I’ve been cooking nonstop out of Nawal Nasrallah’s majestic cookbook, Delights From The Garden of Eden. And my family loves it, because every recipe yields a delicious dish. Like this one.
Looking for a dessert in Delights, I came across this moist, spicy cake studded with rich prunes. It’s a hit.
The only problem with the book is that I often lose myself in the book’s side commentaries, so rich in history and anecdotes from the author’s own life and cooking experience. You almost hear the author’s warm, humorous voice unfolding the narratives. I also enjoyed the author’s previous book, Dates – reviewed here.
Now for the recipe!
Spicy Iraqi Prune Cake
½ cups (10 ounces) dried prunes
1¼ cups brewed tea, or water with a tea bag
½ cup oil
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup walnut halves for the bottom of the pan
Preheat oven to 360°F – 175°C
Put prunes and tea (or water and tea bag) in a small pot. Bring to a quick boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, or until prunes soften, but not mushy. Drain the prunes, but reserve the drained liquid. Let them cool off to room temperature. Cut the drained prunes into small pieces, and add enough cold water to liquid to make it measure 2/3 cup. Set aside.
In a big bowl, put oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and beat for 2 minutes. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir the flour mix into the egg mix, in two batches alternately with the measured prune liquid. Stir in the prunes. Grease and flour a 10-cup capacity ring pan, and shake off excess flour. Spread walnut halves in the bottom of the pan, and pour the batter on top of the nuts. Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, or until surface feels firm to the touch. Let it stand for 10 minutes and then invert it on a cooling rack.
Ms. Nasrallah’s frosting for this cake is decadent and rich. You may want to forgo it if you’re concerned about calories, but if you decide that life is too short to eat unfrosted cake, make it. You won’t regret it.
1 cup packed, brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter
1½ teaspoons rose water or vanilla
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cream, butter, and rose water or vanilla. Bring to a boil, on medium heat, stirring to allow sugar to dissolve. Boil gently for about 4 minutes. Let it cool off to room temperature, and then stir in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. It should be neither too thick nor runny in consistency. Ice the cake with it immediately and decorate the top with some walnut halves, if you wish. Chill cake for about an hour and serve.
More excellent Iraqi recipes from Nawal Nasrallah: