Baking with Julia
Prunes? in cake???
Uh…..is there a substitute besides raisins?
No, do the prunes. It’s one of those things that will surprise you. I already made this one with whiskey but now I want to try Armagnac.
I read the wiki entry on Armagnac (I had never heard of it) and it sounds like cognac (or any type of brandy) would substitute well.
Which is good because I kind of doubt I’ll be able to find armagnac in my area (or if I do, it’ll be expensive).
I’m interested in using the prunes because I’ve seen other chocolate cake recipes that have prunes or prune baby food in them.
Anyone scared about the flaming part? Any tips on how to safely do this in the home????
Do we think the whisky soaked raisins should be handled the same way as the Armagnac soaked prunes? It was a tad unclear to me.
Prunes usually sketch me out, but I used them in this cake. My advice is to buy them nice and soft, cut them small, cook them and smoosh in the pan. They pretty much disappear into the cake, leaving a wonderful fudgey texture. I don’t think raisins would do that (or other dried fruit) – you get the whole small-dried-fruit-with-skin thing. I used a cognac (Grand Marnier) and the flames were minimal. No fireball – we were sort of disappointed, actually. This was one delicious cake. Don’t let the prunes dissuade you.
I have no prunes in the house. I will be going the whiskey/raisin route. I have both on hand. I really do not want to buy any more ‘baking’ liquor atm.
Plan on making this on Saturday.
Flaming the fruit is not nearly as scary as you think it will be. TWD has tackled it several times now. It normally goes pretty smoothly. Dont worry, it will not explode.
chocolatechic- What about dried sour or sweet cherries? They are always a good sub for raisins.
I don’t do alcohol at all. I was thinking of sitting this one out since the alcohol is such a central ingredient for taste and technique. Any ideas if this can be adapted to make without alcohol? I thought of using apple juice but am not sure how the finished prodeuct would turn out.
I’m going to have to skip this one too if there isn’t an alternative to the liquor. I’ve bought so much liquor for baking that I have my own bar! I refuse to buy another bottle for one recipe and we don’t drink whiskey, cognac, scotch, or Armagnac.
you really should try prunes….they are a wonderufl, healthy snack and most of them on the market are better than you’ll remember….really.
This will be my first time setting something on fire in my kitchen. What’s the best type of pan/dish to do this in? I don’t want anything nice to get ruined.
Maybe I’ll try a jar of baby food prunes….
No alcohol over here either so we’re going to have to get creative.
I used cherries and amaretto because that is what I had. The cherries were very good.
I’d love some ideas for subs for the alcohol, too. Anyone? :) If I can’t think of something good this might be a pass for me, too. I hate to make a bland chocolate cake without all the flavors Dorie intends, so might just skip it. Let’s hear some good ideas from all you smarties! I’m always amazed by the modifications people come up with! :)
I need a sub for the alcohol too. Or can we please do a rewind on this one?? There seem to be a few of us who might want to.
chocolatechic, think of them as dried plums, as the marketing people want you to, and you might not have that reaction. they really are yummy, esp when baked or cooked in something.
The way I solve the alcohol problem (buying something you don’t normally use, not the “how to bake without it” problem) is to buy the tiny, airline sized bottles. I can find them easily at BevMo, and I’m sure other liquor stores have them as well. They are obviously much more expensive per ounce, but if you don’t want a full liter of something they are the perfect alternative.
Just a thought for those who need it!
So, I have prunes… but no Armagnac. I too can’t justify going to get it since we don’t usually have alcohol around. I did just buy some rum for trying to make a bread pudding recipe I’ve had bookmarked.
Anyone know if I can sub dark rum with the prunes? I really have no idea what to expect taste wise from either ingredient so I am really in the dark here. I know that raisins and rum go well together from other recipes, but I don’t have the raisins.
It looks like there is going to end up being a lot of creativity this time. Personally, since I missed the previous flaming events with TWD, I am stoked to get to flame something this go around.
Holly, my guess is that the prunes will be so happy you’re using them that they’ll play nicely with the rum! No, really, I think the flavors would be great. Chocolate + rum is good and the prunes are very neutral.
