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Orange & prune chocolate cakes

September 22, 2011

Poor prunes – they really don’t have a good rep, do they? Any time I actually eat one though the packet doesn’t last long. This prune and chocolate pudding has therefore been a long time coming – when I first got myself a copy of Julie Le Clerc’s Made by Hand my foodie friend Sarah pointed it out, and she’s one of my friends who I definitely trust when it comes to food shenanigans. EDIT: So it turns out there are actually quite a few prune lovers out there! If you’re in Christchurch check out Becs (of Lovely Wee Days) who makes wonderful Posh Porridge at the Christchurch Farmers’ Market. I had mine with Nigella’s prunes with pistachio crumble, honey and yogurt. Must be early though!

The first time I made these, minus any orange, I was pleasantly surprised (for a chocolate cake with no oil or butter) but something was lacking. It wasn’t the fat though – these are really nice and fudgey and moist. So, given my obsession with oranges…well, you get the idea. Oranges are plentiful and cheap at the moment, and they also happen to heighten this to what seems like the impossible: a refreshing chocolate dessert. These are very jaffa-like, so if you’ve humoured me by reading this far and hate prunes, just ignore them and focus on the all-natural but delicious jaffa flavour of these cute little delights. The prunes merely play the role of keeping the texture nice, thus reducing the need for oil or butter. They also add a really nice and subtle fruitiness that prevents these from being cloying whilst still letting the chocolate run the show. EDIT: Will, who dislikes most orange desserts and hates prunes, specifically commented how he liked these. Yay! He looked a little less happy when I told him it had prunes in though.

I’ve snapped these with Julie’s chocolate maple ganache (which was the version sans orange), but mine refused to form a ganache consistency – it looks really coarse but I promise it’s almost as smooth as any ganache made with cream. I didn’t actually use anything on the orange version, and I don’t think it’s all that necessary to be honest, although I wouldn’t say no to vanilla ice cream on the side.

One other thing that was different between the first attempt and second with orange: I simmered the prunes for less time, making for a thinner batter and a flatter top (which is how it’s meant to be). This didn’t look as pretty but I much preferred the texture (obviously a bit moister), so I’ve reflected that in the recipe below. However if you want your tops to be nice and round, reduce the prune syrup so the prunes don’t swim around in anything, they’re just coated slightly by syrupy water. Yep. Really talking this one up huh? I should clearly be promoted to head food writer at some prestigious foodie mag :P

Orange and prune chocolate cakes

adapted from Julie Le Clerc’s Made by Hand

makes 4 small cakes (in 1/2c capacity ramekins), but this obviously depends on your ramekin size. Recipe is easily doubled (I halved it).

  • 50g pitted prunes, finely chopped (really fine if you’re not a huge prune fan, roughly chopped if you want discernible prune chunks)
  • 125ml/g water/orange juice mix – use freshly squeezed juice of one orange, and top up with water. I got about 80ml from one large orange.
  • zest of one orange (EDIT: 1/2 an orange is probably sufficient actually)
  • 50g dark eating chocolate (I used Whittaker’s 60%)*, chopped
  • 2Tbs water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4c tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/8c cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4c flour**
*Since this recipe also uses cocoa, the cakes were fairly dark, so you’re totally welcome to use 50% dark chocolate)
**I used half white, half purple wheat, but you can use all white or stoneground wholemeal or a mix

Preheat oven to 180C, with a rack centred.

Heat prunes and orange juice/water mix on medium heat to soften the prunes and reduce the liquid until it’s thickened but the prunes still have some room to swim around.

Meanwhile, beat the egg, sugar and vanilla on high speed until frothy – first it’ll go darkish, and then paler. Stop once it’s a bit paler.

Now the prunes should be ready. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate and cold water until incorporated. Fold the egg mixture and the chocolate prune mixture together until half combined (doesn’t matter if it’s in the pan or bowl). Sift over dry ingredients (you really must sift here or you’ll get clumps of dry bits) and fold through until just incorporated. The mixture should still look a little bubbly and will have some lumps in because of the prunes, but as long as there are no dry pockets you’re good to go.

Bake about 15 minutes, checking at the 10 minute mark if your oven runs hot. Stick a skewer in and if it comes out mostly clean, take out and cool on a rack.

Serve on its own, topped with maple ganache (50g dark chocolate melted with 2Tbs maple syrup), regular ganache (equal parts choc & cream melted together), thick creamy yogurt, double cream, creme anglaise, or beside a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

This is my contribution to Sweet NZ, this month hosted by Allison of Pease Pudding, another food blog based in Auckland. Allison is awesome, but you’ll see that pretty clearly when you visit her blog :D

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2011 11:27 pm

    Mmmmh, this looks so yummy! and the photos are beautiful!


