If last week was about finding a way to work through some muscovado sugar, this week I’m dealing with prunes. I’m not sure quite how I came by a bag of these items – ordered by mistake when I meant to buy some other dried fruit, purchased for a chutney recipe that I never ended up making – they were another example of terribly poor cupboard management and the time was ticking by until they were due to meet their expiry date… they needed to become cake.
Prunes… chocolate… brandy… booze. It sounds like a devilishly easy path to wander down, debauchery at every turn. It’s also the start of a recipe that sounds quite delightful. For once, I’m mainly doing as I’m told and sticking to the ingredients but I’ve messed around a little with the quantities…
- 250g prunes (Agen if you can get them), pitted
- 8 tbsp Harvey’s Bristol 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
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Gently heat the prunes and Sherry over a low heat until hot. Remove from the heat and leave for about 1 hr or until the prunes have absorbed almost all of the liquid. Whizz the prunes and any remaining booze in a food processor until roughly chopped.
- Butter and line the base of a 20cm springform tin. Dust with cocoa, tip out any excess and reserve. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir in the prune mix.
- Whisk the sugars, 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks until pale, thick and doubled in volume. 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.
- Whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 mins or until a light crust has formed. Allow to cool in the tin – it will sink and crack as it cools. Remove from the tin and dust with cocoa before serving.
As I write, I’m up to the end of the heating of the prunes and the sherry and the kitchen is full of dark brown fumes that are making my head spin. It’s almost a lovely, rich, Christmassy smell but it’s just a touch too redolent of hitting the cooking sherry too early in the day and then regretting the resultant headache. It’s a scent that sits in the pores of your skin and follows you around the house. Never mind. I’m sure by the time I’ve melted chocolate, make the cake mix and started it gently cooking away, things will smell a lot more pleasant.
Anyway, the scent suits my mood today. Thick, fuggy, morose. I’m frustrated with myself and cross at the world: I’m going to have to take a little bit longer to finish my thesis. This is me being grown up: I’ve taken a look at the work that I’ve still got to cover, a look at various big things that are going to happen over the summer and weighed up whether the two can work together and the conclusion is no, they can’t. The PhD is hugely, immensely and vastly important to me but it’s not the most important thing in everyone else’s world and being there for people who need me has to come first. Studying at the OU makes this possible: I can take a short break from my studies while everything in chaotic and then start up again, full steam ahead, when they’re calmer. Everyone understands and accepts this. There’s a form to complete. It’s fine. But this is me not being grown up: I’m a failure, I’m never going to complete, I’m useless. What’s the point?
I’ll be ok. This is still a fresh decision for me, the pixels are barely dry on the form. Right now it just stings so much and I’m bitterly sad so I’ll bake a lumpen, sunken cake to match. Drown the prunes if I can’t drown my sorrows, turn my bad mood into something dark and delicious. Here’s the finished product:
And hope next week I’ll be back to making something light and airy. I’m very tempted to go back to being fifteen and start up a German Friendship Cake – I can still remember the lovely, unique flavour of those and Catherine’s blog is a mine of helpful information…