Not me, I’m terrified! (I know, I know, you all say it’s OK. But still.) Can you soak the prunes in brandy without flaming it? Does that just make the cake boozier (because the alcohol doesn’t burn off?), or does it have some other effect? This cake does look fantastic…
@Nancy Thanks for the confirmation! I went for it and the cake just came out of the oven. I did enjoy flaming it and it was very easy and not at all dangerous. It took a lot longer than I thought it would – maybe I just bought some extra boozy rum!
Honestly, since I barely ever consume alcohol, I don’t tend to go out and buy whatever version is needed for a recipe. Most times, as long as you’re okay with losing a teensy bit of flavor, you can just plump up your dried fruit with boiling water. Or microwaving the fruit with some apple juice (as long as it works with the other flavors). So while I might go buy an itty bitty bottle of cognac for this, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary for the recipe to be a success.
I will probably go with some kind of liquor but I think there is another recipe in book where she steeps dried fruit in tea. That might give you an extra flavor boost without the alcohol, especially if the reason you aren’t using it isn’t just the inconvenience of buying another bottle. Just a thought.
Any thoughts on using port?
I’ve seen so many blog pictures of ice cream that people have made from The Perfect Scoop that I had to check it out of the library and try it out for myself. I was looking through it last night, and he has a recipe for Prune Armagnac Ice Cream! I’m not going to try that one though, I need one more kid-friendly. But someone out there might make the P-A double whammy.
So, I made my cake last night and I found it pretty easy to make. Lots of bowls to clean up, but oh well… The batter was delicious!! (I used Amaretto).
Anyway… just wanted to give a heads up, Dorie says to pull the cake out of the oven when a knife inserted into the center comes out streaky, but not wet and not completely dry. So, I first pulled mine when the top was puffed and my knife was streaky… but apparently it was too streaky, when I tried to de-pan it 15 minutes later, I realized from the bottom that the cake was NOT done, so I had to pop it back in the oven and after that, hopefully it’s not too done now. So, be careful with the “streaky knife” Apparently, there are lots of levels of streaky.
I can’t wait to try it this weekend!
Oh! And another heads up…
I didn’t think that the frosting was going to come together at all. As soon as I added the powdered sugar, all I got was a huge, dry, globby mess that wouldnt come together. But, I kept at it, adding the room temperature butter slowly and it finally did. So, don’t give up on the frosting. It comes together with the butter.
Kristin–I saw that recipe this morning. I’m going to make it tonight. :)
pinkstripes – I had a feeling you would! I can’t wait to see your pictures of everything, yours always look amazing.
Wow – I just flambed! I’ve never intentionally lit anything on fire in the kitchen before. Wooo!
I made this with raisins and brandy and I loved it! I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to flame the raisins either, so I skipped that and just dumped in the raisins and brandy and the extra water and it worked fine. Maybe orange juice could be a replacement for the liquor – for a chocolate orange cake?
Thanks for all the suggestion everyone. I think I am going to give this a go tomorrow. Am I the only one or did anyone else love the little story that came on the page before the recipe? Poor Dorie, but all’s well that ends well!
My raisins are soaking in whiskey as I type. Cake shall be made tomorrow. Im slightly excited about this one. It sounds really interesting.
I did flame my raisins after they had been soaking in whisky. They were still very boozy. Ah well.
I stopped by the corner liquor store this week to check on armagnac. The proprietor said that he doesn’t carry armagnac because Americans don’t really drink it/know about it. He told me that cognac is virtually the same thing (the armagnac people would obviously differ in opinion!)
I think the cake would be worth a try with apple or orange or another juice in place of the armagnac – maybe boiled down to concentrate it, and maybe a mini just to test it. It’s such a slim, moist, chocolatey, sophisticated cake (can you tell that we liked it?) and I think it would be even if it didn’t have the alcohol.
I made the cake tonight — it is fabulous! It was not overly boozy (I used cognac and could not taste it, which was great because I don’t tend to like alcohol flavored desserts) or pruny. My main issue was with the cook time — I baked it for at least 40 minutes (Dorie says 28-32) and it still ended up undercooked in the center (like Amy said, the “streaky” instruction can be a little problematic). Still, it is a really wonderful cake – rich, dense, moist. I like it better than the Devil’s Food White Out cake.