  2. September 22, 2011 11:28 pm

    great entry for Sweet New Zealand :-)

  3. September 23, 2011 2:09 am

    Those look so rich. Poor prunes, they really do have a bad rep.

  4. September 23, 2011 1:43 pm

    These look gorgeous, Zo! I’m totally happy eating prunes with chocolate. :-)

  5. September 23, 2011 1:48 pm

    A: Thanks :) Am trying to experiment with more natural light atm since it’s a bit warmer outside now!

    R: They taste really rich too, which is quite surprising given the list of ingredients :D

    C: Cheers Cindy. I reckon chocolate covered prunes would pleasantly surprise a lot of people! There’s also a vegan version of this cake I found while googling:

  6. peasepudding permalink
    September 23, 2011 2:53 pm

    Sounds and looks fantastic, have to say I am a prune fan so I am certainly not put off and can imagine how they add to the texture and moisture of the cake. I add them to my Christmas cake for that same reason. Great entry for Sweet NZ

  7. September 23, 2011 10:52 pm

    Hi! THanks for commenting on my blog – look forward to following you too! Places I recommend in Brisbane – Citron at Wilston, Sake in the city (although service can be a bit hit and miss), Era in West End, Sanitarium Kitchen in the city (for lunch – vegetarian), E’cco Bistro in Fortitude Valley (for a posh meal), Piaf at Southbank (simple French food), Tank in the city, Fifth Element at Southbank (tapas and drinks) – to name a few…sorry I got a bit carried away!

  8. spoonfulofsugarfree permalink
    September 24, 2011 6:19 am

    YUM! This looks amazing! I was wondering what to do with an extra bag of prunes!

  9. September 24, 2011 10:26 am

    I love prunes! This is an amazing use for them. Great recipe.

  10. September 24, 2011 11:57 am

    P: Oh they would be so yummy in a Christmas pudding! Yum, and thanks – looking forward to seeing what else kiwi foodies are cooking up :)

    L: Cheers Leah! It’s good to have a lot of options actually, so thank you for getting carried away!

    S: If you’ve ever tried Nigella’s prunes, they are also great. My friend at Lovely Wee Days sells posh porridge at our local market and they are amazing! Esp with extra honey and her pistachio crumble. Nomnom.

    K: Yay! I’m glad there are lots of prune lovers out there.

  11. September 24, 2011 6:05 pm

    I love that you baked these in little ramekins, what a cute idea. This looks lovely, and count me in the prune-loving camp!

  12. September 24, 2011 11:27 pm

    What a beautiful blog – thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Your culinary work and photography are breathtaking.

  13. September 25, 2011 3:05 pm

    M: Yes I think I’ll be doing it more often now – no need for cupcake liners or greasing, plus a shorter baking time :D Does help having a dishwasher though.

    K: Aww thank you! Your blog is awesome too! Love the look of your quesadillas and your distinction about the oil hehe.

  14. September 26, 2011 8:38 pm

    Orange & prune chocolate sounds great

  15. September 27, 2011 10:36 pm

    I love prunes, especially with chocolate. Love the addition of orange to these as well. Gorgeous photos and love your presentation in individual ramekins.
    Sue xo

  16. September 29, 2011 2:14 am

    Sounds beautiful, love the sound of this combination! I keep a bag of prunes at work. No one who sees them believes I eat them by choice, but I do… :) Love them in tagines too!

  17. September 29, 2011 10:12 am

    Sue: It’s a new combo to me but I really like it :) Thank you, the ramekin idea was Julie Le Clerc’s though, I just followed the lead there!

    M: Sounds so healthy! I’ve got a bag of salt and vinegar chips on my desk at the moment >.< Will try it in tagine next time, that sounds yummy.

  18. October 3, 2011 12:57 pm

    Hi Zo, just stopping by again – hope you will conjure up another one of your sweet creations for this month’s Sweet New Zealand. I am hosting this month and link-up is now open here

  19. Learn Ways to Free Electric Power permalink
    June 21, 2012 2:00 am

    Hi there, I found your site by the use of Google while searching for a comparable topic, your website came up, it seems to be good. I’ve added to my favourites|added to my bookmarks.

  20. August 8, 2012 1:54 pm

    I have an alarming number of packages of dried plums so I will be trying this!


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