Cookbook Confessions: Prune Cake

The prune cake is topped with a home-made icing and cinnamon roasted pecans. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

By Sarah Jennings

This week, I am working with a recipe provided by the wise and somewhat vague instructions of a Mrs. Jack Scott, a member of the 1948-1949 Killeen High School Parent Teacher Association. Chosen purely out of appreciation for brilliant alliteration, the Kangaroo Kook Book surprised me with fascinating recipes like Green Limas in Squash Nests and Harvard Beets.

The recipe from Kangaroo Kook Book doesn't include a temperature or time for which to set the cake. Jennings set the oven to 350 degrees. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

It’s funny how a city even as provincial as Killeen—a city south of Waco by an hour’s drive—can provide foreign tastes. We likely can credit the 1942 founding of the nearby Fort Hood and the subsequent immigration of soldiers and their families from all over the U.S. for this strange collection of foods.

Today’s adventure began with another embarrassing checkout at H-E-B. Prunes are apparently great for constipation, or so says one snarky cashier.

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Prunes simmering on the stove. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

First things first, I tried cooking the prunes by boiling them on the stove for 20 minutes. This was a total guess, and it only occurred to me after I poured the whole bag into the pot that perhaps boiling would ruin the whole batch. Nevertheless, the prunes cooked perfectly, despite looking disgusting and wrinkly. They tasted amazing.

The cooked prunes before they were added to the batter. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

I am unfailingly lucky when I cook. Not only did I put the sugar into the dry mix instead of the shortening, but I completely skipped the step about dissolving the sour cream and soda in water. I still have no idea what that means. Write me an email if you know.

The cake and the pecans in the oven, side by side. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

Mrs. Jack Scott did not record temperature, cooking time or pan size for the prune cake. I chose a Bundt pan and preheated the oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not sure how long it cooked, but I estimate 20 minutes. Timers are for amateurs. Insert hair flip.

At a whim — brought on from reading the spiced nuts recipe off the back of the allspice jar — I roasted pecans for decoration. I beat one egg’s whites until frothy and added nuts, sugar, cinnamon and allspice. While the pecans roasted next to the cake, I created icing from powdered sugar and milk. The trick is to add the slightest bit of milk to a bowl and then whisk powdered sugar into it until it stops absorbing. This makes an icing rather like the kind on cinnamon rolls.

Overall, the cake was a success. My roommate even said it reminded her of the pumpkin bread I made earlier in the week.

Cookbook Confessions is teaching me that what we praise as good is sometimes only an arbitrary preference of our culture. For example, in an alternate universe, pumpkins might be revolting. People might believe they are useless vegetables or impossible to cook. Yet somehow, putting pumpkin in lattes became basic. I apologize in advance for this heresy, but pumpkins are just cumbersome, orange squashes. Who decided pumpkins are normal and prunes are weird?

These foods not often touched, like prunes and pig’s feet, were the key ingredients to dishes every bit as delicious as those trendy pins on my Pinterest board.

I’m learning that I have to stop deciding what’s edible based on what I’ve always seen on the menu.

For me, this was also a lesson on life. We live in a wonderfully diverse and unexplored world. There are sturdy trees in Cameron Park no one has climbed, there are people who have yet to open up their soul to you, and there is a God so great and mysterious we can spend all of eternity getting to know him. Knowing this, we have to stop limiting ourselves to certain people, things or activities simply because they’re not what we’re expected to like.

Fall in love with something out of the ordinary this week. Cook something you were never told to like.

PSA: Please use your common sense. Not all mushrooms are created equal.