Thanks To Prunes, The Wait Is Over
If you’ve made it this far into the recipe then you’re obviously open to prunes. I mean hey, they have a bad rap for being associated with senior folks… and for giving the gift of, ahem, “regularity.”
Regardless of prunes’ affiliation with the trots at least 4 generations of my family have loved knocks at bathroom humor even before it was vogue. So I’m not sure why it took me 8 years after recovering Mom’s cookbook to dive into this recipe just because of the word “prune;” I should have been drawn to it!
So in 2000 even though the FDA changed the name of prunes to “dried plums” which boosted sales I say bring on the prunes! They taste great no matter what they’re called and who doesn’t like a little regularity? Plus, it seems that California may have returned to their prune-y roots, making me want to just call this “prune-plumb cake” just to ensure I have all “loose ends” covered (pun intended).
A Prune By Any Other Name…
I smiled when I saw this came from the Fredericksburg cookbook of our family friend “Lela.” Fredericksburg, Texas holds a special place in the hearts of Texans and it’s where Texas-German charm and heritage runs as thick as our state’s love for silky queso. I had a gut instinct this cake had historical origins to our European roots and I was right! Whether it goes by spice cake, election cake or muster cake, this is a delightfully decadent and dense cake that tastes like a warm slice of sweet Christmas drizzled with butter.
What’s different about this cake is the twist of incorporating Texas pecans and vanilla, and commingling them with the fruity smash-up taste of prunes in both the cake and the icing! I think you’ll agree this cake will disappear in a jiffy!
I saw in a recent McCormick video (below): “It’s the recipes we pass on to the next generation that are the reason there’s really no flavor like home.” And I hope this recipe becomes a, ahem, “regular favorite” that hails from Fredericksburg, to Lela, to my Mom, to me, and now to you!
❤ You can enjoy prune cake tabletop warm or cold from the fridge… but my favorite is when it’s just a bit warmed from the toaster oven or the microwave.
❤ 9″ x 13″ loaf pan? This threw me because I thought loaf pans were almost as tall as they were wide. A 9″ x 13″ pan is what I call a sheet cake pan. I’m wondering if I could make a couple of 5″ x 9″ loaf pan cakes out of this!
❤ Prunes’ super power? Fiber, sorbitol, and polyphenols. They act as antioxidants and help keep a clean house.
Total prep: 1-2 hours (includes cooling the cake)
for the cake:
3 | cage free eggs, well beaten
1 ½ cups | sugar
1 cup | salad oil
1 teaspoon | soda
1 cup | buttermilk
1 teaspoon | cinnamon
1 teaspoon | ground cloves
1 teaspoon | allspice
1 teaspoon | nutmeg
1 cup | mashed prunes, cooked
1 cup | pecans, chopped
2 cups | flour
1 teaspoon | baking power
for the icing:
2 tablespoons | butter (my Grandmother insisted on “Falfurrias” brand butter)
1 cup | sugar
2 | cage free eggs
½ cup | sour cream
1 cup | chopped prunes
1 cup | more chopped pecans
1 teaspoon | vanilla
a pinch | salt
iii. What to do
1. In a medium bowl beat the eggs and add the sugar. Beat everything together.
2. In a measuring cup add the soda into the buttermilk, making sure to leave plenty of room as the soda will cause carbon dioxide bubbles to form, so use a larger measuring cup to prevent a “blowout,” (shown).
3. Add the salad oil, the buttermilk mixture and the the rest of the cake ingredients and mix well.
4. Bake everything in your choice of a greased 9″ x 13″ cake pan or three greased 8-inch cake pans at 350°F for about 25 minutes. When done remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a cooling rack, if you have one.
5. After the cake has cooled a bit you can jumpstart your icing! Cream the butter and sugar and add the eggs. Mix with the remaining icing ingredients, transfer into a medium pan and cook over medium-low or medium heat until thick. Spread on cooled cake.
Serves: About 20 (sheet cake style)
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
Who is Lela?
When I was growing up Lela Swinny lived at 3006 Northridge in San Antonio just 2 doors around the corner from my family’s home at 2927 Trailend.
The Swinny family was a delightful bunch of folks and my family spent almost as much time at their house as our own so naturally “fooding” was a part of the times our two families shared.
Mom’s dear friend “Lela” taught me many things ~ the joy of laughing, how to swim in their awesome pool, and how to cook a memorable breakfast treat called “Egg In A Nest,” which is also posted here at Betty’s Cook Nook.
