My grandma has been making this cake for as long as I can remember. It’s a staple at Christmastime, always displayed on a pretty platter next to the other homemade goodies like fudge and peanut brittle. It has a folk following in our family, as Decker Cake is only ushered out for holidays and the most special occasions (I requested my grandma make a tray for the reception party we had after our wedding). The “cake” is served in bar or square form, and consists of layers of sponge cake, a walnut filling, a pineapple filling, and the whole thing is topped off with a layer of prune butter, then sprinkled with a small piece of crumbled cake. I know what you’re thinking… “Prune butter?!” Just trust me, it’s amazing, and all of the flavors go so well together.
For some reason, Decker Cake, has always seemed to be a massive mystery; no one but my grandma had ever made it. Last December, I called my grandma to ask for the recipe so that I could make it. Like most grandma recipes, there was a list of ingredients and about 10 words, max, of instruction. I called back and asked if I could come over and make it with her, so I could see how she did it. We had a wonderful afternoon baking, and I took a page of notes so that I could recreate the recipe properly.
Decker Cake is rich, so a little bit goes a long way. My grandma often makes a half recipe and assembles it in an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan instead of a full recipe in a 9×13-inch pan. Since the cake is baked in two large half-sheet pans, you need to cut it to fit into the 9×13-inch pan for assembly. When I made it with my grandma, she just cut strips and squares that she could easily move with a spatula, and then fit it into the layers, sort of like Tetris. You can cut larger sections if you have large cake-lifter spatula, or smaller pieces, whatever is manageable for you. She stressed that getting it in one whole piece wasn’t important at all, because of all the layers, and she always cuts and fits her pieces as needed.
This year, I tackled the Decker Cake all on my own, and was thrilled at how it turned out. It’s currently sitting in the freezer, waiting to be sliced up and arranged on various Christmas cookie platters. This was one of my dad’s favorite holiday treats, so I’m especially happy that I can now recreate something that he loved, even if he’s no longer here to enjoy it.
One year ago: Ho Ho (Ho) Cake
Two years ago: Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
Six years ago: Chocolate Chip Tea Cookies and Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
For the Walnut Filling:
- 1 pound (453.59 g) walnuts, ground
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (125 ml) water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) vanilla extract
For the Pineapple Filling:
- 20 ounce (566.99 g) canned crushed pineapple
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Topping:
- 18 ounce (510.29 g) prune butter (lekvar)
For the Cake:
- 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup (205 g) vegetable shortening
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (183 ml) warm milk
- Prepare the Walnut Filling: Place the ground walnuts in a large bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and butter over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the hot syrup over the ground nuts, leaving about ½ cup of the syrup back. Stir together and if still a little dry, add more liquid a bit at a time. You want a moist, spreadable consistency, but you do not want it to be soupy. Set aside.
- Prepare the Pineapple Filling: In a small saucepan, combine the crushed pineapple (including the liquid), sugar and cornstarch over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two half-sheet pans (13x18-inches) with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat together the shortening and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until completely combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour in three additions, alternating with two additions of the warm milk, mixing until completely combined.
- Divide the dough between the two baking sheets and use an offset spatula to spread the dough into an even layer on each sheet (the dough will be thick, like cookie dough, and will spread very thin). Bake until the cake springs back when the top is lightly pressed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place on wire racks to cool completely.
- Assemble the Cake: In a 9x13-inch pan, layer the sponge cake, cutting it as necessary to make a layer fit. Top with the walnut filling, spreading it into an even layer. Top with another layer of cake, again cutting and fitting pieces if need be. Top with the pineapple filling, spreading it into an even layer. Top with the final layer of cake, reserving a small strip of cake. Spread the entire jar of prune butter over the top and crumble the reserved strip of cake over the top. (My grandma mentioned that if you can't spare a strip of cake to crumble on the top, you can also use crushed up Nilla wafers.)
- The assembled cake should be stored in the refrigerator and set out at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving. It will keep in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap and foil for 1 week. This cake also freezes very well, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and foil for up to 1 month.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Much like a Hungarian recipe from my grandma, except for the pineapple! I acquired a Byzantine Catholic cookbook Pennsylvania from President Kennedy’s term. It is filled with AWESOME recipes like this!
