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chocolate cake

A while back, there was a spate of books about how to ‘sneak’ ingredients that are ‘healthy’ into food for your kids, to trick them into eating better. (Raymond Sokolov wrote an excellent rebuttal to that.) And recently there have been a few books written about how kids in France eat, and behave, better than their counterparts elsewhere. I can’t really comment on them in-depth because I haven’t read the books, but I do know two things from my own observations.

One is that no matter how – or where – kids are raised, the proof of the pudding is how they behave once they are all grown up. In fact, the worst insult you can say to a French person is to call them mal élevé, or “badly raised.” And speaking from experience, I don’t recommend calling someone that—unless you are prepared to deal with the consequences!

butterchocolate cake
chocolate cake - egg yolkssalted butter caramel sauce

The second observation is that yes, it’s true that French kids do eat what adults do, and they don’t make a fuss about it. I was recently at a local crêperie and the family next to us was feeding their small children blood sausage, which I would venture to say might be a tough sell to most kids in America.

(Someone I know recently asked me for a restaurant recommendation for a family who was traveling to Paris with two well-behaved kids to France, and my advice was to take them anywhere they would eat themselves.)

Prunes are another tough sell there as well. However the French have the most wonderful Pruneaux d’Agen, which are tender, sweet, and slightly spicy at the same time, and no one has a problem eating them or using them in savory cooking, like Duck with Prunes.

Prunes also make them excellent candidates to be buried in a cake made with lots of with dark chocolate. I marinated the prunes in rum then stirred them into the warm chocolate.

Paris chocolate cake carrier

Once cooled, the cake made its way across Paris, to a dinner party, and not one person asked what was in the cake as I was slicing and serving it. Even as adults, the French don’t ask twenty questions in restaurants or if they’re guests at dinner parties, possibly the result of being raised to eat everything that’s offered.

When one of the prune bits fell out, someone exclaimed how much they loved prunes – and he then had seconds, and thirds. Of course, a warm, rich puddle of salted butter caramel sauce (from my Paris book) helped it go down, and by the end, the hostess asked me if she could keep the rest of the uneaten sauce. Being bien élevé, or well-raised, of course, I said yes.

chocolate cake chocolate cake

Chocolate-Prune Cake

Feel free to swap out another dried fruit for the prunes (sometimes called “dried plums”), such as figs, cherries, or apricots, although do give the prunes a try they have a wonderful affinity to dark chocolate. You can also use another liquor, such as port, red wine, or bourbon. For those avoiding alcohol, black tea makes a good substitute, especially one that’s flavored with black currants.

For the prunes:

  • 6 ounces (170g) pitted prunes, diced in small pieces
  • 1/3 cup ( 80 ml) rum, or another liquor (see headnote)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the cake:

  • 12 ounces (340g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces, 170g) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • large pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Additional soft butter and flour, or cocoa powder, for preparing the pan
  • Simmer the prunes with the rum and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a small saucepan for a few minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand until cool.
  • To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC).
  • Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan. Dust the inside with flour or cocoa powder, and tap out any excess.
  • In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the prunes and any liquid left in the pan.
  • Stir the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture.
  • In a separate bowl, or using a stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the salt until they begin to hold soft peaks. Continue whipping, adding the 3 tablespoons of sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the whites hold their shape when you lift the whip.
  • Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture thoroughly, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until no streaks of whites are visible. Don’t overfold.
  • Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake feels set close to the edges of the pan but the center is still rather soft to the touch and moist-looking. Let cool.Serving: This cake is very moist, which makes it a bit challenging to get a clean slice out of it. Run a thin knife around the cake to loosen it from the pan and remove the springform mold. Dip the knife in very hot water then wipe the blade dry and use it to slice the cake, dipping the knife in the hot water and wiping it off between each cut.


Storage: This cake can be made up to three days in advance, and stored at room temperature. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

Related Links and Recipes

French Chocolate Mousse Cake

Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse

The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Poached Prunes and Kumquats

Chocolate Biscotti

Bringing Up Bebé (Amazon)

French Kids Eat Everything (Amazon)

The Truth About French Parenting (The Atlantic)

French Children Don’t Throw Food (When People Are Watching) (I Am Carla Bruni’s Neighbor)


    • kate hill

    This might just become the new house dessert chez moi at Camont! Thank you for yet another glorious DL recipe. Come down when they are cooking the prunes in September!

    • Aimée

    This cake look delicious! The cultural differences between the westerners (I’m from Australia) and the French never ceases to astound me. I suppose that children in France are taught from a young age to appreciate food, and associate it with family gatherings and celebrations, however we are taught to associate food as a reward, and then later on in life, something that’s ‘bad’ for us. It occurred to me today that, before I learnt the French way of eating and employed that into my life, I used to steer well away from cream, butter, baked goods, etc., and yet be perfectly happy to eat a low-fat-made-of-100-ingredients-bar, as it was ‘better’ for me.
    I could go on forever, but I am going to stop, and continue staring at your gateaux au chocolat et pruneaux!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Aimée: Since I don’t have kids, all I know is what I’ve seen and heard, and indeed, the upbringing is quite different. (From what my friends tell me, the schools are quite tough on kids in France.) But I think the difference in the way kids eat is interesting since I’ve not seen finicky kids (or adults) in restaurants in France. And there aren’t aisles of baby foods in the supermarkets, which I think is because kids eat what their parents eat, for the most part. Even blood sausage!

    kate: If there’s prunes, I’m there.. : )

