Vintage Prune Cake Recipe

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This Vintage Prune Cake Recipe will remind you of days gone by. It's a spiced cake topped with a caramel buttermilk glaze that's absolutely delicious!

slice of prune cake on a plate with whipped cream on top.
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What is Prune Cake?

If you love carrot cake, you'll be crazy about this vintage prune cake recipe. It's moist, sweet, and has the perfect touch of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. This easy prune cake is topped with a caramel buttermilk glaze that sets it apart from any dessert you've ever tasted.

It might sound strange, but when I was a little girl, a slice of moist prune cake was the best thing since sliced bread. When I grew up, I discovered this delicious dessert is actually a spice cake made with mashed prunes! Surprise, surprise!

My Granny Tag used to make this old fashioned prune cake for birthdays and special occasions. There are various recipes out there, but this one was written in Granny Tag's own handwriting. It's been passed down through our family for ages, so it's very special to me.

Ingredients

You probably already have most of these ingredients in your pantry. See recipe card for quantities.

DRY INGREDIENTS -- all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, white sugar

WET INGREDIENTS -- buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract

STIR INS - large eggs, prunes, pecans

BUTTERMILK GLAZE - butter, white sugar, corn syrup or honey, salt, vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda

buttermilk glaze being poured on top of prune cake.

How to Make Vintage Prune Cake

1 - The first step is to chop up the prunes and pecans into small pieces.

2 - Combine the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.

3 - In a separate bowl, combine oil, buttermilk and vanilla together. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and blend with a mixer on medium low speed until it just comes together. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated.

4 - Stir in chopped prunes and pecans, then pour batter in a 13 X 9 inch sheet cake pan that has been dusted with baking spray. Bake for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

How to Make Buttermilk Glaze

1 - Add butter to a small saucepan and bring to medium heat on the stovetop. Add sugar, corn syrup or honey, salt, vanilla, buttermilk and baking soda.

buttermilk glaze in saucepan on stove.

2 - Bring glaze to a slow boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. It will be a light caramel color when ready.

3 - When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately poke it with a fork, then pour the hot glaze on top until it seeps into all of the holes. Cool warm cake on a wire rack until ready to serve.

fork on top of sliced prune cake in a sheet pan.

Tips and Tricks

The addition of buttermilk makes this dessert moist and delicious. A little bit of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg creates a spicy blend that's perfect for autumn.

It also goes great with a hot cup of coffee in the morning!

Adding prunes may seem like a strange idea, but it's actually quite brilliant. The moisture in the prunes adds great flavor and moistness which you can taste at first bite!

Recipe FAQS

Is butter or oil better for cakes?

Oil adds more moisture to cakes than butter. The reason is because oil stays in liquid form at room temperature while butter becomes solid. More liquid means more moistness, so oil is a better choice when baking cakes.

What is a substitute for buttermilk?

Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or distilled white vinegar to a cup of milk and use in recipe instead of buttermilk.

Which oil is best for baking?

Canola oil is the best choice for a moist cake because it doesn't have a strong flavor which would compete with other ingredients.

Can I substitute dates for prunes?

Yes, you can chop up dates and use them for prunes. Figs will also work, but will give a completely different texture to the cake. Prunes are the best choice for this recipe and you won't even know they are there!

What can be used instead of corn syrup?

There is only 1 tablespoon of white corn syrup in this recipe, but if you're opposed to it, try using honey instead. Maple syrup and molasses can also be substituted. Just remember these ingredients will change the taste of the cake.

Variations

If you're not a fan of prunes, try using dates or figs as a substitute. Raisins don't have enough liquid to create the moist cake found in this recipe.

Some folks like to add cream cheese frosting instead of buttermilk glaze. If this sounds good to you, try my favorite cream cheese icing recipe.

If you'd rather not use corn syrup in this recipe, try substituting honey instead. However, it will change the flavor slightly.

slices of prune cake in a cake pan.

What to Serve With Prune Cake

My favorite topping is homemade whipped cream which is as simple as whipping together heavy cream with a little vanilla and sugar.

A big old scoop of vanilla bean ice cream is also a favorite topping for this cake!