I’m obsessed with anything prune, and am always happy to find recipes celebrating this old school ingredient. My grandma made a cookie with prune filling when I was growing up, so the sweet taste brings back fond memories. I love the addition of walnut and pineapple layers. What a great combo! I can’t wait to try this. Thanks for posting, Michelle!
Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever seen something like a “plum butter” (in our country called “povidla” or “lekvár”) in an English-speaking blog! I love it and the cake looks delicious :-) Yum!
Thanks for the amazing recipes.
I would like to say that i really love your site,your recipes ,your active pictures,your foodie photos and anything that can be found here.
I am not from your country.i’m from irAn.and i have many question about the ingredients.you know i just know saffron bery well:-D
One of my question is “vegetable shortening”
What is that?:-(
I have not even heard about it:(
Can you please give me some informAtion about this?
Best wishes and merry christmas from now:)
Sorry for my terrible english:|
Hi Fatimah, Here is some history on shortening, it may help you to find a suitable replacement for the vegetable shortening in the recipe, based on what you have available to you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortening. Merry Christmas to you!
What a delicious and unique cake! I love old fashioned treats like this. Sometimes the new trends aren’t all that.
You always have the best family recipes!! These bars sounds awesome! :)
I happen to LOOOVE prunes! I think it’s a Czech thing. This cake sounds amazing!
I love remaking old recipes! I just made tom thumbs cookie bars that was a recipe from at least 50 years ago. This decker cake looks AMAZING! My Christmas baking traditions only go as far as Christmas cookies!
I love your recipes thank you for taking the time to share them with us. And have a Feliz Navidad y prospero Ano nuevo :)
Hi Michelle, Thanks for this awesome recipe. I plan on making it for Christmas. I always make my grandmas lekvar cookies and look forward to trying this. All your recipes are always a hit. I have included your avalanche bark with my cookie trays and everybody loves it!
It’s absolutely amazing. I just wish I could take a bite from your page and have a taste! It looks (and sounds) THAT good!
Love the combination of sweet and sour in this recipe!
My favorite Christmas tradition is enjoying a nativity or creche, either at home or at Church, with my husband, family and/or fellow parishioners.
The nativity is a beautiful reminder of the infant Jesus and His singular role in human history. It’s precious and always fills me with wonder.
Peace and best wishes to all!
My favorite part of this whole recipe is that you made it with your grandma! She must have loved spending time with you (and vice versa).
The picture is beautiful and the cake sounds very intriguing…I’m going to have to try it out on the family:) Thanks for the recipe!
Is this a recipe from the Polish side of your family, Michelle? I know that in donuts that we buy at a Polish bakery, they put a lovely prune jam. Lovely family recipe.
Hi Annie, It is! I had an Italian grandmother and I have a Polish grandmother. My Italian grandma did a lot more cooking, and we lived right down the street from her growing up, so I identify much more with my Italian side than the Polish side, but I’ve been enjoying learning more about the Eastern European recipes from my other grandma.
It’s so beautiful and yummy!
What a beautiful cake. How special that it is your grandmother’s recipe – family recipes are the best!
I was so excited to see this recipe. My Grandma, and then my aunt always made Decker Cake and, unfortunately, no one has the recipe. Although Grandma used lekvar for her cookies and rolls, she never used it in the Decker Cake. Her fillings were nuts, then apricot preserves, then a thin layer of meringue that she sprinkled with nuts. We all love the lekvar, so I may make a batch of each. Thanks for the Christmas gift ;-)
Your killing me! I have got to try this as soon as I find/purchase prune butter. My family loved your pillow cookies. Please keep posting family recipes. In our modern pre-package, I don’t know how to cook world, it is so important to keep old recipes alive. I know everyone that reads your blog knows how to cook though.
what is Tetris? please clarify… do I make ONE cake in the sheet pan, for the 9 or 8 inch cake? Is that half the recipe? Should I halve the fillings too? And, how do I get the cake out of the pan? did you say in strips? sorry to be so confused…. if I use strips, then will the cake fall apart? really sorry… cake looks great. And I do love Lekvar… I use it too.
thanks and Merry Christmas and Healthy New year to all.
Hi Phyllis, My apologies for any confusion. Tetris is an old video game from the 80’s that’s basically like fitting jigsaw pieces together. For a half recipe, yes, you can just use one sheet pan. Yes, you would need to halve the fillings as well. I was able to slide a spatula under the cake to loosen it from the pan and lift it in pretty large pieces without it breaking and transfer it to the 9×13 for assembly. You can cut it into smaller pieces and move it that way, as well. The cake will not fall apart. Enjoy!
