The Pioneer Woman’s Grandma Iny’s Prune Cake

by Maris Callahan on April 19, 2009

Last time I baked in my mother’s kitchen, I had to make a last minute dash to the grocery store – quickly – because she was out of flour and sugar. My mother does a lot of things wonderfully and with enthusiasm, however, baking is not usually one of those things.

So you can imagine my surprise one weekend when I was visiting her, to wake up to the oven preheated and a frantic question from mom: “How much butter is there in a quarter cup?”

She was making a cake from a recipe that she’d found on The Pioneer Woman Cooks, one of our mutual favorite food blogs.

When you first hear the name of this cake, you might find yourself mildly turned off. At first, I didn’t even think I would like it, mainly since I didn’t see chocolate chips sitting out on the counter with the rest of the ingredients.

I had a piece to humor my mother (and to encourage her new baking hobby). And trust me (and trust the Pioneer Woman), you won’t be disappointed by the warm, rich flavor reminiscent of spice cake. The sticky sweet browned butter icing adds texture to the cake, which will melt in your mouth with every bite.

You can find the entire recipe here. Yes, it’s called Prune Cake but yes, it’s delicious. I’ll also tell you how to make it here. I think the Pioneer Woman would want it that way.

The Pioneer Woman’s Grandma Iny’s Prune Cake

What You Need:


1 cup prunes
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 ½ cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 cup sugar
½ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white corn syrup
¼ cup butter
½ teaspoon vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large pot, cover prunes with water. Bring to a boil and cook until soft and mashable, about eight minutes. Remove from heat, drain water, and mash on a plate. Set aside.

2. Sift together dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, mix together oil, sugar, and eggs. Combine wet and dry ingredients, add buttermilk, and stir gently until just combined.

3. Throw in the mashed pruned and stir gently to combine. DO NOT OVERMIX. Pour batter into buttered baking dish (9 x 13 or so) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE.

4. While cake has five minutes remaining, make the icing. Combine icing ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Boil without stirring for 5 to 7 minutes, or until icing starts to turn dark. Do NOT allow icing to reach soft ball stage; icing should be caramel in color, but not sticky like caramel. Icing should be easily pourable.

5. Remove cake from oven and pour on icing immediately. Allow to rest on the counter. Serve warm.

(And to quote the Pioneer Woman, there is absolutely no “prune effect” from this cake).

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi Renée April 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

How cute is your mom?


Sophie April 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

MMMMM…Prune cake! Yum! My father has a prune tree in his garden! So, in September I can use his prunes for this lovely moist cake! Thanks!


Pearl April 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

oh! i read the pioneer woman, too! and yes i saw that cake and giggled at her commentary throughout the entire recipe. how cool that your mom actually made it! and glad to know that it lived up to its hype :)


VeggieGirl April 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Haha love it!! :-D Looks deeeeelish.


ksgoodeats April 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Your mom sounds like mine! I’m the only baker in this family!! That cake looks so moist!


jenngirl April 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

I love the Pioneer Woman! I’m totally curious about this cake now.


Ricki April 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

NOM!! Nothing wrong with prunes at all–I love ‘em. I’ve heard them referred to as “dried plums” these days to avoid the word, “prune,” but either way, they’re sweet and delicious.


Cate O'Malley April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

Prunes, huh? I don’t know…


msmeanie April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

I saw this on PW and wasn’t sure. But after your review, I’m thinking I might try it. Thanks!


Stacey Snacks April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

You don’t have to sell ME on prunes!
I love them!
But for prune haters, just substitute figs for the prunes and the results will be fabulous! Any dried fruit will do in this cake. I love this cake!


Matt April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

Prune cake Maris? Prunes?


kat April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

Oh, I’m sure its tasty, I mean prunes are actually tasty, they just have a bad rap

Reply April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

I think that cake looks amazing!
I love the Pioneer Woman Cooks too, she always makes the best stuff.
Regarding the comment you left on my blog about the sesame seeds, I wanted to let you know you can freeze them in a tupperware container forever and they will never go bad. Just take them out and in a few minutes they will be defrosted.
Have a great day!


jshively April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

The only thing I ever do with prunes is bacon wrap them and bake in the oven. So good. I have zero hate for them but I just never have any uses for them.
Going to have to give this a shot.


Kristen April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

What a great story – and kudos to your mom for giving this a try! You made it sound really tasty.


Sara April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

I actually like prunes! I’ve never baked with them before though. Another great thing to do with prunes is cook them in armagnac and serve with vanilla ice cream :)


E.P. April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

I think it’s really cute that your mother called you with a baking question!


Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella April 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

Oh yes I had the same reaction before I tried my first prune cake but then was instantly converted over to the “dark side” :)


Carissa April 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

too funny! before I got to the part in your post where you revealed the cake’s name I thought, “Hm, maybe it’s made with prunes!” Haha. It does look pretty delish though. Prune juice smells god-awful, but I’m sure actual prunes aren’t that bad, though I haven’t tried. and I mean, it’s cake, so how bad can it be? :)


Kerstin April 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

Awww, that’s so cute you’re encouraging your mom to bake! My mom is a culinary arts instructor, and I call her all the time with questions. The cake looks really good!


Marielle April 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

Oh yeah that looks yummy and moist. I have it bookmarked because my dad is that rare breed that LOVES prune desserts.


maris April 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

Maris, You should tell everyone how when your brother in college has a cooking question–he calls you–NOT ME!!!


RecipeGirl April 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

Prunes work wonderfully in cake (and banana bread too!) So I’m not surprised that this is delicious. Good for your Mom :)


Jackie April 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

Wow, I saw this cake on PW, too, and even bought the prunes at Trader Joe’s to make it. However, the prunes have been sitting in my cupboard for a few weeks now. Now this post! Now that you’ve endorsed it, I’m definitely going to make this TONIGHT!


kellypea April 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

Mmm…love spice cake and love prunes so this cake’s got to be excellent, but ooo-eee there’s a lot of oil in that! I know it would slide right down around here.


Melissa April 21, 2009 at 3:00 am

Love Ree. How could you not??
And luckily the name wouldn’t turn me off because I’ve never tried prunes. So I have no preconceived notions. Looks good to me!


Kitchen Goddess April 23, 2009 at 3:00 am

What a yummy cake. I wonder if I could get away without telling people about the prunes?


Dorothy April 23, 2009 at 3:00 am

Oooh this cake looks way too good! it looks very sticky toffee pudding-esque, one of my favorite desserts to eat but not make (too much time spent waiting for the cake to soak in syrup; i’m impatient)


Shannalee April 29, 2009 at 3:00 am

Very smooth not giving the name immediately. You had me intrigued enough not to knee-jerk turn the page when I saw prune. Looks lovely, and I am surprised to say it!


Jane January 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm

After icing has been applied, can you freeze a prune cake?


Jane January 20, 2013 at 10:09 am

Either way. Thought it would be nice to have something like this ready in case of unexpected company. If not frozen, how long can you keep a prune cake? Should it be kept in the refrigerator? I have never baked this cake but have tasted it and I really think it’s terrific.


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