My cake was undercooked too. The sides were definitely pulling away from the sides of the pan, and the top was crisp like Dorie says it should be, but I guess it’s just difficult to judge “streaky.” Th cake unmolded without a problem, but when I cut into it, I realized that the middle was gooey.
I used prunes and whiskey. I couldn’t taste either in the finished cake, but the cake definitely had a different (and very good) flavor compared to a regular chocolate cake.
Did anyone substitute any of the bittersweet chocolate? I was thinking of maybe using semisweet or milk chocolate for the glaze instead of bittersweet, or maybe a combination of the two. I seem to be the only one around this house that likes bittersweet chocolate and I don’t want to be the only one eating this!
I tried milk chocolate for the glaze and it really didn’t work for me. It immediately set into an extremely thick frosting that just wouldn’t work. I am not sure how to tell you to fix the problem, but if I tried it again I would just skip adding the powdered sugar since the milk chocolate doesn’t need it anyway.
My cake is cooling, it looks wonderful :) I’m excited! I am reading the instructions for the glaze and I see that Dorie says you can let the glaze cool to be more spreadable. That’s what the picture looks like. I’m wondering if that’s what she did in fact do for the one in the photo? I would prefer to have mine like the photo.
@Amanda I think she says there in the instructions that it will be more like frosting (like the picture) if you cool it to be more spreadable, so I think you are on the right track.
I’m tasting mine right now – it’s so good. I used prunes and brandy. Amanda, my frosting was thin glaze until I added the conf sugar, then it thickened up like a frosting, even without cooling! I thought my cake was perfectly done – pulling away, crisp on top, streaky knife, but it was probably a little underdone. Not in a bad way, though – more in good, molten chocolate cake kind of way!
Thank goodness for the message board. My cake is in the oven and I’m at 45 minutes and the knife is still coming out wet. I see that many people had underbaked cakes, so I’m going for another 10 minutes which I think will do it. Also, I used raisins cut in half and Glayva which is a Scotch liquor.
Thanks guys! I actually stopped by Dorie’s blog and asked her, she wrote me back right away. She said that the food stylist actually made and frosted the cake that is pictured. Dorie said she always does the glaze.
I decided to go ahead and stick with the glaze. It is gorgeous. I’m really hoping mine didn’t overbake. I used prunes and brandy like Audrey did and mine was done at the minimum time. In fact the knife came out almost clean, so I took it out. When I came back after ten minutes the cake had pulled away nicely from the sides of the pan but the edges looked a wee bit crisp. I’m crossing my fingers.
I haven’t tasted it yet, I am stuffed to the gills from homemade pizza for dinner :)
My cake was also underbaked (in the center) – but, it’s more like a torte. Yes, that’s what I’ll tell people. I should have known better to leave it in longer, but it looks great. I flamed cognac and prunes – and used finely ground almonds. Armagnac is no longer sold at our liquor stores for – only Salignac, it’s ugly stepsister, I guess. I already had cognac on hand. 3/4 done!
I used ground almonds, raisins and scotch. I baked it for exactly 32 minutes expecting to add time. My knife came out clean so I pulled it out and it was baked just fine. My raisins wouldn’t flame so I just dumped them in the batter with the extra water. I didn’t have to wait at all for my glaze to become spreadable…did I not have my chocolate warm enough? It was never really glaze like..oh well. We had it tonight, it was very good!
I made the ice cream. Because of all the booze in it, it stays really soft and doesn’t freeze like regular ice cream. It tastes really good, but boozier b/c you don’t burn the alcohol like the cake. Although, I did accidentally start a fire when I was soaking my prunes in the alcohol. I just covered it with the lid and the flames went out.
Also, when making the glaze remember to sift your confectioner’s sugar. I didn’t and I have lumps. No biggie for me, but if you want a perfectly smooth glaze…
If you are nervous about the flambé step, here is a quick little video on how to flambé on an eclectic stove from one of my favorite cooking sites. The demo is for a steak recipe, but just pretend it is prunes.
A couple of other tips, don’t pour directly from the bottle into the pan, measure out the portion into a separate dish. If you are using a gas burner, turn off the flame before adding the alcohol to the pan, then turn the flame back on. If you are using a skillet type pan just tip it toward the flame until it lights, or if you are using a sauce pan, light it with a long match or long lighter as shown in the video. Don’t be scared, it’s really fun especially if you turn down the lights to enjoy the flames! I was surprised at how long it took to burn out.