Meet Granny Tag

Granny Tag was a sassy character. She grew up in Pennsylvania, and somehow landed in the Blue Ridge mountains as a young girl. Embracing southern life had to be a shock, but she faced it head on. Making prune cake was one of her first attempts at southern cuisine.

Watching Granny make this dessert is one of my favorite memories. But, photographing it brought tears to my eyes, especially when I baked it in the exact same pan she used over 50 years ago.

I remember going into the pantry and helping Granny choose the cake ingredients she needed to bring this recipe to life. She always found ways to include me in the cooking process, which planted seeds forever.

When Granny Tag would ask me to poke the prune cake with a fork before she poured on the hot icing, I would get so excited I could hardly stand myself!

I hope you'll share this recipe with your children and pass on the love.

Recipe Card

fork taking a bite from a slice of prune cake with whipped cream on top.

Vintage Prune Cake Recipe

This Vintage Prune Cake Recipe will remind you of days gone by. It's a spiced cake topped with a delicious caramel buttermilk glaze!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: Southern
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12
Calories: 568kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

PRUNE CAKE

    Dry Ingredients

    Wet Ingredients

    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 tsp. vanilla

    Stir Ins

    • 3 eggs beaten
    • 1 cup prunes chopped and mashed
    • 1 cup pecans chopped

    GLAZE

    • ¼ cup butter melted
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 Tbsp. white corn syrup (can use honey as a substitute)
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • ½ cup buttermilk
    • ½ tsp. baking soda

    WHIPPED CREAM

    • 1 carton heavy whipping cream (16 ounces)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

    Instructions

    PRUNE CAKE

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk well.
    • In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk, oil, and vanilla together. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just blended.
    • Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.
    • Fold in prunes and pecans.
    • Stir batter and pour into a 13 X 9 inch sheet cake pan which has been greased and dusted with flour.
    • Bake at 45 minutes at 350 degrees until set.
    • Take out of oven and poke holes in cake with fork.
    • Pour hot glaze over cake immediately before serving.

    GLAZE

    • Pour all ingredients in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil.
    • Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. 
    • While glaze is still hot, pour over warm cake, covering it completely.
    • Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes, then cut into squares.
    • Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

    WHIPPED CREAM

    • Beat heavy cream with a mixer until peaks form.
    • Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix well and serve on top of cooled cake.

    Notes

    • Store leftover cake in the refrigerator for best results. 
    • If you're not a fan of prunes, try using dates or figs as a substitute. Raisins don't have enough liquid to create the moist cake found in this recipe.
    • There is only 1 tablespoon of white corn syrup in this recipe, but if you’re opposed to it, try using honey instead. Maple syrup and molasses can also be substituted. Just remember these ingredients will change the taste of the cake.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 568kcal | Carbohydrates: 71g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 491mg | Potassium: 229mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 50g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 2mg

    Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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    11 Comments

    1. 5 stars
      Amazing! My grandmother also made a prune cake and it was a special treat! Thank you Debbie (and Granny Tag) for a wonderful afternoon treat with coffee. Taste testing is my favorite occupation! Love the pecans in this recipe and also the glaze.

      1. Hi Margy. Thanks for pointing that out! I used the same 13 X 9 inch pan that Granny Tag used when she made her prune cake. I think I got so excited about cooking with her pan...I forgot to mention the size! 🙂 I went back and added the info. Thanks again!

      1. Hi Margy. You could substitute dates, but raisins don't have enough moisture for this cake.

    2. Question: do you mix in the 1cup oil before or after the buttermilk & eggs? Does it make any difference?

    3. Can I leave out corn syrup in the glaze or may be use something else as a substitute? Can’t wait to try this cake. Thank you so much.

      1. Hi Sharda. I've wondered about the corn syrup too. Since this is my grandma's recipe, I haven't messed with it. But, I believe honey or thick maple syrup should work if you want to give it a try.

    4. 5 stars
      I've been looking everywhere for a prune cake recipe. My grandma used to make prune cake when I was a girl. I love your story about Granny Tag and I'm thrilled to find this recipe again. Can't wait to make it with my grandchildren!

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