A Road Illuminated | Mama’s Prune Cake

Arise, your light has come. Presbyterian Hymnal

There is a Tennessee route between Lewis and Maury Counties which encompasses a portal to the Natchez Trace. For my family of origin, this gateway was significant – a launch for new beginnings. Now it is a memory touchstone with all that is achingly familiar.

The road is a beauty. Even today with the starkness of highway improvements, the seasonal frames are breathtaking – amber waves of grain, grazing cattle, changing leaves – Middle Tennessee at its most exquisite.

In days gone by, the route was a whirling dervish of anticipation for those waiting on me.
These days many of those same people are no longer waiting – having left the earth or relationship.

I reflect on the current generation of people who will be happy to see me home. Funny how the faces are ever changing.

I have a dear friend who has, in the past decade, become someone who looks forward to my company. And too I treasure hers, though these are extraordinary times in her life.

She is not the first to venture forward from under a story of heart stopping pain, but she is singular in her grasp of love in spite of it all.

She has an angelic face, a curious mind, a presentation like June Cleaver and civic commitments to make up for the many who have not received the memo that we are all connected.

I know her to ladle her last drop of daily elixir to her students. I have seen her stiffen her back determined to hold ground with a parent who has lost sight of their child’s need for containment.

She has a penchant for friendships broad and deep and in kind, she has had brilliant company for her darkest hours.

She is a champion of beauty and humor and likely sees them as one in the same.

At the drop of a hat, she will host a new idea or a room full of people and is confused when others are not willing to produce such an environment on a regular basis.

When she takes her rest, make no mistake, she is refueling for another stretch of high spirited enterprise.

She is mother to the world, particularly to a young brother and sister, who will weather a life blow under her wings until they are confident that all is well again.

Then with a resolve born of a tough mother hen, she will prompt her chicks to fly and turn her light on what is to come.

Mama’s Prune Cake


Ingredients for Mama's Prune CakeMy friend explains her love for this recipe: When I would come home from college after opening shop in my own zip code, Mother would ask – “What would you like me to make for you?” Always, I answered…prune cake.


1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chopped, cooked prunes
1 teaspoon vanilla
Oven 325 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13 pan. In food processor, mix sugar and oil. Beat in eggs, then prunes. Combine dry ingredients. Beat in alternately with buttermilk. Add nuts and vanilla. Bake 45 minutes or until tests done.


ABOUT 15 minutes before cake is done, start icing –

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon corn syrup

In 2 quart saucepan, combine all and cook over low heat, stirring now and again, until soft ball stage. Pour over hot cake.