Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Long Island Potato Cake

Doesn't sound that appetizing, does it? Or does it perhaps sound like some sort of latke thing? In any case, I think this is not one of Maida's more inspired recipe names. It's not clear why it comes from Long Island--are they famous for their potatoes? And the potatoes are really background players here. It's more a Moist and Tender Chocolate Prune Cake. That title may not be more appetizing, depending on how you feel about the word moist and about prunes, but it's certainly more descriptive. The potatoes seem to be there as a butter substitute, as is sometimes seen in recipes using applesauce or prune purée. The cake is moist and tender without a lot of butter.
So here is the ingredient lineup. Spices, cocoa, mashed potatoes, prunes, walnuts. And of course butter, eggs, sugar, flour. How can you go wrong?

Look at that tiny chunk of butter. Barely enough to absorb the baking powder and spices.

I made half a recipe and thought it would be perfect for a set of large muffins. I was wrong.

Had to scrape out the muffin pan and use the loaf pan after all. Oh well.

I had one slice of cake and liked it a lot. Claire had a slice and objected to the "raisins." What a surprise. She was even more indignant when I told her that the raisins were prunes. Then I packed up the cake and brought it to Julia, lover of all things prune. When I asked her opinion, she told me that the prunes were great and the chocolate part was delicious and soft, "but the walnuts?" Everyone's a critic.

So if you like chocolate AND prunes AND walnuts and you want a nice moist, spicy cake, here's a good recipe for you. I'm giving the recipe as printed, which makes two loaves. If you only want one loaf (or maybe 18 muffins), cut it in half.

Long Island Potato Cake

3/4 lb. potatoes
8 oz. (1 cup, packed) pitted prunes
4 oz. (1 stick) butter
1 T. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. powdered instant espresso
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 c. (10 oz.) sugar
4 large eggs
3/4 c. (2.25 oz.) Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 c. (4 oz.) milk
2 c. (8 oz.) flour (I used about a third whole wheat)
6 oz. (1-1/2 c.) walnuts, in large pieces

Heat the oven to 300; butter and flour two 8-inch loaf pans. Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters or eighths, depending on their size. Cook them in unsalted water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Mash them (without butter or milk, of course) your favorite way—I used a fork but wished I’d had some more advanced technology (like a ricer or even a food processor) to deal with the lumps. Meanwhile, use scissors to cut the prunes up into quarters—Maida says the pieces should be the size of raisins.
When your potatoes are mashed and cooling off, start the cake: Cream the butter with the baking powder, cinnamon, espresso, salt, and nutmeg until nice and fluffy. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat another 2-3 minutes. Then add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each. On low speed, beat in the mashed potatoes, then the cocoa, then the milk, and finally the flour, each just until incorporated. Finally, mix in the prunes and walnuts by hand. Pour into the loaf pans. Maida suggests you draw a trench in the middle so that the cake rises better. I didn’t and my loaf wasn’t misshapen or anything, but it did rise high and crack like most loaf cakes do. Either way, put the loaves in the oven and bake for 1 hour 25 minutes (start checking after an hour) or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then unmold onto racks and let cool completely. Maida suggests that you chill the loaves overnight, but I found the cake to be delicious warm from the oven.

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