Friday, February 16, 2018

A Cake By Any Other Name

Prune Cake. (Or, spice cake. Or, dried plum cake.)

While I'm steadily knitting away, I'll share another recipe from our Christmas holiday. This one was baked by my son-in-law before they headed back home. The recipe came from my collection but he has made it more often than me for the last several years. I got the recipe from my secretary many years ago when I was working as a home economist. I've never been famous for my cake baking, but this one has always provided sure-fire results.

Don't let the name frighten you. It's basically a spice cake. The prunes help create a moist cake and give it this lovely rich color. Trust me that it's delicious. Look at the long list of spices. That's what you'll taste. All the grandchildren love it. So do the grownups. They think it's perfect with a cup of coffee.


1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 6-7 ounces baby food prunes (about 2 jars/containers)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar and oil, then add eggs and beat well. Mix buttermilk and baking soda together and set aside. Sift all dry ingredients together. Add to egg mixture, alternately with buttermilk mixture. Add prunes and vanilla. Fold in nuts, if using.
Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x13-inch pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. (Now, I use a baking spray.)

After removing cake from oven, cut into squares while it is still in the pan and is hot. Leave in pan and pour hot topping over cake. Additional chopped nuts may be sprinkled over the top, if desired.
1 stick butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Mix and bring to a boil. Let simmer while cake bakes last 20 minutes. Pour hot topping over hot cake.

Helpful tip: Measure all the spices before you start the mixing process. Then the rest of the recipe is a snap.

Now let me tell you a story about using old recipes. This recipe was given to me about 40 years ago. Back when baby food all came in jars. So when a recipe called for "2 jars of baby food prunes" as this recipe didthere was no doubt as to the amount.

Fast forward several years. Baby food started coming in two sizes—small jars for babies, larger jars for toddlers. I had never paid any attention to the amount. And it had been a long time since I had baked the cake and I had forgotten which size jar I used. So I called the Beechnut helpline and asked them to help me figure out how much to add to this recipe. That's still been so long ago, I've forgotten exactly what we were converting. Small jars to large? Large jars to small? But we determined that I needed 6-8 ounces of baby food prunes.

Now go look at the baby section of your grocery store. Baby food often comes in little plastic containers or squeeze pouches now. Jars are harder to find. The prunes I found this shopping trip are a blend of prunes and apples. That will work, too. Each little plastic container is 4 ounces, so this recipe would use two of them. (Goodness, I miss those little glass jars that I saved for so many other purposes.)

There is a bigger lesson here, though. When you use a recipe based on packaged foods, it would be wise to make note of the actual measurement—in cups, in teaspoons, in ounces, etc. Those package sizes will change.

You know can sizes have pretty much all shrunk. And cake mix recipes...the doctored up recipes...are mostly based on an 18.25 oz box of cake mix. Cake mixes are now 15.25 oz. That's 3 ounces less, a significant difference! So I find myself looking for recipes that are based on real ingredients that will always be the same. Measure out the flour and sugar yourself and you won't run into the problem of changing box sizes.

So back to the prune cake. If you think your family will still be freaked out by the name "prune cake," call it spice cake. Or, call it dried plum cake. That's all prunes are. Here are a few words from the
Are dried plums the same as prunes?
 Yes, they are.  All prunes are plums, but not all plums are prunes.  Prune plum varieties have very high sugar contents that enable them to be dried without fermenting while still containing the pits.
Why was the name prunes changed to dried plums?
Research conducted in the U.S. showed that our target audience, women ages 25 to 54, responded more favorably to the name dried plums.  It is also more descriptive for people who don’t know that prunes are fresh plums that have been dried.  Outside the U.S., the product is still called prunes.


  1. Although I have yet to find much that I like about prunes, I am always willing to try what looks like a good recipe. This sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

    1. AudreyJ5, I totally understand. But I'm pretty sure you'll like them this way!

  2. I have ate prune cake my entire life. It was a cake that my mother and her sister made on a regular basis. It’s super yummy. We however never had a glaze on the top of ours. We use to always put a dollop of whipped cream on top. Delicious! We never told anyone that it was prune cake or they would not even try it. Spice cake was always the name we used around people who hadn’t ever had it. Of course once they tried and wanted more and ranted and raved how amazing it was - that’s when we would lay the recipe down for them to make a copy of recipe. The look on their face was always priceless. Lol


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