True family fact: Back in the 1970s Lela was throwing out an old desk that caught my Mom’s eye. A coat of red paint later and it was a cornerstone in my brother Tim’s red white and blue bedroom (it was around the time of our Country’s Bicentennial celebration so red white and blue was hot). In the 1990s I painted the desk black and it’s the desk where I author this blog to this day, proving that Lela is still with us, heart and soul!
You’ll find a picture of Lela and me in the “old family photos” tab and you can search for her by name to connect with more of her spirited recipes.
Cheers to two great friends – Mom and Lela!
Ahhhh… the holiday smells!
There’s no doubt that my Mom “Betty” loved cloves.
She cooked with cloves and even decorated with them. At the holidays Mom would make orange-clove pomander balls and you guessed it – clove gum was a special treat beyond the usual mint flavored gums.
There’s no better time of year to enjoy the aroma of all that is spice and nice than at holidaytime.
This Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe comes to us from my Cousin Julie’s kitchen. Julie has contributed several recipes to this blog and her cooking advice has helped bridge the gaps in my much younger memory since the loss of my Mom back in the 1980s. Losing Cousin Julie in October (mere weeks ago) has left a huge void in my heart that’s only filled with the love and bountiful memories she gifted those who knew her.
This holiday season I dedicate all of it to Julie’s loving memory! And as you’d expect making this Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe could be no finer way to fill my home with a memorable great scent of the holidays.
I hope you enjoy this recipe – it’s so easy to make and enjoy! And you can gift the ingredients to friends and family as an easy way for them to brighten and heighten their holiday season!
3 sticks | cinnamon
¼ cup | whole cloves
3 | bay leaves
½ | orange, halved
½ | lemon, halved
1 quart (4 cups) | water
ii. what to do
It doesn’t get any easier than this, folks!
1. Put everything in a medium-sized pot over low heat.
2. Bring things to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Check the water level periodically to ensure it hasn’t all evaporated. You can tilt a pot lid on top to help release the fragrant mist while helping retain the water.
Enjoy and Happiest Holidays from Betty’s Cook Nook!
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
In the tradition of many of my posts here at Betty’s Cook Nook let’s take a stroll into the past and enjoy some vintage images of gum advertising! I focus on clove gum, since it was one of Mom’s favorites and clove is a key ingredient in this Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe.
Click the circles to view the entire ad:
“Artichoke!” “Artichoke, who?”
“Arti chokes when he eats too fast!”
This was one of my most favorite childhood jokes. While many friends say I have a good sense of humor, my biggest deficit is I can count on one hand the funny jokes I can remember. Go figure!
When I think of Mom, I think of her special white artichoke plates; these made frequent appearances for our great gatherings in the 1970s. I don’t think I’ve had an artichoke since then but was happy to be reunited with their taste as an adult – the artichoke reminds me of the great taste of an avocado – just with a different texture/composition.
Foodie Tips ~
♥ My Grandmother “Nanny” absolutely loved Falfurrias brand butter. If you want to make your taste buds happy, buy it!
♥ I’m a big fan of warm butter. I don’t have any butter warmers but will be looking to get some soon!
1 or more | fresh artichokes
1-2 | cloves (optional)
1 | lemon slice (optional)
1-2 | bay leaves (optional)
¼ cup | falfurrias brand butter
1-2 teaspoons | lawry’s brand seasoned salt
ii. what to do
1. Wash the artichoke well and drain. Prepare the artichoke by cutting and discarding about ¾” – 1″ of the artichoke top as well as part of the stem. Some folks like to eat the stem but you can remove all of it if you have no plans on eating it.
2. If you want a “restaurant style” presentation, you can cut and remove the tops of the leaves as shown; this is typically done to remove the thorned tips of the leaves. Rub the top and bottom of the artichoke with lemon to help prevent discoloration.
3. You can boil, microwave or steam your artichoke. Mom always steamed her artichokes so this is how we’ll detail them here in this post. To do so, insert a steaming basket into a pot and fill with water (fill to just underneath the bottom of the basket). You can add a couple of cloves, a slice of lemon and a bay leaf to season the water.
4. Place the artichoke on top of the steaming basket, cover the pot with a lid and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the artichoke for 25-45 minutes – until the leaves are soft and they can be removed.
5. Just before the artichoke is done prepare the sauce by melting the butter and mixing some Lawry’s seasoned salt into it.
6. Remove the artichoke from the pan and place on a serving dish similar to the white one shown – below not the soup bowl I used (sorry, I don’t have the proper plates)! Remove a leaf, dip the bottom/root end into the sauce and place it in your mouth, dip side down, and pull the leaf through your teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal.