    • phanmo

    I’ve commented on some of these books elsewhere…
    It is true that some French kids are raised to respect food; there are just as many who aren’t. For every French kid that will eat blood pudding, there is one who will eat only frozen steak hachés, with a side of instant mashed potatoes, or plain macaroni.
    Kids here in France (and I have a relatively wide experience with French kids of all ages, from work, friends and family) behave and eat according to how they were raised.
    Here, as in North America, some parents raise their kids to eat well, some raise their kids to eat poorly, and the majority are somewhere in the middle. I grew up in Toronto in the 80s with parents of British ancestry; I ate curry, blood pudding, liver, kidneys, lots of veggies, etc etc. In short, I ate what was given to me, as did most of my friends, regardless of their background.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Interestingly, every once in a while I read an article from the US how great the food is in French schools. When I ask my French friends how the food was, they use words like “punishment” and “worse than the hospital.” There is a joke that the food is bad in the universities because the government is punishing the students (still) for the riots of 1969!

      But you’re right that there’s kids here that only want frozen burgers and kids in North America that want fresh vegetables. It’s curious to read the articles about the two books that I mentioned (in the links, at the end of the post), about the differences between French and American child-rearing, and eating habits.

    • phanmo

    I should add that my girlfriend, who is French (she would prefer Bretonne) had never tasted fresh green beans (only canned) before she visited Canada and preferred instant mashed potatoes to real, because that was what she’d grown up with.

    • Sigrid

    I keep wondering if there are any French with gluten-intolerance. In Germany it’s the maladie du jour, you have to send out questionnaires before hosting a soirée asking about all the food-intolerances. Here I’ve so far only met one vegetarian.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      There are some gluten-free products in France, but unlike other European countries, and the US (and probably elsewhere), as the owner of Helmut Newcake (gluten-free) bakery told me, France is a little behind on the gluten-free thing. There’s not a lot of attention paid to food intolerances here (in Italy, most gelaterias have gluten-free cones since celiac disease has been common there for decades) – but I do see lactose-free milk and butter in France now, although it’s not common.

    • Shaz@shazkitchen

    Looks fantastic! I have a bag of prunes I’ve been wanting to use up. This looks like the perfect recipe to do just that!

    • mehrunnisa

    what an exquisite recipe. prunes and chocolate are a perfect marriage. and if they’ve been treated to a little alcohol even better. i really enjoyed your post especially the french term for badly behaved ‘mal élevé’. my mother and i use the acronym bbu (badly brought up). i do agree that the proof of the pudding is in grown up behaviour but that equally the values that we learnt as children are the building blocks for those.

    • Eri

    I am from Japan and have been living in the states for over 20 years now. And I still get amazed by the number of “picky eaters” who have gotten away being so “picky” in this country. When I was little, my parents told us we eat what’s served or go hungry. It was not very well received but my brother and I both ended up eating everything and don’t question what’s on our plate. My kids are treated the same way. They don’t always eat everything at first but when they are hungry, they will eat and learn to appreciate food. I appreciate your observation of Parisians, David. I am now reading your Paris book (sorry, I was late getting to know you and your well written books but I repented and am reading them all now) and am enjoying your point of view.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I grew up in New England, when lobsters were something like 2 for $10, and I wouldn’t eat them. I wasn’t a picky eater, but there was something about them I didn’t like. Now I am kicking myself for all the lobster I missed!

    • Barbara

    Love the idea of prunes in the chocolate cake. My children were brought up eating what we ate. Now they are adults they are really into their food. Both cooking and eating.

    • Kerry

    I was initially slightly put off by the prunes in the title but this cake looks amazing, thanks David!

    • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    I love prunes, and sneaking healthy stuff into my own food! This is a lovely idea and I’m so excited to try!

    • Lisa

    That cake looks divine!

    • Molly @ Pbpickles

    Wonderful post David! I agree wholeheartedly–you should absolutely expose your kids to all sorts of foods. While some cultures do it better than others, I think you’ll find “picky” eaters everywhere. As a kid, if we were guests in someone’s home we never asked 20 questions about dinner–we enjoyed what we were served and were gracious. It would be nice for that to be the norm–rather than the exception :) Speaking of your prune cake, it’s always makes me smile when a “picky eater” realizes there are dates in most sticky toffee puddings too…funny what you like when you don’t know it’s there!

    • brandi

    I know this post is about the cake, but those eggs are beautiful.

    • Erin @ Texanerin Baking

    I don’t know a thing about the French but just wanted to say that picky eaters aren’t necessarily picky because they’re just fussy people or something like that. My parents made me try everything and I hated almost everything, just like now. I eat vegetables and other things I dislike but have to swallow each bite down with a large gulp of water. Some food that I really really hate even makes me vomit if I have to eat it. So if that means I have to ask the hostess what’s in the so and so, I do it. Nobody wants you to feel sick because of their food.

    I now live in Germany and have worked in schools here and I’m a bit confused by the love for vegetables children have here. It’s fantastic but I don’t understand what caused the difference. Where I’m from, most children had to be forced to eat their veggies because they didn’t like them and here the children genuinely like them.

    Anyway, prunes kind of terrify me but I’ve been baking with them lately in place of sugar. The cake looks terrific! It looks nice and moist.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      One bakers tip is that prune puree, or prune baby food, is a good substitute for butter in some baked goods. It adds flavor and keeps cakes and cookies moist. There is some discussion that ground beef kills e. coli, too!

