It´s a fact that anything candied and dried makes an appearance when Christmas gets close. Though we´re starting a bit early with these holiday posts, this cake is really good year round. Like most so-called holiday treats, they are perfect for many other occasions.
This is the third Thursday of 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, the group Brenda put together, where we bring you a wonderful idea for a sweet something every week. So far I made some incredibly toasty, melt-in-your-mouth almond butter balls and what I´ve come to think as the most addictive brown butter shortbread I ever had.
Why are candied and dried fruits festive? Is it the shadowy color, the sugary coating? Is ginger a fruit really? Or a spice? Here it´s paired with prunes, chocolate and almonds. A combination that had me intrigued at first. I´m realizing that chocolate is extremely versatile when it comes to making friends. He can be paired with so many other ingredients. The obvious nuts and caramel, or coffee or berries. But then there are surprises like this chocolate pepper loaf, an apple crisp with a chocolate buckwheat topping, or a fudge sauce on top of olive oil ice cream to name a few; all delectable flavor surprises.
Our end of the year celebrations happen during summer, so the food tends to be a bit lighter than our northern hemisphere counterparts. The days are long, hot and being outside is as much part of the festivities as eating. But after the meal, tables are cleared so desserts and sweets can take up every inch of empty tablecloth surface. Ice cream is probably the number one choice, but the extras are just as part of this ending. And I mean the pannettone, nougat, caramel coated peanuts and dried fruits and nuts.
This cake combines all of that with the addition of chocolate that most are undeniably waiting to appear. Not only in the cake but also in a satiny sauce with honey, which adds yet another layer of flavor. It can be baked in a round pan and cut into wedges or make it in a rectangular shape and cut it into little bites. Decorate it with tiny bits of edible gold or golden stars for a perfect christmas treat. Either way it´s moist and spicy, with a hint of an adult feeling to it. Perfect with a cup of black coffee or some spiced tea.
GINGER CHOCOLATE PRUNE CAKE
from Chocolate Cake, by Michele Urvater
1 cup packed prunes
1/3 cup cognac or brandy
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
3 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
6oz (170g) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ cup toasted, ground almonds
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
½ cup chocolate chunks
3 Tbs cream
1 Tbs honey
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a 10-inch round springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper or foil.
In a small bowl mix prunes and cognac. Let stand for 2 hours. Process the prunes, cognac and 1/3 cup water until pureed.
Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt and ginger and reserve.
With an electric mixer beat eggs and sugar until doubled and light colored. With a spatula fold the prune puree into the eggs, then the chocolate, almonds, ginger and dry ingredients.
Put into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the cake is dry on top and a tester comes out clean. Don´t overbake.
Cool on wire rack and invert onto serving plate. Pour chocolate sauce on top and decorate with some ground almonds and candied ginger if desired.
For the chocolate sauce: Put chocolate, cream and honey in a metal or glass bowl set over simmering water. Stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool until desirable consistency.