A couple of weeks ago there was a package waiting for me when I finally arrived home after a long day. Once glance at the return address and my heart raced with excitement and curiosity. It was from my friend Hans in North Carolina. I didn’t know what the box contained, but I knew it would be something I would appreciate, because Hans and I like the same kind of stuff.
Hans is a friend that I have yet to meet. We know each other virtually, as is so much the custom now with all our technology. We are both members of an online community known as Automaticwasher.org. It’s a home for folks who are interested in vintage appliances – mostly automatic washing machines (as the name implies) and dryers, but there are a few of us who have a strong passion for vintage ranges and refrigerators. It’s a wonderful forum to share stories and photos of the things we lug home, find at garage sales and estate sales or inherit from family and friends.
Digging through the newspaper that was stuffed in the box, I came across some old cookbooks, one of them by Mrs. Mary Martensen (she was a home economist who wrote a column in the Chicago Evening American, among others) and the other written in 1964 by Betty Feezor, who hosted a widely watched television show in the 1950’s through the 1970’s in North Carolina and Virginia. Hans has posted a number of Betty’s recipes online, and many of us gave them a try – all with positive results. Her recipes tend to be straightforward, easy to prepare and big on flavor. I see why she had such a following for so many years. Here in Detroit, I never knew the name Betty Feezor, but I am grateful to Hans for introducing her to me (her spaghetti sauce recipe is a personal favorite!).
And buried under the cookbooks and crumpled newspaper was a beautiful 1954 Westinghouse hand mixer! White with a grey handle and big red on/off button, the chrome beaters still sparkled like new. Within less than a minute I had those beaters in the sockets and the mixer plugged in and it played beautiful music as it whirred away. Hans knows how much I love my Westinghouse stoves (I have a few!) and he wanted me to have a mixer to go with them – it was the perfect gift!
In tribute to Hans’ generosity, I wanted to come up with a way to celebrate these wonderful gifts, so as I was engrossed in the pages of the Betty Feezor cookbook, I came across a recipe for prune cake. Now this I had to make! I love prunes and anything made with prunes – and while prunes are often made fun of, they deliver a flavor and texture that is often underrated. Making a prune cake would also give me the opportunity to put that beautiful Westinghouse mixer into proper service, so this cake was a done deal.
Yes, the cake was easy to prepare and it was moist! I modified the amount of spices a bit to suit my own preferences and I didn’t include any nuts (because I forgot to buy some), so I increased the amount of prunes. The Westinghouse mixer did a superb job bringing it all together, and the Westinghouse range baked it beautifully. As good as this cake is, the thing that took it over the top is the icing, which is really a caramel glaze that partially soaks into the top of the cake – incredible!
So, thanks Hans, for the thoughtful gifts. You supplied the recipe, the mixer and the inspiration to bring one of Betty’s best cakes into 2012!
Betty Feezor’s Prune Cake
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups chopped prunes
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts – I left these out)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, blend sugar and oil together. Add eggs and beat well. Add dry ingredients (flour, soda, spices) alternately with buttermilk (start and end with dry ingredients). Stir in vanilla, prunes and nuts. Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 45 minutes.
When cake is finished baking, allow to cool in pan for 15 – 20 minutes on rack. Carefully remove cake from pan and return to rack. Put a layer of waxed paper or foil under cooling rack to catch icing. Prepare icing.
In a saucepan, combine:
1 cup sugar
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp baking soda
1 TBSP light corn syrup
¼ cup butter
½ tsp vanilla
Bring contents to a boil over medium high heat until it reaches soft ball stage (use a candy thermometer for this), which is 238-240 degrees. It will be a dark amber color and thick. Pour this over cake (which should still be warm). It will drip down the sides of the cake, but most will hold to the top of cake. You’ll want to eat the icing that pools on the waxed paper under the rack – it’s like the best caramel you’ve ever had! Allow cake and icing to cool completely before serving. It will keep for days if kept well covered.