Arizona snowbirds, if they read the Arizona Republic, may be acquainted with my cousin Clay Thompson. (Clay is the son of my Aunt Eleanor, who lives in Vinton, Iowa, and late Uncle Robert. Robert was DotMom’s brother.)
Clay writes a column called “Valley 101,” in which he attempts to answer — quite often with humor and/or sarcasm — odd questions sent in by readers. A while back, Clay called me (if this sounds familiar, I wrote about this phone call in the April 25 Lagniappe) to ask for permission to use a couple of recipes from DotMom’s cookbook. He was working on his own cookbook, mostly featuring recipes from his readership, but also wanted in to throw in a few family foods. I granted permission, and he promised to send me a copy of the finished work.
Well, the “Enormously Big Official Valley 101 Cookbook,” arrived on my desk yesterday — 93 pages of enormity — and I’ve been reading bits and pieces and chuckling ever since.
The blurb on the back of the book describes the cookbook pretty accurately.
“Arizona Republic columnist Clay Thompson has made a living out of answering the strangest questions in the newsroom and snarking (good word!) on some of the people who ask them. Now, he’s gone one step further, asking his readers to submit recipes for a cookbook. Check out more than 75 of the best, or at least most interesting, recipes submitted by his readers. He’s thrown in some of his personal favorites, and even bamboozled his mom out of her fried chicken recipe. Also included: the best of Valley 101 columns on food-related matters.”
I, of course, turned immediately to the “Family Recipes” section, finding not only a couple recipes from “Mixing and Musing,” but also contributions from Clay’s ex-wife Anne, Aunt Eleanor and, much to my delight, one labeled “Aunt Laura’s Prune Cake.” Aunt Laura was our mutual great aunt, and her prune cake is legendary in our family. If you went to Aunt Laura’s house, you knew you were going to be offered Prune Cake. I’m sure it was delicious, but none of us would touch it when were kids — it contained prunes, after all!
“She liked to bake stuff like this prune cake and keep them in the freezer just in case company dropped in unexpectedly. Use sliced apples instead of the prunes, unless you happen to like prunes, which I don’t,” writes Clay.
Aunt Laura’s Prune Cake (That Doesn’t Really Include Prunes)
Soften 2 packages dry yeast in ½ cup lukewarm water. Add ½ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and ½ cup butter to 1 cup scalded milk. Stir until melted. Cool mixture to lukewarm.
Add yeast and 1½ cups flour. Stir in 2 beaten eggs and combine very well. Use an electric mixer to this point.
Add enough flour to make soft dough (4 to 5 cups total). Let rest 10 minutes. Knead on a floured board until smooth and shiny. Place in greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
While dough rests, make the filling: Cook 2 small cans evaporated milk, ¾ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon flour until sugar is well dissolved. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside while you roll out the dough.
Divide dough into four pieces. Roll each piece to fit an 8- or 9- inch pie or cake pan. Shape dough into greased pan. Let rise until double in bulk. Punch down deep all around the edges and over the center so filling has a place to go. Place 5 cut-up prunes and 5 cut-up maraschino cherries on the dough. Cover with the filling. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. When cool, spread or drizzle with a frosting made of 2 tablespoons butter, 1 ½ cups powdered sugar and enough milk to make it spreadable.
These freeze very well.