    • Susan

    Drooling over this as I mentally inventoried what’s in the house, I realized that, cerise sur le gateau, there’s no flour in the recipe. Gluten free, yay — my (temporarily) gluten-free partner will be thrilled! Reminds me a bit of Julia Child’s flourless chocolate cake. I’ll add a spoonful of spiced poaching syrup when I simmer the prunes.

    • Devrah

    Darnit, I won’t have time to make this until next week!!

    • Claire

    This cake looks and sounds amazing! Can dried cherries be added to the dried prunes?

    Thanks for this wonderful blog!

    • Sallyann

    My friends always asked me how I got my children to eat this, or eat that and I always answered, “I put it on their plates.” I think that if you simply feed the children whatever you eat there is no problem. Having said that, I will admit that neither my husband nor I will happily eat Brussels sprouts or meat loaf and consequently those are the only foods I don’t cook. Whether my grown children eat them or not, I don’t know.

    • naomi

    A wonderful post, and recipe, as usual.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Claire: Yes, any dried fruits you wish can be swapped out. Use the amounts/weights provided, or you can use less if you want.

    • debbi michiko florence

    Just found your blog – so excited!

    • good enough cook

    My first thought after reading over the ingredients was, “this will make a perfect dessert for next year’s Passover seder!” But of course I may need to make it a couple of times before then just to be sure.

    • Tina Morrow

    This sounds amazing – dark chocolate, prunes and rum! I plan to bake it in a muffin tim for easier serving since slicing sticky cake is tricky. This will also help with portion control… unless I adore it and then I’ll just eat two! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Victoria

    When I saw the recipe for your cake this morning, I couldn’t resist. I’m soaking prunes right now in some Armagnac. I’m originally from Ukraine, and prunes (called black plums, chernosliv) in Ukraine are quite a treat. My favorite candy as a kid was prunes covered in chocolate. They’re made by drying plums over the wood smoke, and as a result they taste smoky, sweet and jammy. An interesting combination. Agen prunes soaked in Lapsang Souchong tea is what I used here in the US or in France.

    So, when I came to the US, I didn’t understand why prunes were such a tough sell. It has been changing lately, I noticed.

    • Mimi

    Can you deliver to Rue Parchimenerie?

    • Catherine

    Luckily we can get the Agen prunes here in the UK so will be trying this cake asap. I also like prunes served with oatmeal/porridge. Or, even eating them as a snack is worth trying. The Agen ones are definitely superior.

    I went to a Swiss boarding school run by French nuns. The food was delicious. Amongst other delicacies we had home made yogurt, artichokes and lots of different cheese. Three course at each meal except breakfast.

    • Kiki

    Just yesterday, when eating out in Paris, we discussed once more how terribly well behaved AND patient French children are when in restaurants. I just wonder how they later on in life become those unattractive, thoughtless, crazed drivers I encounter daily… :)
    In the town I live we get a monthly magazine from our ‘mairie’ with the FOOD listed that the kids get at school – many lunches are BIO (organic!). Go and find that in any other country!
    Having a wide range of experience of eating out in many countries, I’m happy to confess that Paris offers most certainly often the best quality/money/venue experience.
    This is what I cal al ‘Death by chocolate – and I shall be glad to die that way’ recipe. Sounds and looks wonderful.

    • DH

    Mmm, I *love* prunes. Only recently I was searching your website for more prune recipes! Keep them coming. There don’t seem to be too many out there. I make dark chocolate coated Agen prunes for Chistmas. I don’t know why so many people don’t like them… have they tried Agen prunes?!

    • Yonatan

    Sounds scrumptious and LOVE the Jerusalem hand-painted ceramic serving plate!

    • JennEm

    Looks merveilleux as usual David. And nice tip about using tea for steeping the prunes – who would have thought? Look forward to trying out this great combination. BTW, I was a strange kid – Spinach, carrots and prunes were some of my favourite foods. However, I was a fussy eater until my uni days when I spent a year abroad in Madrid. The rest is history…

    • Vicki B

    What a delicious sounding cake! And a most excellent observation. As a reading consultant who works with all sorts of children from varied economic backgrounds, on more than one occasion I’ve found children who are the model perfection of manners in front of adults and the most vicious bullies to their classmates. I stopped believing a long time ago that well behaved children are superior to others.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I know someone who had two sons. The first was really well-behaved, and the second was a cunning trouble-maker. She said to me, “I used to think it was the parent’s fault…until I had my second son.”

    • Tricia

    Just this minute clearing out my larder before a 6 month absence – at the back found a bag of Prunes d’Agen from Kate and 2 blocks dark chocolate! There’s a dribble of Armagnac left in the bottle…..Guess what’s for dinner tonight – merci!

    • Stephanie

    In the early 1800s, French gastronome/philosopher Brillat-Savarin coined the phrase ‘you are what you eat’. Basically he said if you eat crap, you will feel like crap and look like crap. He was way ahead of the medical field when he predicted that people eating poor diets will have more diseases. Anyway, the French still live by this mantra…they eat the best food available to them and swear that is why they all look and feel so good. Who can argue with that?

    • Ana in Chicago

    First kid ate everything and as an adult become vegan. Second one was the pickiest kid ever, and now eats everything.

    • suedoise

    Blood sausage – . boudin noir – is a marvelous dish.
    Comes with small pieces of apple or onion or with spices from the West Indies.l
    All public schools from ecole maternelle and onwards publish printed monthly
    menus on boards for passers by on the street to consider.
    I am rather impressed by luncheons of four courses. Meals beginning with for example half an avocado with shrimps and vinaigrette seem to me extraordinary for small children. This entry is followed by meat or fish with cooked vegetables and green salad then ending with a piece of of cheese (a new cheese every day) and lastly dessert often a fresh fruit. .
    The point is training all children regardless of background for the choreography of a French meal. Meals in turn are seen as an important part of the “patrimoine”, the cultural heritage.

    • Stephanie

    I also have two sons….my firstborn is an angel and the other one is a hell raiser. And in my family I was the good child and my younger sister was a serious challenge. Your friend with the two sons should research the effects of birth order. It is very interesting and while there is little to do about it, I was fascinated by how common this is.

    • Linda

    This cake looks wonderful… and now I know how I am going to use the bag of apricots that have been sitting in the pantry. Thanks so much, David!

    If I were a French school kid, I would eat everything that is offered to me, too. When we come to Paris, instead of going to museums, I walk around looking for French schools, where they sometimes post the lunch menus on a bulletin board outside of the school. Far from the fried chicken nuggets (and who knows what’s in those…), french fries, and chocolate milk that the kids are having for lunch here in the U.S. These menus honestly AMAZE me. This is how I learn about French culture!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      A while back, I posted some menus for French school lunches: here and here. They do look pretty good, although I have seen poulet pané on school menus from time-to-time, otherwise known as “breaded, fried chicken.”

    • Wina Miranda

    Got two bags of dried prunes from Morocco and there’s a Mexican theme lunch in two days… I’ll bring this and say “Ola” when I walk through the door…

    • Nadia

    People like what they grew on, it can be something a mother cooked or some cultural food. Some people are disgusted by “slippery fish eggs”, while to me caviar is one of beloved foods since early childhood. I applaud French parents feeding kids what grownups eat, and I still wonder why on kid’s menu in restaurants in the US one can see just some chicken fingers and a sandwich with a fancy name (but it’s still the old boring sandwich).
    The combination of ingredients in this cake gives me another impulse to bake, without flour this time. Prunes go so well in cakes. I use them as is or sliced, without moistening, it makes a nice chewy texture. But I will certainly use your idea of steeping them in rum or other alcohol (I will not simmer though and make my cake a little alcoholic :). I wonder why you didn’t let the whole cake rise and set, including the middle? With softened prunes and without flour it would still be very moist inside, but probably wouldn’t recede in the middle. And the sauce, it added even more moisture…
    I baked yesterday, but feel very much inclined to experiment with prunes and chocolate today. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

    • cheryl s.

    The cake looks delicious. I will definitely try it. What was the caramel sauce recipe you used? Is it somewhere on your site?

    • marla

    Prunes add such great texture to baked goods, especially when pair with chocolate. They are never a secret in our house. Those “sneaky” books are kinda silly. There are more fun things to be sneaky about!

    • Bonnie Powers

    Just wondering David, if I should use my Prunes d’Agen, since, living in the US those prunes cost a fortune. Would the good ol’ super-marché boxed type be ok? Or is it like the wine in a sauce…use the BEST wine—one that matches the one that one is going to be served?

    • Nancy

    Love, love your blog. This recipe looks yummy. Absolutely adore prunes but must restrict myself … or else … anyhoo …. When my grandmother was upset with her own kids and, later on, with her grandkids, she would call us ” mal appris ” because she just couldn’t bare the thought of having her offspring be ” mal élevés ” !

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Bonnie: I would use any prunes you have on hand; pruneaux d’Agen are great (and inexpensive in France) – but if they are expensive where you live, California prunes are very good and fine to use.

    cheryl: That recipe is from my book, The Sweet Life in Paris.

    marla: On one hand, I like the idea of vegetable purees in things, because I like vegetables. But on the other hand, you’re right that it’s kind of silly to hide things in food.

    Although I think both the authors did pretty well with their books – so what do I know? ; )

    • Nick

    Divided by a common language… . And by culinary traditions too it seems. I use prune in lots of places. They seem especially good and appropriate at christmas where their well known side effects can be beneficial Each year I use more and more in my fruit cakes and of course, Chrismas pudding or as Dickens would have it, plum pudding. Each year folks tuck into a really moist and fruity cake, which is really more of a Dundee than a rich fruit. I think steeping the dried fruit in sherry is helpful too.
    My german brother in law makes a plum conserve, not by any boiling with sugar, but slowly drying out in the oven like dried tomatoes. Makes a delicious, slightly tart spread or filling for, er, a tart.
    As I have several plum trees, I take a huge sack over and let him do his stuff with them. My usual payment is a couple of cod so fresh off Boulogne docks, fried, roast, steamed or poached magnificent.

    • Cheryll

    “There is some discussion that [prune puree added to] ground beef kills e. coli, too!”

    Very interesting! I just finished Poisoned, by Jeff Benedict about the 1992 Jack-in-the-Box E. coli outbreak. Scary stuff. I’ll show my prunes more respect from now on, especially when they’re wrapped in this yummy cake.

    • Jen L.

    Sadly, I am about to become one of those annoying parents who (has to) ask lots of questions. My 10 month old was just put through testing and confirmed an allergy to milk and casein (a milk protein). Not lactose intolerance — a full on allergy. So we now carry epipens in case of an accidental exposure that causes an anaphylactic reaction, and I guess we’ll have to ask lots of questions and carry spare food in case there is nothing for him to eat safely.

    No milk, no butter, no ice cream, no CHEESE (I shudder to imagine this…), nothing made with milk derivatives (which turn out to be in all sorts of unlikely products), absolutely no dairy of any kind. (What’s left??)

    I hope he grows out of it. I can’t imagine life without a good brie or comte or roquefort. And the baking is going to be tricky. So if you know of anything delicious and dairy-free, please please post it.

    • pbach1

    “my advice was to take them anywhere they would eat themselves”

    you really did not mean that literally, did you? do you really recommend that the parents eat themselves? tee-hee!

    • Storm_Paris

    Yum! I do a similar cake, but the prunes have been in Armagnac, and I serve it with creme fraiche.
    With regards to French kids, they may have good manners in front of adults at the dinner table, but on the playground they are completely savage. My daughter (3) continues to be stunned by the fact that nobody waits their turn, and everyone pushes and shoves. When she points it out to a kid, s/he looks at her as if she is alien. She still loves Paris, though, mainly due to the food.

    • Sophia Twaddell

    Hi David-

    Do you think that I could substitute baby food prunes? They come in a very smooth puree–71g packages–and taste great.


    • Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    That looks sooooooooo good! I think I’d soak the prunes in Armagnac, as prunes and Armagnac are a combination made in heaven (I think – I have made the most gorgeous prune-Armagnac parfait in my time.

    When I make a Dundee cake I always use prune puree instead of butter or margarine – not only does it reduce the fat content of the cake, but I think it makes it moister.

    • Arthur

    Looks great! Is this the new kitchen in the pictures?


    • ButterYum

    I love prunes – got to make this soon!

    • sundevilpeg

    When I was a kid, my family vacation go-to fruit in breakfast restaurants was always stewed prunes. Seriously. I was an odd – but well-nourished! – child.

    • Marlene

    Thank you! I am in Lyon learning French and preparing a meal for my host family tomorrow night. I did some internet research last night, and I had no idea I needed so much of your help! Your suggestions and info were spot on. I needed sour cream for making ranch dressing and I bought the Bridelice mousse and Bridelice creme legere which I mixed together for the right consistency. I also needed mayonaise for potato salad. I am sure you know that the mayonaise I got just isn’t the same so more Bridelice creme legere to the rescue. My brownies are amazing – I had to taste just a corner- thanks to your info regarding flour and cocoa. Thank you! I will be living in the 8th in Paris come August for the next 2 yrs – I hope to run into you to thank you in person.

    • Heather D

    As most moms tend to be, I of course was obsessed with providing my family with healthy meals when my son graduated from baby food. I tried a few recipes from the Seinfeld book, but agree with Sokolov that they really didn’t taste all that great. Now I am just obsessed with food in general and try to introduce my son (now five years old) to a variety of foods and flavors,with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. He eats what the adults eat, period. Of course, he is picky sometimes, as most children can be. But our family rule is that he doesn’t have to finish it (make a happy plate), but he does have to try everything (take a no-thank-you bite). There are some nights when he only eats a handful of bites, but I know he won’t starve and he will eat anything when he’s hungry enough. Overall, he eats very well and I am no longer surprised when he would rather have london broil and a baked potato (“be sure to eat the skins, mommy, cause that’s where all the yummy salt is”) than beans and franks. Thanks for the post.

    • parisbreakfast

    Pruneaux d’Agen are one of the best things in the world!
    Inside a chocolate cake…perfection!

    • Kim

    Not being one of the no-questions-asked French people you mention above, I’m not that fond of chocolate cake, but I think the addition of a fruity, pruney tang could convert me! This looks truly delicious.

    • Kelsy

    I adore prunes. I eat several a day just for a snack. I’m unsure I could bring myself to bake them into a cake simply because it would mean less for me to munch on, but given my additional love for chocolate, I may have to try! How gorgeous.

    • April in Seattle

    I noticed David that you transported your cake in a tea/dish towel. I love it! We Americans have a fetish for tupperware. I personally believe it screams “white trash”. How did you keep your cake from getting jostled/falling out of the towel?

    • Kay@Chopstix2steaknives

    This is perfect and what I’m looking for as I need to make a cake for someone who is currently on a no flour diet.

    • Lynn D.

    I, too, was impressed that you carried your cake wrapped in a towel very much like one I inherited from my grandmother. I also enjoyed the slight crease in your jeans and the cut of your sport coat. It’s such a happy picture for me: a fit, casually well-dressed man with a delicious cake wrapped in a towel walking through the streets of Paris to join friends for dinner.

    • Lien

    i love chocolate and i love prune, thanks David! :-) … i have to see if i could get the Pruneaux d’Agen here in the States.

    • Robert

    I’m itching for an occasion to make this! Thank you, David.
    And like Brandi, I noticed the beautiful eggs.

    • Katie

    I’m always delighted to see children eating the same foods as adults. I think any child would be excited about eating prunes if they were inside this cake!

    • ButterYum

    Hi David,

    This looks like a wonderful cake. I’d love to “pin” it on pinterest for later reference, but your photos are apparently not able to be pinned. Pitty :(.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I think there was a conflict between Flickr (where my images are hosted) and Pinterest. But if you want to pin something from the site, the “Pin It” button at the bottom of the post should work. That’s what I use. Let me know if that doesn’t work for you.

