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In the past, I’ve often felt a bit defensive about this cake, even though it’s a family classic. Pumpkin and prune cake sounded a bit like some sort of joke – an earnestly, ostentatiously, healthy-for-the-sake-of-it, prune-laden joke. Maybe I was just a bit sensitive 😉 I know I’ve always loved prunes, long before I realised they were supposed to be good for you, and will happily eat them plain, as well as in porridge or with yoghurt, so I never quite got why they were such a punchline.

Fast forward 30 years, and now of course, vegetables and dried fruit in cakes are absolutely standard, and what I probably need to be defensive about is the large quantities of butter and sugar 😉 Because while it does have a lot of pumpkin, and a lot of prunes, at heart it’s a butter cake, flavoured with orange (both juice and zest) and made beautifully moist and rich by the mashed pumpkin and prunes.

The recipe is quite flexible, so if you’re working with left over mashed pumpkin, it will work with anything from 150g to 240g (and probably more, that’s just the range I’ve tested).  If you’re not such a prune fan, you could also use dates or raisins (I’d reduce the sugar a bit if using dates), and you could also cut out the orange juice and zest and use apple juice and some spices – this would be particularly nice with raisins.

For cooking the pumpkin, steaming is probably the quickest, but if I have the oven on, I pop in an unpeeled halved pumpkin and then scoop out the flesh and mash (like this without the seasoning and oil). If you do this you’ll have enough to freeze some or make pumpkin scones too. If just cooking some for this cake, to get 200g baked, you’ll need to start with about 1/4 of a medium butternut pumpkin, and a bit less if you’re steaming it.

Pumpkin prune cake

  • 200g butter
  • 180-200g caster sugar (depending on the sweetness of the pumpkin)
  • zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 3 eggs
  • 60ml orange juice
  • 200g (~1 cup) steamed or baked mashed pumpkin
  • 160g (1 cup) chopped prunes
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 125ml milk

Preheat oven to 180C and line a 22-24cm springform tin with baking paper. You can also bake in a 24cm bundt tin as above. Stir the juice and pumpkin together. Cream butter, sugar and zest until soft, then beat in eggs one at a time. Add a spoonful of the flour if the mixture looks curdled. Mix in pumpkin and milk alternately with the flour (1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 the pumpkin and milk, 1/3 flour etc). Fold in the prunes. Spoon the batter into the tin, level the top, and bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave in tin for five minutes before turning onto a rack to cool.

Serves 12, and lasts for several days at room temperature.