I bought a bundt tin. Actually, it was my sole souvenir from my recent trip to the US. I found it at the Nifty Thrifty on Orcas Island, so I like to think I purchased a little bit of baking history along with my hardware. It's fun imagining who it might have once belonged to, and the cakes it made before it got stuffed with socks, packed in a suitcase and spirited to Sydney, where this weekend it was put to work producing something most spectacular.
In this cake - another from the new Ottolenghi baking bible Sweet - prunes are soaked in brandy overnight and wound through a batter bolstered with walnuts and orange zest. The prunes, plumped with booze, are silky soft, the crumble through the middle a nice contrasting crunch. And the orange goes suprisingly well with coffee.
It's a winner all round. As endorsed by the king parrots of the Illawarra.
Prune cake with brandy and walnuts
Adapted from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh
The original recipe called for Armagnac, which I didn't have so substituted brandy. If you're after something non-alcoholic, I'd try orange juice, Earl Grey tea or black coffee. Just a heads up - you'll need to begin this recipe the night before, just to let the prunes plump up in whatever liquid you soak them in. Crème fraîche can be found in delis and most supermarkets, or click here to find out how you can easily (and cheaply) make your own (just be warned you'll need to do so a couple of days in advance).
250g pitted prunes, quartered
finely grated zest of one orange (1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb (baking) soda
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
230g crème fraîche, removed from fridge 30 minutes before using
icing sugar for dusting
40g soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
40g walnuts, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
Place prunes in a bowl with the brandy and orange zest. Stir a few times to make sure everything is nicely coated. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200 deg C. Grease and flour a bundt/kugelhopf/ring tin.
Combine all crumble ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Sift dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a bowl.
Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer til light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, scraping down bowl of sides between each addition. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately with creme fraîche, beginning and ending with the creme fraiche to stabilise the mixture and stop it splitting. Using a spatula or spoon, fold in prunes and what remains of their soaking liquid.
Spoon half the batter into the prepared tin and scatter over the crumble. Spoon remaining batter on top, and bake in oven for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Let rest in tin for ten minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve.