Thumbs down?For me? Definitely thumbs up. No question. No contest. Sometimes I prefer them to the real deal (plums). (Without me being to indelicate or unladylike, let me underline that my love of prunes has to do with flavour and texture only and not an other activities they may set in motion.)There are prunes and there are prunes though. They have to have their stone intact and come from Agen. Even then, not all packaging, handling is equal. Recently, I found some extraordinary prunes at Galeries Lafayette, I can’t be sure but I think they were from Thorem. Today I found a jar of St. Dalfour giant french prunes at Karstadt on the Kudamm. I ate half the contents on the way home.For this prune cake, I use stoned organic prunes reasoning that they would be simmered in alcohol, pulverized and have ground almonds and 70% chocolate as bedmates. It’s a recipe by Annie Rigg’s which I found in the Easter edition of BBC Good Food magazine. Despite the unflattering picture (seriously, take a look at the link, did they photograph it on a paper plate?) the ingredient list and method moved me to bake. Rigg’s suggests whipping up the 2 eggs and 2 of the yolks with the sugar, folding everything in and then whipping up the remaining two egg whites and folding those in at the end to keep it light. Success rests upon taking this cake out of the oven when the center is still slightly uncooked. If you cook it all the way through you will find it gritty and dry even with the almonds and the puréed prunes. It eats well for 5 days (I had another slice today – day 5 and if anything, it’s even better) and is best kept at room temperature under a cloche.
Prune and Chocolate Cake adapted from Annie Rigg’s recipe
140g prunes, pitted
4 tbsp Marsala or PX Sherry (I used cream sherry)
100g butter , plus extra for the tin
2 tbsp cocoa
140g dark chocolate (70%), chopped
100g caster sugar
50g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs , 2 separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g ground almonds
1 tbsp plain flour
1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Gently heat the prunes and Marsala over a low heat until hot. Remove from the heat and leave for about 1 hr (I left them overnight) or until the prunes have absorbed almost all of the liquid.
2. Puree the prunes and any remaining alcohol in a food processor.
3. Butter and line the base of a 20cm springform tin. Dust with cocoa, tip out any excess and reserve.
4. Melt the butter and chocolate over a bain-marie. Stir in the prune mix.
5. Whisk the sugars, 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks until pale, thick and doubled in volume.
6. Fold the chocolate mixture and vanilla into the egg mixture, then sift over the ground almonds, flour and remaining cocoa. Fold until everything is combined.
7. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, spoon in a third of the mix to loosen the chocolate mixture and then gently fold into the mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 mins or until a light crust has formed.
8. Allow to cool in the tin – it will sink and crack as it cools. Remove from the tin and dust with cocoa before serving.