Hello and welcome to the fifth part in my series Baking with Confidence. Baking my way through Claire Saffitz’ “Dessert Person”. My goal is to cook through every recipe in order, slowly making my way through the entire book in one year. The fifth recipe in the book is Mascarpone Cake with Red Wine Prunes. This is a two part recipe: 1 part batter and 1 part red wine prune reduction.
Claire has managed to stack the odds against me in this recipe. Mostly, because I have the flavor palette of a 5 year old, but prunes and anise? Neither make me very excited to make or try this recipe, but I will for the sake of the challenge! Considering these aren’t flavors I reach for around the house, I’ve tried to only buy as much as I need for the recipe. As a general rule, I try not to have excess of any one ingredient unless it is something I know I will use. Food waste is a big issue in America and I try to limit my food waste by composting. With this recipe I knew buying a whole container of prunes would surely go to waste so what do I do? Text my father.
M: Hey do you have any prunes?
F: I eat prunes. I like prunes. No prunes right now.
Classic father reply! Since he is the only person in my circle that I know eats prunes and I couldn’t barter with him, out to the store I went for prunes and a light red wine. We are unusually low in our wine stock at the moment, but I knew that the prunes and cake would be a lovely gift for my dad. He is a big fan of any slice of bread, pie, or biscuit with a cup of black coffee any time of day.
The first step in this adventure was to reduce red wine, prunes, water, anise, and cinnamon sticks for about an hour until it’s around 1/4 of a cup. This was the perfect amount of time for my eggs and mascarpone to come up to room temp while I measured out the dry ingredients.
Some of the steps in this recipe feel very similar to some others out of the book. Lining a 9 inch pan with butter and parchment. Combing the dry ingredients and then whisking the wet together until it make a nice cream. The tangy sweetness from the mascarpone is a nice touch to a rather classic cake. Claire mentions that once you pour the batter into the pan to arrange the prunes in the batter carefully to make sure not to drip any of the sauce. This of course was my favorite step! Something so fiddly but I love it and yet get so frustrated by it. She also recommends, this I didn’t follow, to slice the large prunes in half, and in hindsight I can see why.
If you want a cake that smells like the holidays make this cake! My whole house smelled like mulled wine. Yum. Between the wine, cinnamon, and orange zest you would have thought it was Christmas time. This cake is absolutely beautiful and would make a great centerpiece at any family function. My personal favorite was plating up this dish. You are instructed to serve the cake with the red wine reduction and mascarpone. Such a pretty plate!
I promptly texted my father and said I have a whole cake minus one piece coming his way shortly, so put a pot of a coffee on! To say he loved this cake would be an understatement. He is a big fan of sweet desserts that almost border on the savory side. I would be interested next time to try steeping the prunes in a red wine sangria mixture. Really lean into the mulled wine Christmas flavors: orange, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves.
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Next time I will be making Pear Chestnut Cake.