In case you’ve missed the glaringly obvious title of this post and are anticipating some amusing or exciting anecdotes about my personal life - for which you’d be forgiven in light of my aptitude to ramble on about things totally unrelated to baking – I’d better stop you right there. I hate to disappoint you but no, in this instance I’m talking dates of the edible, fruity kind.
Dates and I, we have a chequered history. I didn’t use to like them. Every time I tried to eat one, I'd chew...and chew...and chew - like a camel chewing on cud - but I’d find it sticking stubbornly in my throat. The problem was that I couldn’t understand why, given my passion for all things sweet, I couldn’t form an amicable relationship with something that looked like it should taste of deliciously soft toffee. Despite my aversion, I so very much wanted to like dates.
So I persisted and then one day, as if by magic, my persistence paid off: I fell in love.
Now that I’ve acquired the taste, I can’t seem to get enough. I’ll eat all varieties, even at a push the far too syrupy, not enough flesh, under-ripe sort, but preferably plump, juicy, Medjool dates or, better yet, fresh Ajwa dates that frustratingly only seem to be available in the UK during Ramadan (if any food buyers are reading this, please pretty please with a cherry on top could you make them available more frequently, just for me?)
The best thing is that dates are good for you and that, amigos, means that this cake is good for you too! In fact, as it contains not only dates but oranges too, I do believe we might just have ourselves two of our five a day all wrapped up neatly in one delicious cake!
Okay, so I’m pushing things slightly with that claim but honestly, this cake tasted so scrummy, I find it hard to believe the happiness derived from eating it didn’t do me some good! It was soft, sticky, damp and yummy in my tummy!
Adapted from Hugh F-W's Date and Orange cake
Yields 10-12 slices
Serve either warm as a dessert with hot toffee sauce poured over (see below for recipe), or cold as an afternoon treat with some double cream drizzled on top.
For the cake:
- 300g butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
- 250g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 150g self-raising flour, sifted (preferably three times)
- 150g blanched almonds, whizzed in a food processor until very fine
- 200g dates, stoned and chopped (I used Ajwa. Medjool will also work but if you can't get either of these, soak standard dates in hot water for 20-30 minutes before stoning and chopping for the cake)
- Zest of 3 oranges
For the drizzle:
- 85g golden granulated sugar
- Juice of 2 fresh oranges
For the toffee sauce (optional):
- 150g butter, melted
- 220g soft light brown sugar
- 200ml double cream