Your last sentence really got to me. I think it is great the way we can connect to those who have left us through the foods they made or ate or loved. I got all choked up over a discussion of Ambrosia at a recent holiday luncheon because it reminded me so much of my Mother and her sister who made it for the holidays each year….
Wow this is such an interesting recipe. It’s so great that you were able to bake the cake with your grandmother and learn from her. So many times when asking my grandmother how she’d make something I realized that she didn’t depend on a recipe, she would make it by sight and the way it felt. I love these old passed down recipes! Thanks for sharing!
I am so intrigued by this cake. It’s very pretty, and I love that it’s so tall. Family recipes truly are the best. Thanks for sharing!
I love the look of this cake – it’s so pretty!
Yum! Love to follow your baking journey. Keeps me inspired to pass on love of baking to my high school students!
Looks delicious and there is something so special about family recipes. I am eager to try this, but where does one find prune butter?? (in Canada) Do you ever make your prune butter?
Thanks so much for sharing!!!
Amazon has a couple of offerings, but I also found a well rated recipe out on http://low-cholesterol.food.com/recipe/lekvar-prune-plum-filling-or-apricot-54692. Looks pretty simple to make.
Hi Candy, I just bought it at the grocery store (in the pb&j aisle near the apple butters, pumpkin butters, etc.). You might also find it in an international aisle with Eastern European offerings. I have never made my own prune butter.
This looks divine. Thank you sooooo much for sharing. I am excited to make this. When I see recipes like this, I always wonder how it came to be. Who thought of putting these layers together? It’s great.
As I have commented before, some of your best recipes are your family recipes. And it appears that you were right to get Grandma to walk you through this one. An interesting mix of flavors that make me want to give it a try. The prune butter doesn’t frighten me at all, prunes are a great flavor and mixed with other things tend to lend their sweetness to the other flavors. I have made prune bread and mixed in a few dried cherries and the resulting bread tasted like cherries.
Another good one, Michelle.
What an interesting cake! I love the different layers that it has. Rune Butter, hmmm, sounds interesting I bet it is good!!! You have to love family recipes.
I love family recipes so much, it must mean a lot to your grandma when you learn the recipes she makes and will hopefully continue to make in the future. I’m very intrigued by this cake because of the prune butter-looks delicious!
This cake looks SO Latvian! Like something from my childhood.
Prune butter sounds delicious.
Thank for sharing your grandmother’s recipe, it must be so rewards to find treasure like this. I have worst luck with family recipes; I can never reproduce them!
This sounds heavenly, the combination of pineapple and prune would be strangle but lovely.
So, it’s not just my grandmother who wrote her recipes in code? A list of ingredients in her own shorthand and then “Bake” at the bottom. ;)
This looks great, but I would probably have to make my own prune butter (which I’ve never heard of before). Any recipes or instructions for that? Thanks! :D
Hi Jackie, I bought the prune butter at my local grocery store, in the pb&j aisle, near the apple butter, pumpkin butter, etc. I do not have a recipe for making homemade prune butter, unfortunately!
Thanks, anyway. I would probably have to travel about 50 miles to find it around here. I think I could try a cooked prune puree instead. We shall see. ;)
Can you buy prune butter at virtually all supermarkets or is it something you would buy at a ethnic foodstore? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it. The cake looks delicious.
Hi Judy, I have found it at my local stores (just general supermarkets) – it is located in the peanut butter/jelly aisle, around where the apple butter, pumpkin butter, etc. are.
Fascinating! I love learning of treats I had never heard of.
Family recipes are always really great. Grandmas cake looks delicious :)
You’re right, that’s exactly what I’m thinking. Prune butter?? You definitely have my attention! I need to try it! (Also, I love your comment about “grandma recipes.” So true!)
Looks awesome and definitely original. Must be done with lots of patience. I’ve made your Pistachio cranberry white chocolate bark, tweaked it a bit as I ‘ve reduced the amount of sugar, etc. You can take take a look here
Enjoying all your recipes on your blog. Thanks! Merry X’mas to you and your family!
I love it when you share family recipes. Prune butter doesn’t sound like a super current food trend :) but it’s your grandma’s recipe, which is the best of all. The pineapple flavor and how spongy and fluffy the cake is, and love the little sky-high squares. Good stuff!