered.

I saw at the outset that it would be a fussy recipe. But I felt challenged–most of the cakes I usually make are easy one- or two-bowlers. And I bought a lovely new sifter lately, so I could put it to good use at last.

From Joy:

A moist, fruity loaf cake which makes a delightful dessert when served with whipped cream or pudding sauce.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Have all ingredients about 70°. Cook and cool:
1 cup lightly sweetened drained pureed prunes

“Drained pureed prunes” are not exactly a household staple, but I cooked and sweeted some dried prunes the day before. Go me with the advance planning!

Joy warns: Canned pureed prunes will not do, because they are too liquid. Duly noted. Thanks! Also, ew.

The star ingredient

The star ingredient

The star ingredient, pureed

The star ingredient, pureed

 
Sift before measuring:1 1/2 cake flour
Resift with: 1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
(1 teaspoon cinnamon)
(1/2 teaspoon cloves)
This kills me–the spices in the spice cake are purely optional. Again, it seems very older-style recipe to me, speaking to a time when only families of Mexican descent ate Mexican food, or knew what it was, and spaghetti and meatballs were tremendously exotic. The amount of cloves called for did give me pause–cloves are powerful, and that would be a lot of cloves–but I did it anyway.
Some of the suspects in the line-up

Some of the suspects in the line-up

Sifting! See those cloves? (Ominous foreshadowing.)

Sifting! See those cloves? (Ominous foreshadowing.)

 
 Cream until soft:
1/3 cup butter
Sounds simple, right? But this is one of the hidden fussinesses of this recipe–it’s VERY tricky to get one-third cup of butter from a stick. Using the markers on the stick package, that’s 5 and 1/3 of a tablespoon. And it would help if THIS didn’t happen when I tried to soften my butter. TWICE. Observe:
A melted horror!

A melted horror!

But, after ruining my second stick of butter only slightly less than the first stick, I thought I would be clever and try to re-firm the center melty part in the fridge.
Butter in exile! Oh, the shame.
Butter in exile! Oh, the shame.
It didn’t work. I grew impatient and just scooped my best estimate of 5 and 1/3 tablespoons from the squishy sticks. I should state that I’m working with a new microwave, and I clearly have not figured out how to use the power settings yet. Moving on!
 
Add gradually and cream until light: 
3/4 cup sifted sugar
Again with the sifting. I did not sift the sugar, I admit it.  
 
The butter and sugar were creaming along happily in my mixer–always the most delicious part of any cake batter enterprise–when I set about softening the chocolate for this step:
Melt and add when cool:
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
 
Did you know that chocolate can actually CATCH FIRE in a microwave? After a trifing period in the zapper, I turned around to find the whole thing filled with dense, swirling smoke. And the smell–it was not good. There are worse burning smells than the smell of burned chocolate, but it is still not an appealing scent, trust me. I have no photographic evidence of this occasion because I was too busy opening all of our windows, turning on the ceiling fan, and disposing of the offending and still smoking chocolate.
 
This recipe was not going well. But I had to keep going, similar to watching the end of a movie that you know is terrible and yet you do not get off the couch.
 
After babysitting the second round of chocolate very closely, heating it in tiny single-digit second bursts, I had this:
Reasonably okay melted chocolate

Reasonably okay melted chocolate

Is this recipe over yet, you may ask? Not at all! See above, re: Fussiest Cake Recipe in a Long Time.
Beat well and add to the butter mixture:
2 eggs
Okay, done.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 parts, alternating with:
1/2 cup milk
 
The batter is looking light and fluffy and really quite appealing. The smell of cloves–which I usually like!–is still a little too unnervingly strong.
Fluffy batter. Pretty, right?

Fluffy batter. Pretty, right?

Stir the batter until smooth after each addition. Add the prunes and:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
 
And that’s the last ingredient! Shocking.
 
Batter in the pan, pruney

Batter in the pan, pruney

Bake in a greased pan about 25 minutes.
The final product:
The end. Ta da!

The end. Ta da!

It really was fluffy and light, shockingly so. I don’t think I’ve ever had a baked good involving dried fruit that was not dense in some way. The chocolate flavor was absent. The cinnamon was barely noticable. It tasted like a clove sponge cake–but with a more crumbly crumb–flecked with chewy prune bits. Sound kind of yucky? Well, it was kind of yucky, in a way. I ate about 5 pieces before becoming sick of it and threw it out. Yes, I THREW. IT. OUT. I do not throw out cake. I eat it all up or freeze it for later. This is telling. Do not make this cake. Mom, you were right. But not because of the prunes.
What did I learn, though? The greatest offender here was really the cloves. It has the potential to be a pleasant if dull cake. With only cinnamon, more chocolate, no prunes and no cloves, it could be quite nice. It would be good with a white icing of some kind. But it’s awfully fussy for a dull cake.  
 
 In case you have any need of a clove-y, mysterious-chewy-bit cake, here is the recipe:

 

Spiced Chocolate Prune Cake

A moist, fruity loaf cake which makes a delightful dessert when served with whipped cream or pudding sauce.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Have all ingredients about 70°.

Cook and cool:
1 cup lightly sweetened drained pureed prunes

Canned pureed prunes will not do, because they are too liquid.

 

Sift before measuring:1 1/2 cake flour
Resift with: 1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
(1 teaspoon cinnamon)
(1/2 teaspoon cloves)

 

 
Cream until soft:
1/3 cup butter
 
 Add gradually and cream until light: 
3/4 cup sifted sugar
 
Melt and add when cool:
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
 
Beat well and add to the butter mixture:
2 eggs
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 parts, alternating with:
1/2 cup milk
Stir the batter until smooth after each addition. Add the prunes and:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Bake in a greased pan about 25 minutes.