7. Dip, pull, repeat until all leaves are gone! You can enjoy the artichoke heart by scraping out and discarding the inedible fuzzy part (called the “choke”) covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut it into pieces and dip into sauce to eat.
One of my earliest cooking tips hailed from a floury, flat, flying disc-like object; the tortilla.
Cooked in soup, tortillas were the fast and economical way to plump up chicken and dumpling soup, rather than making dumplings by hand. This cooking tip was shared with mom by our family friend and housekeeper Miss “Essie.”
I don’t remember a day when Essie wasn’t smiling. She was rich with a happiness that money cannot buy and she was a hard-working lady who helped our family for many years. She helped Mom pick-up and organize the house as Mom was more than busy raising three boisterous boys (I was the angel son, of course) and working as an independent contractor; a court reporter.
When the temperatures start to drop, I search for loose clothing, as I know chicken and dumpling season is among us. There’s no better comfort food than the warm, silky, doughy greatness of this belly pleaser.
I’m tucking this recipe here in Mom’s digital cookbook as it’s one of my favorites and certainly a dish I would make for Mom, Dad and you. Over the years, I’ve adapted this recipe and often include rosemary, one of my favorite homegrown herbs.
Let’s Get Cookin’
i. soup ingredients
1-2 pounds | boneless chicken breast, cubed.
2-3 medium | white onions (1 onion will be pierced with cloves, 1-2 onions will be chopped)
splash | olive oil for sautéing (or some chunks of butter, if you’d like)
8 | whole cloves
3-4 medium | carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 sprigs | parsley on stem (or cilantro, if you prefer)
1 teaspoon | salt
2-4 sprigs | rosemary (not chopped, just for flavor)
½ teaspoon | freshly ground black pepper
2 | celery ribs, chopped
4 cups | water (or chicken broth, if you want to pump up the jam)
1 cup | whole milk
ii. dumpling ingredients
1 cups + 3 tablespoons | sifted flour
1 + ½ teaspoons | baking power
dash | salt (and some pepper, if you’d like)
2 tablespoons | shortening, chilled
½ cup | milk for dumplings plus ¼ cup milk for a “slurry”
2 – 4 sprigs (~ 4” each) | chopped rosemary
iii. foodie tips
❤ Add more pepper if you have a cold. Trust me.
❤ You can add more herbs if you like. Bay leaves, cilantro or thyme are all good. You can place the herbs in a cheese cloth and tie-off the ends so you don’t have to “fish” the herbs and stems out of the soup. You can also season the dumplings with some fresh cracked pepper or chopped rosemary or thyme.
❤ Need more fillin’? I’ve tried this by adding a couple of cans of yellow corn and chopped green chilies. My taste buds and tummy “high fived” each other.
❤ If you haven’t already read here on Betty’s Cook Nook, when I say butter, “Falfurrias Butter” is implied. Thank you to my Grandmother, Nanny!
❤ To form the dumplings I prepare them all ahead of time so they cook for a consistent amount of time. To yield about 40 dumplings I use a teaspoon to help cut the dough into similarly-sized dumplings. Hand roll them tight and use flour on your hands if you find the dough becomes sticky.
iv. what to do
1. Make Soup: In a large pot, sauté the chicken with 1 or 2 of the chunk-chopped onions and oil (or butter). Gently place into the pot the onion that’s pierced with cloves then add the carrots, celery, parsley (or cilantro), salt, rosemary, pepper, 1 cup of the milk, and 4 cups water (or chicken broth). Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring occasionally (between glasses of wine, of course). Reduce to low and simmer covered for one hour. Simmering will give you ample time to drink more wine and make the dumplings! [ side comment: Please realize step 1 is really 14 steps rolled into 1 but nobody will make soup that requires a lot of steps.]
2. Make Dough: I usually jumpstart my dumplings 25-30 minutes before the soup is done with its hour-long simmer. Sift 1 cup of the flour, the baking powder and salt (and pepper, if you choose) together in a medium-sized mixing bowl (I use my KitchenAid). Cut in chilled shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ½ cup milk all at once, any seasonings (pepper, rosemary or thyme) and mix until dough holds together.
3. Make Dumplings: Form your dumplings per the cooking tip above. When they’re all ready remove the onion pierced with clove, parsley (or cilantro) and rosemary from the soup and discard. With a slotted spoon, remove the chunky items (chicken, carrots, celery) from the soup and place them in a bowl to rest/set aside. It’s OK to leave some of the chopped onion in the pot as it’s hard to fish out! Bring the remaining soup to a simmer and drop the dumplings on top of the liquid. Simmer the soup uncovered for 10 minutes; then cover and simmer 10 more minutes.