    • Darla

    My daughter is eleven and has been eating what her father and I eat for years. We live in New Mexico and travel quite frequently and she is always willing and happy to try new things. I do not think it is a child’s
    fault if they turn into picky eaters, rather the parents are the ones responsible for their child’s eating habits. We love prunes at our house and am excited to try this recipe. I have made chocolate date cake many times and my daughter usually requests it for her birthday. Finally, when we took our daughter to France when she was 3 we only received praise from The French, as many people commented on what she was eating in a very positive way! I had no idea that American children were viewed otherwise in France.

    • Ronald

    Well done. Beautifully photographed.

    • Lynnette aka iluvsweets

    I can’t wait to try this cake…it just might take the place of my favorite Deborah Madison chocolate cake with dried cherries and medjool dates.

    On the subject of children and food, I was brought up on canned vegetables and didn’t taste my first asparagus until I was 19…what a revelation! After that I tried everything new I could get my hands on. We should make a variety of foods available to our children and let them eat what they like.

    Your posts are always entertaining and the photographs are beautiful!

    • Ameya

    Could this be made with some other fruit, like berries?

    • Spencer

    Looks absolutely delicious. I might have to try and recreate the recipe.

    • Michelle

    Thank you so much – one of the many reasons I travel to Paris is to “prune” myself not to become more svelte alas but to indulge my love of all things prune – my circuit currently includes the chaussons aux pruneaux from a little bakery in rue mouffetard,agenaise ice cream from Berthillon and prune yoghurt occasionally seen at farmers markets. Any other suggestions appreciated. (You will heara my family groan in the background) I always post some prunes without seeds back home to Australia and sometimes our customs let them through after verifying there are no seeds.! A word of advice to fellow fanatics and if you all know this already please forgive me – prune in french means plum. If you want prune ( dried plum) look for pruneau. Off to make a chocolate prune cake.

    • Dinushika

    This looks divine David, and I can almost taste it. It never occurred to me to put chocolate and prunes together, but now it seem such an obvious thing. Warm chocolate cake, with moist alcoholic prunes and a buttery caramel sauce must have been divine. No wonder the hostess kept the leftovers. Will definitely try this one at home.

    • Roger Stowell

    Fabulous cake – I’m about to walk downstairs to the kitchen and make it. Prunes d’Agen are always in this house, preferably denoyautes to save teeth when one is being particularly greedy.

    • Ubr

    This recipe sounds healthier that the chocolate cake we used to bake. Probably because of the prunes. Will try to make it soon!

    • Ozlem’s Turkish Table

    Prunes and chocolate; match made in heaven, looks stunning! Loved your photos, delighted to find your blog!

    • Ann

    This cake sounds heavenly. We can only get supermarket prunes here in Australia though, but it will still be very good.
    My sister in law always used to question whether the food I served to her was low fat or how much butter (or oil) it had in it. I really resented the probing!

    • Laura

    When I was little out in France, there was no accepting if I didn’t like particular foods! You ate it otherwise it would sit on your plate all the way through the next courses too. It doesn’t mean that I always liked things, but it does mean I always try. Boudin noir with apples and onions is one of my favourite meals ever!
    This cake looks divine, and as my mama is coeliac, I will be bookmarking this one to make her as a treat some time soon.

    • Jenifer

    Amazing, amazing. I can’t wait to try out this recipe! Sounds perfect for all the cold weather in Melbourne lately. I want it to be spring as soon as possible but at the same time I can’t get over how good a warm dessert with ice cream is on a cold day!!

    Thanks again for this post. I have always wondered how parents get their children to be good eaters. I have always been open to trying new things and rarely say no to something (Except for goats cheese for some odd reason). Imagine all the experiences you can miss out on if you’re a fussy eater!!

    • Sandi

    I could’ve used this recipe for Passover. With the 6 eggs (and no flour) it, as well, would’ve been bien eleve!

    • Mallory

    Man this looks awesome. I am always a fan of flourless chocolate cake, but with the prunes in there, you are just bringing it to the next level!

    • ButterYum

    Thanks for your reply. I had missed the pin it button when I read the post, but I just tried it and it worked like a charm. Thanks again and take care!

    • sandra

    Looks scrummy David! Somewhere, I have a recipe that uses prunes in an iced chocolate terrine, must dig that out to do now it’s got warm here.
    I think extremely picky eaters are made by parents who fuss too much. It is natural to have preferences, likes and dislikes as an adult but for a child to insist on nothing but frites for example, the parents must have allowed it.

    • Amber

    Hmmm… I’d love to try this with my kids, but that means I’d like to avoid the alcohol and caffeinated tea as the prune liquid. Water seems less than ideal – maybe a juice? I wonder also if I used dates instead of prunes, if that would be sweet enough to leave out the extra sugar… this is going to be a fun recipe for experimentation!

    • Kenn

    Ah, this remind’s me of Simca’s Chocolate Cake recipe I used to make to raves, but it had steeped raisins instead of prunes. My only disappointment was that the comments usually included at least one…”most delicious brownies I ever ate.”

    • Gopika

    This looks elegantly delicious, and I look forward to trying it soon.

    Have you tried this recipe using home-made prune puree? That’s what I use when baking when I don’t want to use a lot of fat, such as when I plan to have my muffin with butter.

    • Debra

    I have four children (2 boys & 2 girls); some are naturally picky others are very adventurous with regards to food. Vive la différence!

    • Mimi

    Downloaded “The Sweet Life,” then found it at the Abbey Bookstore across the rue. Will make it soon.

    • Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    To Amber: the finished cake will not have any alcohol in it,as it will have evaporated during cooking.

