Today’s Chocolate Prune Semolina Cake is a completely new recipe built on the bones of nostalgia. Spiked with coconut and lined with slices of Italian prune plums, it is the perfect companion to a cup of tea or, in my case, a glass of Averna on ice. I like it’s quite sophistication, it’s adult flavors and it’s unabashed alliance with the much maligned prune. But while it plays to a distinctly grown up crowd, the Chocolate Prune Semolina Cake was actually inspired by a cake my grandmother used to make when I was quite small. A cake I’ve struggled to recreate for the past ten years.
When I was a little girl, a cake deceived me. It was my absolute favourite cake in all the world. A rich chocolate number that I thought would never hurt me. I was told it was a flourless chocolate cake, but apparently there was more to this cake than it’s oh-so fudgy taste and texture revealed. The truth was my beloved cake was riddled with prunes. As betrayals go, “prune gate” was a difficult one to stomach. And what made it worse, was this information was never surrendered to me. I had to figure it out myself.
One day I found a jar of prune baby food in my grandmother’s cupboard. I was the youngest of the entire family and well past the point of needing baby food, so I was perplexed. I asked my grandmother who the baby food was for and she told me (with a hint of glee, I might add) that the baby food was for the chocolate cake I loved so dear. I felt so betrayed. Prunes?! Prunes are the butt of every food joke. Comedy’s low hanging fruit, if you will. But when I confronted the cake that very evening I had not one but two slices. I wanted to be disgusted by it, but that cake was just too damn charming.
Unfortunately, the recipe for the prune-ridden chocolate cake my grandmother used to make is lost to the ages. I have made a few cakes that came close to it, but none of them were completely right. And when I reach this point of consistently failing to replicate a recipe, I usually decide to let it go. It’s too painful to eat something close but not quite there when there is so much nostalgia surrounding it. But this failure is the precise reason this Chocolate Prune Semolina Cake exists. It plays with the flavors of the cake from my childhood but never presumes to be it. It’s something completely new but with a hint of familiarity. The cake may not hold old memories but new ones can built around it.
Dense, rich and upfront about it’s association with prunes, this Chocolate Prune Semolina Cake demonstrates the kind of sweet honesty that the world so desperately needs… Or something like that. Mostly it’s just delicious and, really, what more could you ask of a cake?
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup semolina flour
- 1/2 all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup espresso, cooled
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 4-5 fresh Italian prune plums, pitted and thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Place softened butter, sugar and coconut in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the sugar and coconut into the butter until smooth.
- Place the semolina flour, all purpose flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together until well blended.
- Set the mixer to a low speed and gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter, coconut and sugar mixture. Mix until the ingredients resemble a coarse meal.
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk together eggs, egg yolk, espresso and extract. With the mixer still running, gradually add in the egg mixture. Mix until a smooth batter forms, then add in the chooped dark chocolate.
- Pour the finished cake batter into a greased 9-inch cake pan. Top the batter with the prune slices and place in the oven.
- Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly.
- Allow the cake to cool to room temperature. Serve the cake with a dusting of icing sugar and a glass of Averna on ice if desired.