4. Make Slurry & Prepare To Dismount: Stir the remaining 3 tablespoons flour into the remaining ¼ cup milk until smooth. You just made “slurry!” Stir the slurry into the soup and bring things to a boil. Stir until thickened. Return the chunky items from the bowl to the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley (or cilantro or rosemary).
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
I still remember the “clang-clink-clang” made by the stainless teaspoon as I scooped the tea mix from the Kiker household staple – the Lipton tea jar. I’d drop a couple of spoonfuls into mom’s plastic strawberry iced tea glasses, add tap water, stir, then fill with some ice cubes. Mom would add a sliced lemon if we were going gourmet all the way, like for the Thanksgiving feast.
While we’re on the topic of ice cubes, one of my childhood chores (yes, Laura Ingalls wasn’t the only one with them), was to keep the ice cube trays full. Why? Well, modern conveniences like automatic ice makers didn’t exist in most homes so I had to make ice the old-fashioned way. Magic!
Tea. Simple and refreshing. Let’s “jooj” it up a bit with Mom’s recipe for Russian Tea.
Два чая, пожалуйста
(two teas, please)
1 cup | instant tea powder (unflavored)
2 cups | orange instant breakfast drink
3 ounces | imitation lemonade mix
1½ cups | sugar
½ teaspoon | ground cloves
½ teaspoon | ground cinnamon
ii. what to do
1. Mix all of dry ingredients together. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar.
2. When ready to serve, add 2 slightly rounded teaspoonfuls of the drink mix into your cup of choice.
3. Add boiling water.
Makes: 1 quart
Foodie Tips ~
♥ The dry mix makes a great gift ~ especially during the chilly holidays! Place the powdery mixture into a glass jar, wrap with ribbon and gift away.
♥ This tea is also good served over ice.
♥ Who doesn’t like sliced lemon with their tea?
♥ Make sure and check out the recipes below; the bottom two were donated by my super-cousin Alison-Sutton-Bergin. All I can say is… “Gig That!” The recipes are slightly different from mom’s and that’s inspiration to try something new. The top “spiced tea” recipe is from Debbie (Alison’s mom)… and the bottom recipe “instant russian tea” is penned by Alison’s dad, Bill(y).
I was really excited when I found this candy apple recipe in Mom’s cookbook.
After making my first batch, I was less than excited (more de–fla–ted) when I realized that I’ll need a little more practice before I become a master of the red apple makin‘.
While my failed attempt at creating the ultimate delight on a stick, give this a whirl and see if you can make a go if it.
Treats for eats rule!
12 | small red eating apples
3 cups | sugar
¾ cup | light corn syrup
1 cup | water
few drops | oil of cloves
a few drops | red food coloring or 12 red cinnamon candies
ii. the *special stuff*
iii. what to do
1. Wash apples in hot water, removing stems, then dry.
2. Insert skewer into the blossom end of each apple (the side of the apple opposite the stem side… a.k.a. the top).
3. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, mix sugar, corn syrup and 1 cup of water. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
4. Add the oil of clove and a little red food coloring.
5. Continue cooking without stirring until a small amount of the mixture forms a hard piece that cracks when dropped into cold water (when it reaches 290°F on a candy thermometer). Don’t cook over 290°F!
7. Stand apples on a parchment covered tray to cool and harden.
Foodie Tips ~
♥ Scare-up the best of Halloween foodie fusion ~ Drizzle or dip melted caramel on top of the apples for a doubly-delicious creation. Did somebody say caramel?
♥ Not sure how to clean your pot of the red sugary mixture? Don’t do what I did and leave it sitting out overnight; it’ll harden into a brick. Re-melt the mixture if necessary on the stove and empty it into a plastic bag and discard. Don’t pour it down the sink unless you want to invite clogs into your home.
♥ Go fresh. Use fresh eating apples and eat them soon after making them. I made the mistake of buying my apples before I had found my oil of clove, popsicle sticks and my new candy thermometer. A week later, the apples were s-a-d, making my finished treat a little meek.
♥ Don’t substitute your candy thermometer with a meat thermometer! The candy thermometer registers and calculates much higher temperatures than it’s meatier kissin’ cousin.
♥ I have a new appreciation for the love of candy apples. I’ll think twice about making vs. buying them next time! Truly a labor of love.