People are strange (that’s a good title – someone should write a song using it) and sometimes it’s all about how you pitch things. If I produced this for my family and said “ta da! Look at this delicious date and walnut cake” I’d get the following range of responses: “I don’t eat dates”, “I don’t like walnuts”, etc etc. However, producing a “Toffee and nut cake” is met with joyful anticipation.
What stops this being a sticky toffee pudding cake (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I loved the one I made) is the spice mix that also goes into the batter. It adds a bit of heat to the flavour which works well with the sweetness of the dates.
This rich dark cake is quite divine – it has crunchy nuts and that sticky, deep toffee-ness that only dates can add. The white icing calms it down and I would recommend using it. You can make it with lemon juice to add a tart contrast but you know my view regarding lemons.
I’ll admit that this cake uses a lot of ingredients but mostly they’re store cupboard staple items for a keen baker. The method could not be simpler – or quicker - so please don’t be scared off by the sheer number of ingredients!
One quick comment on the glace icing...it’s made with single cream rather than water. This produces one of the softest, most flavoursome and gorgeous icings ever – and I don’t give such praise easily. It reminded me very much of a cake from my childhood; Entemann’s used to make a traybake style carrot cake and the white icing was exactly like this. The only note of caution is that because it is made with fresh cream it won’t last as long as a more traditional glace icing.
For the cake:
175g dates, stoned and chopped (I find this easiest if you snip them with scissors rather than a knife)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225ml boiling water
25g unsalted butter
150g soft dark brown sugar
225g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g ground almonds
75g walnuts, chopped
For the icing:
110g icing sugar
10g unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon single cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice (you can use water or more single cream instead, if you wish)
Optional decoration: approx 10 walnut halves
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C/fan oven 160˚C/350˚F/Gas mark 4.
- Line a 20cm springform round tin with baking paper.
- Start by preparing the dates: place the chopped dates in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them.
- Add the bicarbonate of soda and the butter and stir until the butter has melted. Leave to one side to cool.
- Beat the egg and sugar together until well mixed.
- Add the cooled date mixture and all the remaining cake ingredients.
- Stir well to ensure the ingredients are combined thoroughly.
- Spoon into the prepared tin; don’t worry, the mix will be lumpy and rather unattractive.
- Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
- Leave in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Now make the icing: mix together all the ingredients until you have a glossy, thick yet still spreadable icing. You may need to add a little extra liquid to achieve this. You’re aiming for something thin enough to spread and run, but not so runny that you lose it all down the sides of the cake.
- Pour the icing over the cake and allow to run down the sides a little.
- After a few minutes, place the walnut halves on top of the cake. If you do this when the icing is at its runniest they may slide off the top!
- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.