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Breton Prune Cake

by Jane Worthington-Roth

In autumn, desserts tend to be denser and richer with flavors that take the chill out of the cooler nights. This recipe for a Prune Cake is in the style of Brittany, loaded with eggs and filled with prunes that have been stewed in Armagnac. It’s a simple, rustic pastry with a delicate diamond pattern etched into the top.

Breton Filling
2 (227 grams/or 8 oz.) packages of Sunsweet Pitted Prunes
1½ tablespoons Armagnac (or Grand Marnier or Calvados)
½ to 1 cup orange juice

Breton Pastry
2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks (save the egg whites for another use)
3 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting your work surface)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Pastry bag with a ½ inch plain nozzle
Parchment paper
Confectioner’s sugar, or whipped cream, for serving

For the filling
Carefully pick through the prunes to make sure there are no pits. Place the prunes in a saucepan, add enough orange juice to just cover the prunes then simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes until the prunes are soft. Mash the prunes, add the Armagnac and stir well to combine. Let the prune paste cool to room temperature.

Make the pastry
Using a stand mixer beat the butter, sugar and salt until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract and add the 5 egg yolks, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and gently stir in the flour with a wooden spoon.

Divide the pastry in half. Shape each half into a disk then place each half between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper. Roll each half into a 10-inch round. (Hint: you might find it easier if you trace a 10” circle on the parchment paper before beginning to roll and shape the pastry.) Place the pastry rounds in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the prune paste into the pastry bag. Place one pastry round on the center of a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pipe the prune paste in a spiral pattern over the top of the round leaving a one-inch border all around the edge. Use all of the paste: you don’t have to be precise with the spiral design.

Carefully brush some beaten egg over the (1 inch unfilled) edge of the bottom round then place the second round on top, gently pushing them together to adhere. Brush the top round with a good amount of beaten egg. Using a sharp knife, lightly score a large diamond pattern into the top.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden. You can serve the Breton Prune Cake warm or chilled. It actually tastes even better after a couple of days when the flavors meld and the cake softens with the prune filling. You can lightly dust some confectioner’s sugar on top before serving, or serve with some freshly whipped cream.