    • ranchodeluxe

    David, is the two sons story from your mere’?

    • Lori H

    Just yesterday I made my husband Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Armagnac Cake for his birthday. I made it last year as well. The second time around, I was amazed at how deliciously moist and flavorful it was. I think prunes pair so nicely with chocolate. I am anxious to try your cake to compare. ! I happen to have extra prunes, that need to be used. It sounds completely decadent and rich like Dorie’s version! Our children are 12 and 14 and my husband told them the recipe had prunes it just so he wouldn’t have to share! It turns out they weren’t too interested and he was quite pleased by this accomplishment.

    • Amber

    Oh boy! I have lots of prunes from the case of plums I dehydrated last summer. I’ve been wondering what to do with the last of them now that plum season is headed our way again. Thanks for the fantastic idea!!

    I find it refreshing that no one would ask what’s in the cake. That would be unheard of here. I read somewhere that the plum growers recently fought to change the name of ‘prunes’ to ‘dried plums,’ because more people will eat them.

    • david

    Moi je n ai retenu que le transport du gateau dans le torchon….C etait la facon de le faire de ma grand mere, elle n utilisait que des torchons pour par ex faire reposer, transporter le lapin fraichement tue ou la poule …et par association d idees cela m a fait penser a cet article dans ce blog…

    Keep up the good work David

    • TokyoMum

    That chocolate cake looks heavenly and it reminds me of a gluten-free chocolate cake I made with added chopped dates, prunes or apricot. Added dried fruit gave a really interesting texture and made the cake extra moist! I follow a Paleo dietary eating principle, so this recipe is paleo-friendly! Thank you!

    On the subject of eating well, it doesn’t effect children, but adults as well. Eating food that is nutrient poor, can effect mood and behaviour and I always wonder if American children eat far more processed food than French children, that ADHD is a rather common problem among young people in America. From the sound of it, French children eat much more wholesome food (like butter instead of vegetable seed oil), usually rich in nutrients and vitamins, and this might explain why they don’t have much behaviour problem, let alone obesity problem even when they become adults.

    • Skippy

    I agree in general that kids are better off being exposed to a variety of foods and that what is served on “children’s menus” is pure junk. Sometimes you just can’t do anything with the way a kid wants to eat, though. My mom always had to fight to get me to eat meat, and I loathed cheese from day one. It was a family joke by the time I was five that I was part rabbit because all I wanted to eat was salads and raw vegetables (and, um, chocolate). I became a vegetarian as soon as I got to college and then shifted to vegan. You could have exposed me to the best, most elegantly prepared meats and cheeses France had to offer, and I don’t think it would have made a difference.

    • Nita

    Yum! I am sitting in the Qantas Lounge waiting for my connection to Paris as I type! This cake certainly sounds like a winner! masses of dark chocolate, prunes soaked in alcohol, what’s not to love?

    • Yuliya

    I agree with some readers here who mentioned that their parents simply put the same food on their plates. I think unless you want your children to eat differently from the adults after a certain age, you would not make mac and cheese and PB&J sandwiches for them but would rather have them eat the same dinner. By the way, one of my warmest childhood food memories is eating freshly baked bread with a glass of milk.


    • Noren

    Made this last night, it was delicious and seems even better after dinner tonight. Next time will try with creme de cassis as a substitute for the rum, because there definitely will be a next time. Thanks, David.

    • HN

    Being a pastry chef and living in Paris, I’d just like to wish you happy St. Honore Day. I just read that St. Honore is the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs and today is his Feast Day in France :)

    • Amber

    Oh my yum. My youngest son cannot have any refined sugar or grains right now, which can make it tricky for us to enjoy things like birthday parties and donut hour after church as a family, so I’ve started stashing treats he can have in the freezer so I always have something on hand to bring to those events (works perfectly!). I made this cake today with a few substitutions: simmered the prunes in fruit juice and 2 TBL honey, used 8 oz unsweetened chocolate (extra honey with the prunes made up for the lack of sugar in the chocolate), and replaced the sugar in the egg whites with honey as well. I baked it in a square pan (8×8 I think, maybe 9×9) where the bottom pops out, then cut it into squares almost like brownies. I sneaked a square as soon as it was cool – super moist, super chocolately, super delicious! The rest will be individually wrapped in the freezer for pop-in-the-diaper-bag treats. Thank you for the great base recipe!!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Sounds great! The only problem with unsweetened chocolate is that it isn’t so smooth, so the honey was a very good idea, to help keep it moist. Thanks for sharing the variation ~

    • Colleen

    While I ordinarily would never mix chocolate with fruit — just not my thing — when I saw this post I knew I had to try it. I once read about prunes dipped in milk chocolate (Polish, I believe) and the idea grew on me. Made it this afternoon and the trial slice was quite divine. Thank you, David. !

    • heatherb

    The Swiss have a prune tart that is wonderful—I can’t quite remember the name. I’ve never understood why Americans are so tetchy about prunes, so much so that American corporations have to rebrand them as dried plums and sell them individually wrapped.
    Can’t wait to try this cake sometime soon.

    • Helen in CA

    Weighing in about children and food: my eldest was a picky eater. Nothing to do w/ me, she’d rather go hungry than eat something “wrong”. She too was raised w/ a “this is your dinner, I’m not making anything else” approach. There were times she would rather go eat cold tofu out of the fridge, than her supper. Turns out she was inordinately sensitive to texture, but this isn’t something she was able to figure out until older. And…..her ideas of “wrong” clearly were not the same as mine (cold tofu?)