The cake is really good and I left mine in for about 35 minutes and any less it would have been too wet in the middle.
Mine was just released from the springform. It has a slightly sunken center on the top which I think will be an unattractive presentation. Should I let the bottom be the top? Will the depression in the center (of the top now the bottom) cause the cake to fall in the middle? Eeesh. Any advice I have company coming at three. As usual I am a day late and a dollar short!
Mat – mine was slightly “sunken” in the middel as well. If you turn it over, gravity will eventually take over (in my experience). I would let it cool, then do your glaze. There’s enough glaze to “pool” it more in the center – thus creating a flat top. :)
Let us know how your company likes it – I’m sure it will turn out fantastic!
Matt – unfortunately, if your cake has a sunken center gravity is going to take over regardless of which side you decide to have as the “top” (I’ve had that happen enough times to know!). Usually, if the depression is deep enough that I think it will ruin the presentation I try to fill it with something complimentary to the flavor of the cake and frosting…in my case, since I don’t like fruit with chocolate that tends to be some kind of a mousse or cream but you can be as creative as you like.
Thanks for your help! I agree with you on the fruit/chocolate combination. I’ll figure something out!
Enjoy your evening,
Gosh bakers in baking land . . . Did you know? Take a look! Call me silly but it looks like the whole book is there. I didn’t know this was kosher? Where have I been, guess I just missed this all together.
It does look like a lot of the pages are there, but if you scroll through the preview there are pages omitted. I would think that Dorie must have given permission for this?
I’m skipping this weeks. We’re all really sick here (Pneumonia & Strep) and have no taste buds as it is. Plus we’re not liquor ppl either. The rest of the month looks great though.
I ran into that link sometime ago too.
Matt – speaking from experience, and believe me, I’ve tried…. turning it over will not work. Gravity inevitably takes over. :)
The glaze is thick enough if you wait a few minutes… and you can build up the center a bit (with glaze). But I guess that depends on how much if fell. OR, slice it into pieces, serve it with fruit or ice cream and your guests will love it – and never know what it was *supposed* to be.
Let us know how they liked it!
Liquor stores are closed in Tennessee on Sunday. Hopefully I can find a tiny bottle of something to make this with tomorrow night.
WELL, I don’t have the prunes or the brandy and I’m not buying the booze just for the cake….there has also been a lot going on here so I guess I’m skipping this one out. :-( I didn’t intend to skip last week’s but never had a chance.
I was extremely nervous about the flambe since I have a tiny New York City kitchen but it wasn’t that bad. It stayed within the pan and although it flamed longer than I expected, it was not high or dangerous at all. Usually when I cook with liquor it is not strong but this was extremely overwhelming while cooking. My husband thought the taste was strong when eating it too. If you aren’t liquor people, this may not be the cake for you. Or it could just be that I did something wrong to make it so strong.
I’m making my cake tonight — way to wait until the last minute, right? I just did the flambe step with the prunes and used Scotch Whiskey (that I bought for TWD butterscotch pudding) — it was pretty fun! Can’t wait to see how this turns out :)
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s results tomorrow! I’m sitting this one out – too many other things going on, and I’m being miserly with my resources (I’m in a “if I don’t have it and I’m not going to use it later, I’m not buying it” kick. That would leave out both prunes and just about every alcohol y’all are using).
Good luck to all and happy baking!
The cake is in the oven….used brandy (on hand), non-designer prunes, he he he and chopped pecans. This reminds me a little of another torte I make without the prunes. A Queen of Sheba torte. We will see how she tastes. Yippee Very Exciting!
So, my Chocolate Chivas (whisky) cake would have got me fired, not for creativity, but for baking a not so great cake. First off my springform pan is 10 inches, not 8 inches. Then didn’t have any Armagnac, so substituted the whisky. It was fun to see how well it flamed and actually took a couple of minutes to finish burning. That was kind of fun! I think I should have chopped the prunes finer than I did. They were a little lumpy. Also these lumpy chopped prunes made it a bit interesting to gently fold the egg whites. Next time I think I will cool the cake for more than an hour before frosting.
Where is the recipe!!!!!!
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