Friday, December 31, 2010

Gooey Prune Cake

Happy Birthday To Me!

Yep. I'm the big 3-2 today. An unremarkable birthday indeed, but still worthy of a cake, right? Maybe even an ooey-gooey subtly-spiced melt-in-your-mouth Americanized (and dare I say improved) version of sticky toffee pudding, every anglophile sweet-tooth's nirvana? Well, fortunately I get to answer my own questions here (it's my birthday after all) and my answer in oversized capital letters is: YES.

This is basically an adaptation of The Pioneer Women's Prune Cake recipe from a couple of Christmases ago. For a handful of reasons which I am about to describe, I was reluctant to share this recipe (and in fact documented the endeavor photographically only just in case, well aware the whole time that I was perhaps being overly ambitious). For the same about-to-be-described reasons, I encourage you to go ahead and just make The Pioneer Women's version without even consulting my recipe, since you probably aren't as super keen on buying and experimenting with alternative sweeteners as I am. And I'm sure the original recipe is perfect as is. I knew that when I read the recipe, and that's why I knew it would hold up against the experimentation I was contemplating when I made it. The experimentation involved using brown rice syrup instead of sugar to sweeten the cake. And being the skilled and dedicated researcher that I am, I learned that brown rice syrup is only about half as sweet as sugar, which means you need to use a good deal more of it to get a cake that will actually satisfy an anglophile sweet-tooth. I also read that the substitution of brown rice syrup for sugar requires an adjustment in leavening agents and a reduced amount of wet ingredients, and it might make the edges of your cake crispier than you'd like. I also used whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular flour. Needless to say, when I tasted the batter I was apprehensive - it tasted earthy and not especially sweet. And yet I plowed on, committed to an exploration of the world without sugar. Until I ran out of brown rice syrup, right before I made the caramel glaze (that soaks through the entire thing and makes it the amazing ooey-gooey cake that it is). The result: a perfectly not-too-sweet cake drenched in perfectly sweet caramel. Yes. I'm going to go ahead and call this cake perfect. I'm sure the Pioneer Woman's is awesome, but I might just find it too sweet after tasting this more subtle, subdued, gloriously gooey version. And that's why I'm posting about it, despite the fact that the recipe is totally weird. Sometimes weird makes for perfect. And anyway there are loads of weird recipes out there that pique my interest on a daily basis. I'm just joining the club by posting one myself.

Also it's my birthday.

prune cake ingredients
piece of gooey deliciousness

Do you see all that shiny magical gooeyness? It's PERFECT. Irresistible really. So freaking delicious. You should seriously make this. Brown rice syrup and all.

Gooey Prune Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Yield: a 13X9" pan's worth - 12-20 servings?

For the cake
1 cup prunes (I'm sure dates would work fine too)
1 1/4 cups brown rice syrup
3 eggs
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the caramel
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13" baking dish.

Place the prunes in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until soft and mashable, about ten minutes. Remove from heat, drain water, mash the prunes and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, brown rice syrup, and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir a bit, until most of the flour is incorporated. Add buttermilk and vanilla and stir gently until just combined. Add the mashed prunes and stir gently to combine.

Pour batter into buttered baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes.

After the cake has been baking for about 30 minutes, combine all the caramel ingredients in a medium saucepan placed over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Boil without stirring for 5 to 7 minutes - this is scary but it will be fine, just keep an eye on it and don't let it boil over - or until caramel starts to darken. As soon as the caramel gets to be a golden brown and thickens a bit but is still v. pourable, remove from heat. You ideally will have timed this to happen right when the cake is done.

Remove cake from oven and drizzle the caramel on top immediately. (Even though the cake didn't look particularly "sunken", my caramel pooled in the middle at first, but it soaked into the cake so promptly that I just put on my oven mits, grabbed both handles on the pan, and tilted it every which way until the caramel was evenly distributed.) Allow cake to cool and caramel to soak in for about a half hour before cutting it. Nice warm but no less nice cold. We are still enjoying it on day 4, unrefrigerated. I'll probably put what's left in the freezer tomorrow.

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