    If they’d rather go hungry than eat……there’s not a lot a parent can do.

    As an adult, she’s quite an adventursome eater.

    • Helen in CA

    Do the prunes merge into the cake when baked or are they distinct pieces of fruit? Can’t tell from the (beautiful) photos.

    • Kim

    Oh David… I love how the cakes I most desire are the ones that are gluten free! Thank you. This one’s bookmarked for le weekend.

    On a side note – my 18month old son has always eaten the same food as me, and he loves trying new stuff. Devoured broccoli and pan fried mackrel for lunch. Makes me so proud, but I must say I take much of my inspiration from the French.

    • denise

    Love prunes, chocolate, and dried fruit and chocolate combinations, so without even tasting it, I know I’m going to love the slice that I’m just about to cut from this cake that I baked this afternoon. Very easy recipe but elegant! I have a suggestion about the photos you post. I’m an experienced cook but when it comes to baking, there are a few nuances that I think stump quite a few cooks. For example, I find it difficult to know how much to fold in egg whites. Your photos are all beautiful but when there’s a difficult step, please post a picture of that too!

    • RG

    Also weighing in on picky eating – I was born in India and grew up in the US and the younger generation of my family is generally more appreciative of vegetables, probably because Indians are masters at them. I still laugh at finding my 5yo niece happily eating a whole wheat chappati with bitter gourd – probably the only vegetable I won’t eat. But my point was that it’s still a spectrum and my nephew is a battle. Same family rules, same fabulous home cooking, but he’s definitely on the adhd/ asperger/ sensitive spectrum somewhere.

    The other thing about Sokolov’s article – beef cheeks and lemongrass ice cream is not the worry, the worry is kale, cauliflower, and beets. Most of the women I know who are “sneaking” vegetables into the meal – are aiming for the husband as much as the children.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I would say that I grew up being just a regular eater. My mother made us ‘regular’ food and I don’t recall her going out of her way to adjust what we ate as a family (although I remember my sister wouldn’t eat Rice-A-Roni). We had vegetables with meals and there were no wrinkled-noses at having to eat them. But I do know some picky eaters and living in France, at restaurants, menus will usually say something like “Pièce de boeuf” (piece of beef) – and visitors will want to know what cut of meat it is, how it’s cooked, what comes with it, if there’s a sauce, and if so, if it can go on the side. (Now it seems normal to get a steak with ‘sauce on the side’ in Paris, because I think because even diet-conscious Parisians are wary of it!) But French people usually just take what they’re given and don’t ask questions.

    • kellie@foodtoglow

    Just a thought, but have you tried cutting the cake (and similar sticky cakes) with a plastic knife? I read this trick somewhere, and it really works. I’ve never come across a chef’s version but I use a sturdy ‘picnic’ one to good effect.

    • Katie

    I don’t believe in hiding prunes or beans in cake to trick someone into eating healthy ingredients, but I do believe in prunes and chocolate. Such a delicious combination! My grandfather always used to give us boxes of Italian chocolate covered prunes at Christmas and I loved them! I’m a big fan of Nigella’s prune brownies too. Can’t wait to try this cake.

    • Emily Rae

    I made this late last night, as it has been nagging at me since you posted. I used (very dry) dates and bourbon, a little extra to rehydrate the dates. This cake is amazing. My partner is very weird and does not like things that are “too rich”, so this cake is all for me!

    • Marina

    Made this today just as you directed. It is amazing! I lined my pan with parchment to help with release and dusted with cocoa powder. We had it with a bit of creme fraiche that we had on hand for another recipe. I bet it would also be great with dried cherries and kirsch.

    • Wilhemina

    I love prunes! I think I’m the only person I know who does. My favorite meatloaf recipe calls for prunes, I found it on Epicurious, everyone loves it but I never tell them there are prunes in it until after the meal : ) Thank you so much for this recipe!

    • Holly

    Mmmmm I may have to try this soon.

    I read part of the book about how French children are better behaved and all most fell off my chair laughing. The author should come hang out with me, listen to the horror stories from my husband (a teacher) for a few days and then revise.

    • Robert

    I made this cake for a Sunday dinner at a friend’s, and my wife made the Salted Butter Caramel sauce. At wife’s suggestion we served it with French vanilla ice cream.
    A very diverse group (geezers, picky teens, a young Indian lady) all devoured it.

    I couldn’t believe the recipe that a 9″ cake would feed 12, but now I understand: this is a very rich dessert. The ice cream was a perfect match.

    This recipe goes into the Favorites file. Thank you, David

    • Nathalie

    I just love how you traveled with your cake – wrapped up in a tea towel. I have a few fancy gadgets to carry baked goods, but I love your casual-elegant, and easy to clean strategy.
    Also – dead on about the mal-élevé insult. It can only be made worse with “espèce de” in front.

    • Alanna

    I just finished a warm slice of chocolate-prune cake (with a scoop of fresh ginger ice cream) and it was absolute heaven! I had never tried prunes with chocolate before – they are truly a perfect match. The prunes form tender pockets of tanginess amidst the most perfect flourless chocolate cake. (I actually halved the recipe due to a prune shortage – I only had 4 ounces – and baked it in an 8″ pan.) The ice cream made a delightfully refreshing accompaniment (I’ve posted it on my site). Thank you, thank you, thank you for another simple, elegant, and exciting recipe, David – you are my hero!


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