Soaking prunes in brandy (we like to use Somerset cider brandy) makes this a great dinner party dessert, and it can be made the day before. Serve it with good-quality vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche. If you want to add a further touch, soak a few more prunes, say 12, adding another 50ml more brandy to the soaking liquid; reserve them and use as a garnish at the end. Add 2 on top of each portion and drizzle a little glaze around the plate with a scoop of clotted cream. You will be very popular.
150g prunes, pitted
unsalted butter, for the tin
3 eggs, lightly beaten
150g sunflower oil
125g light muscovado sugar
4 tbsp honey, plus 2 tbsp more to glaze
150g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of sea salt
finely grated zest of 1 orange
The night (or at least a couple of hours) before, cover the prunes with the brandy and leave to soak.
When you’re ready to make the cake, preheat the oven to 155°C/fan 135°C/gas mark 3. Butter a 26 x 12cm loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
Toast the walnuts on a baking tray in the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool, then roughly chop.
In a large mixing bowl (or a food mixer fitted with the beater attachment), whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and the 4 tbsp of honey. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Drain the prunes (reserving the brandy), then fold them in along with the orange zest and walnuts.
Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 50–55 minutes or until firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make a glaze: heat the 2 tbsp of honey with 1 tbsp of water in a small pan over a medium heat, then add to the reserved brandy. While the cake is still warm, prick the top with a skewer and brush the glaze all over. (Or reserve a little glaze to drizzle over each portion, see recipe introduction.)