Spiced Prune Cake with Lemon-Buttermilk Frosting

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Prune Cake

This Spiced Prune Cake is a revelation of dried fruit, spice, and citrus-kissed buttermilk frosting. Our recipe makes the most of the intense flavor of California Prunes, the high-quality ingredient that imparts natural sweetness and tender moisture to baked goods. Complemented with aromatic cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, each cake layer is studded with jewel-like chopped prunes. As the final holiday coup-de-grâce, the cake is frosted with a generous coat of zesty Lemon-Buttermilk Frosting. It’s a recipe that proves that California Prunes are a must-have for the home baker’s pantry. 

The California Prune industry was born in the 19th century and has grown into a symbol of excellence. First, imagine plum trees, filled with jewels of deep purple fruits, basking in the warm, steady sun of California’s lush valleys. Then picture that each tree is hand-tended with the utmost care, ensuring the highest standards of quality. The perfectly ripened fruit is harvested and dried in climate-controlled tunnels, a process that balances temperature, humidity, and time to create the finest product. It is this combination of environment, care, and the art of processing that brings you the California Prune—a choice baking ingredient.

Learn more about California Prunes online at californiaprunes.org and pick them up in your local grocery store in various forms including whole prunes, pitted prunes, diced prunes, and prune juice.

Spiced Prune Cake with Lemon-Buttermilk Frosting
Make 1 (9-inch) cake
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) roughly chopped California Prunes (about 1¼ cups lightly packed)
  • 1¼ cups (300 grams) boiling water
  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2½ cups (500 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs (200 grams), room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (13 grams) vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (500 grams) plus 1 tablespoon (8 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1¼ teaspoons (3.75 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground cloves
  • 1 cup (240 grams) whole buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 cup (176 grams) chopped California Prunes
  • Lemon-Buttermilk Frosting (recipe follows)
  • Garnish: gold sprinkles
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with baking spray with flour. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium heatproof bowl, place roughly chopped prunes in an even layer; add 1¼ cups (300 grams) boiling water (prunes should be just submerged), and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse prune mixture until very coarsely puréed. (You should have about 2 cups [about 503 grams] purée.)
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups (500 grams) flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. In a medium bowl, whisk together prune purée and buttermilk. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with prune mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until combined after each addition.
  6. In a medium bowl, toss together chopped prunes and remaining 1 tablespoon (8 grams) flour; fold prune mixture into batter. Divide batter between prepared pans (about 1,156 grams each). Tap pans on a kitchen towel-lined counter several times to settle batter and release any air bubbles.
  7. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating pans after 30 minutes of baking and loosely covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. Level cooled cake layers; discard parchment. Place a cake layer, cut side up, on a serving plate. Spoon 2 cups (about 425 grams) Lemon-Buttermilk Frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round piping tip (Wilton No. 1A). Pipe frosting evenly over layer; smooth with a small offset spatula. Place remaining cake layer, cut side down, on frosting. Spoon 2 cups (about 425 grams) frosting into pastry bag. Pipe evenly on top of cake; using a small offset spatula, smooth into an even layer. Spoon remaining frosting into pastry bag. Pipe all over sides of cake; holding a bench scraper or a large offset spatula flush against sides of cake, scrape off excess frosting until sides are smooth and layers are somewhat exposed. Smooth and swirl top as desired. Using a bench scraper or a large offset spatula held flush against cake layers, scrape frosting one more time to give sides a smooth, finished look. Garnish with gold sprinkles, if desired.

Lemon-Buttermilk Frosting
Makes about 7 cups
  • 2 cups (454 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons (4 grams) packed lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 (2-pound) package (907 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup (120 grams) whole buttermilk
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, lemon zest, and salt at medium speed until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. With mixer on low speed, gradually add confectioners’ sugar alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with confectioners’ sugar, beating just until combined after each addition. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Reduce mixer speed to low; beat for 1 minute to release some air bubbles. Use immediately.


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