Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Pioneer Woman's (shhh) Prune Cake (it's awesome)A Sensational Cake with an Unsensational Secret Ingredient Reputation - from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

When I first discovered The Pioneer Woman Cook's blog-- around October 2008, I was hooked.  Little did I know that a couple of months later, I would start my own food blog.   I think what I found so intriguing about Ree's style of photographing step-by-step photos, is that she makes things look downright irresistible. At least, that's the effect that Ree Drummond has on me.  (She's also funny and talented.) For that reason, when P-Dub posted "Grandma Iny's Prune Cake", I didn't crinkle my nose and dismiss the idea that this cake could possibly be one of her Top Five favorites.  Instead, I looked at her photo and read the ingredients:

Allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg.  It spells F-A-L-L.  It also spells M-U-S-T  M-A-K-E.  Months went by, and I forgot all about this recipe.  I was organizing my piles of printed recipes and I found a faded copy of this recipe that I had printed months ago-- I paused, and decided that today was the day.  I was going to make this right now!

Ah, yes, the Old Prune. Poor thing.  Why is it that prunes make us think of-- well, old people?  We immediately think that these are eaten by old folks, who need to stay, um... well, they don't want to be constipated, do they?! Never mind.  I had flashbacks to my childhood, when my mother (who was probably younger than I am at this time in my life) kept a bottle of prune juice in the fridge. One day, I was thirsty. Really thirsty. So I drank a big glass of prune juice.  It was sweet!  I liked it.  Unfortunately, that night, my mother had to deal with the effects on an eight year old girl who drank almost an entire bottle of prune juice. Ugh.  But, now, I guess I'm right up there with my mom.    OK, I admit it.  I buy prunes. I like prunes. Am I old? It depends whom you ask.  

But let's get on with it-- what's in this cake?  Ordinary ingredients, pretty much pantry staples.  Sugar. Canola Oil. Eggs. Vanilla. Buttermilk. Yes, I always keep Buttermilk on hand. I love it's thick, tangy flavor in mashed potatoes, or pancakes, or muffins. It lasts a long while, actually. Otherwise, you can do the lemon juice and milk trick. But it still doesn't match quite  real Buttermilk.

Obviously, you need Prunes. I cup of them, which is about 18 prunes.  I added water and softened them in the microwave, then drained them.

Mashing hot and softened prunes is sticky business.  But, that's what ya gotta do. Set them aside. Preheat the oven to 300F. No, not 350F. 300F.  It's not a mistake.

The dry ingredients are whisked together and are ready to meet the wet stuff. You don't need to use a cake mixer, which I soon realized.  That's because you mix the sugar and oil, then add the eggs .  Simple. Quick.

Ree points out that you don't want to over mix the batter-- so I realized that this is similar to making pancake batter.  After adding the buttermilk and vanilla, I removed the batter bowl and manually mixed the batter, until it just combined.

It's time to fold in the mashed prunes.  Don't laugh.  Prunes are good! I promise. Pour it into a buttered baking pan (I used a 9x13).  Bake this for 35 minutes, the recipe says.  I set my timer for 30 minutes. It's how I make sure to not over bake cakes.  I don't like dry cakes. It's good insurance.  While the cake is baking, it's important to get the icing ingredients ready.  Hide your bathroom scale.  Calm your pancreas down. We're going on a sugar trip.

White sugar, buttermilk, corn syrup, vanilla and 1/2 stick of butter. Heaven. I'm 15 minutes from the cake being ready... you need to start the icing.

The easy part is dumping all the ingredients together, then bringing them to a boil.  The directions say that you don't want to get the icing to caramelize too much. Hmmm...  I decided to use a candy thermometer. This was off to a rolling boil, and I was guessing/gauging what the right color should be. Ding!  The cake is ready to come out of the oven...

At 30 minutes, the cake was "done". It didn't jiggle and the toothpick came out clean. The directions say to immediately pour the frosting over the cake. Do you see a potential problem? No? Look at the color...

On the lower left photo, I saw watery butter and the color was to light.  This didn't seem right. Guess what? I poured the frosting right back into the pot-- I was in 9-1-1 mode.

Take Two.  I returned the pot on high, and waited a minute or tow. It's now a darker color, and reached 220F on the thermometer. You're welcome. Now see how the icing was thicker?  So, I lost some of it-- and it soaked into the cake. I wasn't too upset.

If you like sticky, gooey-- come to Mama!  The smell is amazing! It's evil. It's Pioneer Woman.
The icing is starting to cool-- and harden. My pulse rate it going up. Ree says to serve it warm. I don't want to argue with that.
The cake is oh-so-tender, and warm...and the fragrance of the spices.  It's intoxicating, I tell you!

It's a tough job, but in the interesting of my blogger family, I must tell you if it tastes good. Ready?
OMG!  P-Dub did it again.  I think these are her "other" cinnamon rolls-- which I think is her admitted signature recipe.  It reminds me of Sticky Toffee Pudding.  This so easy to make. 15 minutes of prep-- 35-ish minutes of baking.  This is perfect to serve as a brunch type treat.  This is going to my office tomorrow. I cannot let this pan of goodness stay in my house. It will corrupt me. I will want to eat it all.

Are you ready to give prunes another chance? This is not for old people. This is for people who love the flavor of spice, all wrapped in warm and moist goodness.  By the way, Ree says this cake does NOT have that, um, "effect" on you that prune juice will. It's a good thing, otherwise I'd relive my childhood experience.


Enjoy!  It's good to indulge in desserts, once in a while! This one is a keeper.

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