Spiced Prune-Almond “Coffee” Cake

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I keep manila folders full of recipes I’ve torn from magazines or printed out from Web sites, and roasting my own coffee made me hunt down and try this recipe, one I’ve been holding onto for years, a coffee cake that uses coffee in the ingredients. I’ve tweaked it slightly. Because I was out of fresh oranges and didn’t have rind, I soaked the prunes in a combination of orange juice and brandy and substituted orange extract for almond (and if you don’t like prunes, by all means use raisins, and don’t bother soaking either fruit if that feels like one more step). I also left off the glaze in my version, but if you’re sweet tooth is stronger than mine, by all means use it. The resulting cake looks like pale chocolate, and I bet folks would guess that’s what it was unless you told them differently. I only know I’m sorry I waited so long to try it. It’s fantastic— rich, spicy, not too sweet, and perfect with a cup of coffee.

Cake
¾ cup whole unblanched almonds, toasted and finely chopped
1 cup buttermilk
2 ½ teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon of almond extract or ½ teaspoon orange extract
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup brandy
1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Glaze (optional)
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup butter
¼ cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 10-inch (12 cup) tube pan. Sprinkle half of the chopped almonds in the pan and tilt to coat bottom and halfway up sides with nuts.

Combine buttermilk, instant coffee, vanilla and almond or orange extract in a small bowl. Stir until coffee dissolves.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and ground cloves into a medium bowl.

Combine orange juice and brandy in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, add chopped prunes and let them steep for 10 minutes. Remove prunes from orange juice mixture and set aside.

Using electric mixer, cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix in prunes and orange peel. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining chopped almonds. Bake until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes in pan on cooling rack. Turn cake out onto rack. Quickly turn upright onto platter and cool until just warm.

To make glaze: Combine brown sugar, butter and cream in heavy-bottom small saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until butter melts. Boil 2 minutes. Mix in instant coffee granules. Cool slightly. Drizzle glaze over cake. Serves 8.

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