Prune Casserole – Mid-Century Recipe Guest Test Sunday

Posted on Feb 23 2014 - 8:00am by Erica

The email that included this two-page spread of cake-casserole recipes said, “For the ‘Cake Casseroles’ I was thinking the prune one, of course.”


OF COURSE. Although the fruit cocktail one looks pretty scary, too…

Prune Casserole – Mid-Century Recipe Guest Test Sunday
Cake Casserole
  • 1 box Honey Spice Cake Mix
  • 1½ - 2 cups prunes
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups boiling water
Hot Lemon Sauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. grated lemon rind
  1. Pour cake mix batter into greased and floured 13x9½x2" pan or shallow 3-qt. casserole. Sprinkle 1½ to 2 cups uncooked cup-up prunes over batter. Mix ½ cup granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar (packed), ½ tsp. nutmeg, and ½ tsp. cinnamon with 2 cups boiling water. Pour over batter and prunes. Do not stir. Bake 45 to 55 min. at 350°.
  2. Serve with hot Lemon Sauce: Mix 1 cup sugar and 2 tbsp. cornstarch. Gradually add 2 cups boiling water. Boil 1 min. Add 4 tbsp. butter, 2 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tbsp. grated lemon rind. 15 to 18 servings.


It’s easy enough making a boxed cake mix, and even sprinkling dried fruit on top isn’t totally ridiculous.


But pouring sugary, spiced water over the top? WHAT. IS. THIS.


There’s a good half-inch of liquid on top of this cake.


And it looks like a toxic waste spill.


Even though all that terrifying sludge has mysteriously disappeared after baking, I was having a hard time shaking the memory. It must have gone somewhere.

But that’s ok, because I just serve the food and let somebody else be the guinea pig. Oh, Buuuu-uuuuuzz…


“Why are you wearing your brainstorm shirt?”

“I figured they look like wrinkly prunes.”

Yeah, we can’t come up with brilliant costumes for everything.


So how does it taste?


“Oh, man, this is really boring.”

“What? There are prunes and spices and lemon sauce everywhere!”

“It’s just… really bland if you aren’t eating the prunes.”

Verdict: Mediocre.

Tasting Notes:

Can’t believe I’m saying this, but it needed more prunes. The bottom half, with mushy soft spicy prunes, was surprisingly appealing — so use either twice the prunes, or half the cake batter. Plain spice cake just isn’t very interesting, and bites without sauce and fruit are really dull.

WordPress Author Box

Erica was inspired to learn to cook by a complete lack of home economics classes in high school, and a love of old books. When using antique cookbooks to teach herself some skills, she realized a lot of the recipes were pretty strange by modern standards. All that fun testing just begged to be shared with the world. Regular recipe testing can be found here on Mid-Century Menu, on Erica's Retro Recipe Attempts blog, and also I Ate The 80's.

10 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Lassie February 23, 2014 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Recipes are basically cobblers! I imagine they’re all pretty dull. A cobbler is only as good as the fruit, and canned fruit is ‘meh’. Interesting, though 🙂

  2. Carol February 23, 2014 at 11:18 am - Reply

    oh ive seen the pic of the fruit cocktail one and thought it sounded interesting! i love any kind of crisp/cobbler thing and anything with the word casserole in it. and the prune one actually sounds even better to me than the fruit cocktail one.

    thanks for trying this one out!! i’m def gonna try it.

  3. Sheila February 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    I just came across a box of prunes that I need to use up. Perfect! Thank you.

  4. Lisa B. February 23, 2014 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    Back in the day when we thought sugar was fine and fat was the enemy, I was on one of those trendy diets that you have to buy the book for. There was one recipe in there that I still make, Chocolate Pudding Cake. The last step before you put it in the oven is to pour boiling water over the top. You end up with a very moist cake with a layer of pudding at the bottom (or the top if you get fancy and decant the whole thing).

    • Thursday February 24, 2014 at 4:52 am - Reply

      Is self-saucing pudding not a thing in the States? That’s what this recipe seems to be based on.

      If you’ve never had a chocolate self-saucing pudding , you sure are missing out.

      • Buzz February 25, 2014 at 10:27 am - Reply

        We certainly don’t have anything that goes by that name (but that’s not so surprising, since the semantic range of “pudding” in America is quite narrow compared to in most other varieties of English). There’s a wide variety of dishes with a cake-like top over a more liquid bottom, but the lower layer is generally fruit based. Chocolate versions are not so common; more likely would be to have the sauce in the center of an individually-sized cake—making a “volcano cake”—rather than on the bottom of a sheet cake, but that’s still considered a rather exotic dessert.

        • Thursday February 28, 2014 at 7:43 pm - Reply

          Thanks for the response, Buzz 🙂 I have to admit I still don’t quite grasp the American version of pudding very well. “Self-saucing pudding” in Australia refers to a specific cake-like base, baked with extra liquid poured over the top, which then forms the “sauce” – just like here. Chocolate versions are a staple of home cooking here – you should definitely give it a try some time!

  5. Angela February 26, 2014 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    I don’t suppose you’d be willing to post the fruit cocktail casserole cake instructions? They’re too small on the Betty Crocker ad for me to make out and I’m pretty sure my husband would go nuts for this cake.

    • Erica March 13, 2014 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      Sorry for the delay — took me a while to re-find the recipe 🙂 It looks like the fruit cocktail version has a better fruit-cake ratio, but is also a tad bit more complex. Give it a shot!

      Mixed Fruit Casserole with Yellow Cake Mix: Place drained canned Fruits for Salad (no. 303 can) in 1 1/2-qt. casserole. Make sauce: Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tbsp. cornstarch. Slowly add juice from fruit plus water to make 1 cup and boil 1 min., stirring. Add 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tsp. nutmeg. Pour sauce over fruit. Top with 1 cup cake mix batter. Bake 50 to 60 min. at 350°. Bake rest of batter in 9″ sq. pan 30 to 35 min.

  6. LaRae North November 16, 2014 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    so is this like a “DUMP” cake where cake mix is put in 9 x 13 dry or do you actually make up the cake mix as a wet batter ? thank you.

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