Fall has always been my favorite time of year. I quickly get tired of the hot days of summer and start looking forward to the mild days and crisp nights of September by midsummer. When I left on my vacation the first of September the temperature was in the 90’s and my poor yard was the color of a paper bag…dried out and brown. But when I came home last weekend the temps had dropped down where they should be, the grass was greening up and I could leave the windows open a crack at night. Much better. I grew up on a farm and my favorite fruits and veggies all appeared in the fall. My grandparents lived in a cottage close to the big farmhouse where I lived and every day after school I made a beeline for her kitchen to see what was in the oven or simmering on the top of the stove.
Closest to the house were an ancient enormous Gravenstein apple tree, flanked by two Italian prune trees, a fig tree and several hazelnut trees (filberts to us Oregonians). My grandmother (I called her by her name “Alice”, not “grandma” for some reason I don’t know) was always canning something or another and had at least two desserts cooling on her kitchen counter. There were lots of us back then and baking was a daily thing. I loved her prune kuchen and when I found one cooling on a rack I couldn’t wait for her to cut into it. When I was making this kuchen this morning and I smelled it baking I could close my eyes and see us in her kitchen peeling apples, cracking nuts (I sat on the floor with a hammer and a board and cracked bags of nuts for her holiday baking) and I would give almost ANYTHING to experience that again just for a few minutes. Isn’t it funny how the littlest things can become our most treasured memories? And the sense of smell can be the most powerful retriever of those memories. So…here is my fall prune dessert that brings my grandma back to life in my mind.
The batter for this kuchen is heavy…a cross between cake and shortcake and it’s easy to put together. Just don’t overmix the dough. It’s like biscuits and will become tough if you do. I used an 8-inch springform pan, but if you like a thinner cake with more topping use a 9-inch pan. I had my camera right on the counter ready to take a photo of the cake with the toppings so you could see how I arranged the fruit, but I’m still suffering from jet lag and forgot that step. I cut some prunes in half and some in quarters and started placing them on the dough in circles starting from the outside. Overlap the fruit if you like lots of it ( I could easily have added another half dozen prunes). There is no hard and fast rule…whatever you like will work. Top the fruit with the streusel mixture and bake the cake for 25 minutes. Then pour the custard over the hot cake and return to the oven for another 12-15 minutes. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, remove from springform pan, and serve. If you refrigerate the kuchen give it about 10 seconds in the microwave to soften the butter in the cake and slightly warm the fruit.
So there you have it… my grandma’s prune kuchen. If you want to indulge and enjoy prune kuchen the German way have it “Mit Schlag“, with a big scoop of whipped cream.
- 1-1/2 lb Italian prunes (8-10 medium size)
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon King Arthur Flour's cake enhancer (optional)
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter,
- 1 extra-large egg yolk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 rounded tablespoon brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch springform pan.
- Sift the flour with the baking powder and cake enhancer, salt and sugar into a medium bowl.
- In a small bowl beat the eggs, milk and vanilla. Dribble this mixture over the flour, then stir in the melted butter. Mix only until the ingredients are combined. Spread the batter in the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Arrange the prune slices on top of the batter. Place the prunes in circles, overlapping the fruit, starting at the outside and working toward the center of the dough.
- Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Using a pastry cutter blend butter into the dry ingredients until it is the size of small peas. Sprinkle the topping on the batter topped fruit. Bake the kuchen for 25 minutes.
- Thoroughly mix the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the glaze over the kuchen and bake until the top has set, 10-15 minutes more.
- Cool the kuchen in the pan for 15 minutes. Release the springform and cut the kuchen into slices. Top with sweetened whipped cream if desired.