Thursday, November 11, 2010
I've been meaning to bake this cake for months now. It's been in one of Mum's many hardcover cookbooks, pencilled in and fading. One evening my sister, sister-in-law and I sat around the kitchen table copying recipes from Mum's books - chocolate coconut squares, a standard vanilla butter cake and this cosy warm date and nut loaf. My sister makes it often, doubling the recipe because one loaf isn't enough for her family, and sadly, Mr. B and I are already halfway through and it hasn't even been 24 hours. I love dates; next time I actually want to add in another cup.
The usually sticky Durban has been unusually cool and rainy for the past two days - so yesterday evening was the perfect evening to bake this cake. It smelled amazing! I love how rustic a loaf cake is. Perfection! I couldn't resist a slice straight out the pan before last night's supper. Post-supper, I tried a slice with some seriously-awesome Kerrygold butter (It's the pot of gold you find at the end of the rainbow - or in your local supermarket, and it's magic on your tongue! Pricy but your palate will thank you for it.)
Date and Nut Loaf
125 g unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 and a half cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped dates, pitted
3/4 cup water, hot/boiled
1 tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 F. Lightly grease a standard size loaf pan - or you could make these into cupcakes like my sister does sometimes.
Place the chopped dates in a medium bowl. Drop a teaspoon of baking soda in 3/4 cup hot water, stir once and pour this mixture over the dates, stir and leave to sit.
Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar in your stand mixer or with an electric hand mixer. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until just combined.
With a wooden spoon, mix in the pecans and date mixture.
Pour into loaf pan and bake at 180 for 45-55 minutes, or if making cupcakes - for 20 minutes. Check to see if the cake is cooked through by inserting a pairing knife into the middle of the cake - if it's done, the knife will come out clean, without any sticky cake batter. Turn out onto wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
I was trying to be chef-y and added orange zest to the batter. The taste is a bit subtle though, next time I think I'll squeeze the juice out too and add it to the dates in place of some of the water. I think powdered cinnamon or coffee would be an interesting addition to this cake too. It's a fairly basic recipe that can be played with, probably.
Truthfully, it tastes awesome as is. I think I'm watching too much Masterchef. Mr Max hears me saying things like, "I'm gonna infuse the cream with blueberries..". It would be so awesome to meet Gordon Ramsay some day, and eat at his restaurant! But it would suck to cook for him. I don't think I'd ever cook ever again if he criticised my food.
Back to the rustic date loaf - it tastes great with a cup of sweet tea. This cake, is probably one of the only cakes I don't want any icing or syrup on.