Weeknights with Jenny

Prune Coffee Cake

September 26, 2011 • 41 Comments

Prune Coffee Cake

- Jenny

As the early morning light flowed into my kitchen one morning last week, I noticed a tree in the far back of my yard beginning to turn red. Another season, another set of holidays on the horizon that none of us will be quite prepared for, another slog in the early darkness from the office to the metro to home. Same. Same. Same.

It seems only children experience the absolutely new, from their early moments as terrifying bundles of sheer need, to their wobbling discovery of the world below their feet, all on the journey toward their own traditions and eventual drudgery.

I was at that 6:30 am moment overcome with the need to make a cake. A new cake, actually, because untried recipes -- along with ingredients and techniques -- are the one way we can keep our kitchens, and our lives, rebooting. I love my standbys, I have made some of them scores of times. But it felt nice to bring a new friend into my kitchen, especially one that would greet the rest of the family, warm and fragrant, when they awoke.

If you are in search of fresh meaning in your life, or, more likely, just a better breakfast cake, I strongly recommend Prune Coffee Cake. This fits the weekday mandate quite easily; I had the whole thing whipped up just in time to run upstairs and cajole my kids from their beds, by taking a very few shortcuts.

First of all, this is breakfast time, so your coffee is already made, no? While you plump your prunes in the hot liquid, get your butter and sugar going in the mixer while you whip together your dry stuff. Toss that egg in, then the vanilla. Don’t forget the maple syrup, the sweet key to this whole cake, but if you do, as I did, you can toss it in at the end. I did not process my prunes, but rather threw them in with the coffee into the batter. Just be sure to cut them on the small side.

I did not use powdered sugar, though would have -- for variety! -- were I serving it at a brunch. Which I should. If I had brunches. Which I don’t.

What amazed me about this cake was how moist it was, considering how little fat it has relative to the flour. Its aromas conjure some family tradition, which one just depends on your family. Bring it to work to spice up your day. Your life may not feel so different for your efforts, but it will be for the moment more pleasurable.

Prune Coffee Cake by nannydeb

Serves 8-10
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 inch spring form pan. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, plump the prunes with the hot espresso or coffee for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add the egg, vanilla and maple syrup and mix well.
  5. Puree the prunes with the espresso or coffee in the food processor. Add to the cake batter and mix well.
  6. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  7. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan at least 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake to a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Like Jenny? Watch her butter her noodles and add corn (obviously!) last week.

Photos by Nicole Franzen.

By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Jennifer Steinhauer

Jump to Comments (41)

Tags: everyday cooking

Comments (41)

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Staceys_snacks180

over 1 year ago Stacey Snacks

Just made this delicious cake, and kept the prunes whole w/ the hot espresso liquid in the batter. I also iced the cake w/ orange juice and confectioner sugar. SO GOOD! Loved!

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almost 3 years ago kcupdrawer

I need one piece of PRUNE COFFEE CAKE you did. Please Please ^^

I will drink with my coffee in this time.

Thank you for your share recipe.

http://www.kcupdrawer.com...

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almost 3 years ago fishesm

This was delicious. Perfect for Fall. My Kindergarten and preschool daughters gobbled it up, as did their visiting grandfather. Thanks for an easy winner with broad appeal!

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almost 3 years ago gt9

Thanks Jenny...making this tomorrow morning...as I have said, your writing reminds me of Laurie Colwin...and give me that same warm feeling...not to mention the smile. The kind of work that makes me want to get cooking...maybe one day you will put your thoughts into a cookbook..

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

awe you're too good to me. are you still barbecuing there in minnesota?

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almost 3 years ago gt9

Yes...still time for that...the beautiful fall colors of Indian summer...salmon on the grill on Sunday...come on over!

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almost 3 years ago Demington

Does anyone know where to buy prunes with pits in the US? They seem to have disappeared.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

do you know, i feel like i have seen them on the shelves of traditional big supermarkets .

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almost 3 years ago Marlala

I love prunes, its always funny to me the rap they have. Plums certainly get all the love. This cake sounds lovely - I have to say what amazed me most is that you could get up at 6:30am, conceive of and then actually make a 'breakfast cake' all in the same morning. Sigh.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

it was more avoidance of the rest of life. don't be too impressed.

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almost 3 years ago MrsBeeton

I'm not much of a commenter, more a lurker (and a cooker), but your observation about the way a new recipe can make us middle-aged folks feel a sense of possibility again really resounded with me. Thanks for your beautiful writing.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

i hope you believe me when i tell you that you truly truly made my day. thank you.

Mcs

almost 3 years ago mcs3000

Every Friday at work, 2 to 3 people make or buy breakfast for the department. Last time I made Sara's granola bars via Merrill. I think I'll make this cake next time. Thank you and nannydeb.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

may i come work there too?

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almost 3 years ago LovelyVelocity

This looks delicious! I can't wait to try it.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

thank you

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almost 3 years ago ashleypiersonchasesdinner

This looks wonderful! This will be great to have my whole family eat, while I quietly giggle to myself that they have no idea!!

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almost 3 years ago nannydeb

Ha ha! I know people turn up their noses to prunes, but they're so sweet and delicious!

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This sounds like a great cake, have always liked prunes and I am glad if they are gettings some love right now. Thanks for highlighting this recipe. Now I need some prunes.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

yes i forgot to buy them this weekend too.

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almost 3 years ago deanna1001

Prunes must be "trending" right now (see NYT Sunday for article about "trending")...I cooked lamb shanks with prunes and brandy yesterday and was thinking about what to do with all the prunes in that giant bag I bought (for a great price you know...) This looks like an obvious choice. Thanks for posting!

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

i hope you like it. i love prunes in lamb by the way.

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almost 3 years ago strozyk

So sorry for triple post! No idea why that happened. Please delete?

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almost 3 years ago strozyk

This is gorgeous - thank you so much for sharing. I'm going to GF it with blanched almond flour. Wish me luck! If any other GF folks have tried this, please post.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

interesting idea. can't wait to hear the outcome.

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almost 3 years ago nannydeb

I'm so happy this cake brightened your day! Cake always does that for me...tee hee

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

can't wait to try more of your recipes.

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almost 3 years ago Bevi

This brings back memories of a prune cake my dad used to make. I will have to return the favor when I next see him.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

awwwwww. that makes my heart light.

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almost 3 years ago Susan Branch

Beautiful almost healthy cake, with the prunes and all :-) Thank you for delicious recipe. Would think you would NEED "night job" to balance "day job." Glad you do!

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

yes. it's so true. no blog, no jenny sanity.

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almost 3 years ago Lizthechef

Boy, it is only 8:00 here and I have everything in my pantry. Maybe I need to attack Monday morning after some prune coffee cake. What the heck...

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

i hope you love it liz!

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almost 3 years ago teacupandteapot

At first I thought prunes?? This cake looks lovely and worth the try.

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

yes i know. i had prunes around and was trying to think of a new idea for them when i stumbled on this. i had the same initial reaction but it is a lovely spice cake thing.

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almost 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

nannydeb is a cake whisperer! Love that!!

In an effort to reduce fat in baked goods people sometimes use baby food prunes in place of butter or oil. (I truly don't get this. Can't we just all eat reasonable portions?) But I digress... The prunes must have moisture-holding properties that account for the moistness of this cake despite the relatively low fat content. I can't wait to make this--I'm so glad you reminded me. (Prunes on the shopping list.)

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almost 3 years ago Jestei

interesting theory. would the coffee help too (i am a bad kitchen scientist. i am a bad all things scientist)